Open thread: Room for learning

Published by Lori Pickert on September 3, 2016 at 07:05 AM

Being the person that always knows and always has an answer, doesn’t leave a lot of room for learning. — Andrew Zuckerman

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Open threads will normally be started on Friday mornings but yesterday I was having a big day out with my son helping him run errands for his latest project — starting a business. Self-directed learning isn’t something you graduate out of — it just keeps leveling up!

The Zuckerman quote could refer to mentoring — if we are know-it-alls, it doesn’t leave room for our kids to do much learning. If we respond to every question with an answer, they never have the opportunity to research. We need to leave room for them to become experts — we need to leave room for them to teach US.

It could also refer to our own learning. If we stay in in our comfort zone, where we always know the answers (because that makes us feel smart and safe), how much learning do we do?

To really keep learning, we have to keep moving into the areas where we have more questions than answers.

What motivates you to learn something new?

[W]e have to discuss more fully the role that children assume in the construction of self and knowledge, and the help they get in these matters from adults. It is obvious that between learning and teaching, we honor the first. It is not that we ostracize teaching, but that we declare, “Stand aside for awhile and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before. — Loris Malaguzzi, The Hundred Languages of Children

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Anything you want to discuss? Ask? Share? Do it here! It’s your thread.



Comment by Lori Pickert on September 3, 2016 at 07:30 AM

I think I got to a point where I had avoided the book for so many years it was worth examining why I was avoiding it. And it seemed that if it was daunting… well, maybe the hard thing is the thing you’re supposed to be doing. — Colson Whitehead

Comment by Melanie on September 3, 2016 at 07:44 PM

I'm curious about everything, but don't always care to look for answers unless I have time. My oldest son seems to be the same way, but what frustrates me is that he has plenty of time, but just doesn't want to be bothered. He asks a bazillion questions. I wish he'd follow through. (He will if I find the resources for him and open it up to the right page, but I'm not sure he will ever go find the book on his own.)

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 4, 2016 at 08:11 AM

you might be able to step him toward independently research by doing it with him at first. you can write a question down and post it on the wall or bulletin board, then look together at the library for a book with the answer. (if he has a favorite library routine, suggest this AFTER he’s done his favorite stuff!), and so on.

if it’s fun and involves your attention, companionship, and interest, he may be much more enthusiastic!

Comment by Miranda Jubb on September 4, 2016 at 04:13 PM

My kids are like this sometimes. If I say, "I don't know, how could we find out?" they'll immediately check out. But I say that kind of thing anyway, suggest books or websites, sometimes do it with them or even for them (when it comes to checking something quickly online for example: are all tortoiseshell cats female? Apparently mostly yes!). And over time I'd say they will have gradually asked to do, and done, more and more of it themselves. In the end, you show them the way, and when they really care, they'll go there.

Comment by Miranda Jubb on September 4, 2016 at 04:10 PM

Reading the article Lori sent out this week about flawed "project based learning" in a school context ( my attention was caught by this quote:

..."[Educator] Stone was skeptical of project-based learning. He said it had always been pitched to him as a process where the teacher got out of the way and the students learned on their own, something his experience with kids and calculus made him doubt. At the STEM school, he quickly learned that project-based learning actually requires a lot from teachers, and when done well can produce amazing results."

I'd love to hear people's thoughts!

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 5, 2016 at 08:40 AM

one issue is that kids in “regular” school have usually never experienced leading their own learning. often they are jaded and just want to know the minimum they need to do to satisfy requirements. it is challenging to shift kids like this toward self-directed learning,

and it doesn’t happen overnight. (i have experience with this, as i ran an after-school and summer program for school-attending kids for several years.)

of course teachers who have always had to carrot-and-stick their students to perform are doubtful about their ability to learn on their own — and of course their entire CAREER is built on believing that kids need someone else to make them/help them learn.

and of course they are going to feel better knowing that they indeed still have a purpose — that there is plenty for them to do even if kids are doing PBL.

this is actually true — but not in the way that is normally done in school (or to the degree that is normally done in school). when kids are “learning on their own,” they still need adult support in many ways, as PBH parents know. they need your example, they need to bounce ideas off you and brainstorm with you, they need your interest and support, they need a budget to buy materials and a drive to the aquarium…

unfortunately the “help” they get in school often escalates to the point where, as described in this article, the teachers are building the project and the students are just plugged in like so many generic bolts.

there are actually companies that provide “PBL curriculum” to schools where the entire project, from topic to questions to lists of things the kids can “choose” to do are all provided on neat cards. -__-

parents know that their job is to eventually make themselves unnecessary — they are raising kids to be independent, self-sufficient, successful adults. we just need to convince them to create the same kind of *learners*. :")

schools on the other hand, need students to remain in need of teachers — from kindergarten through their advanced degree. it really isn’t in their best interest to create people who can learn on their own — unless they are willing to change what it means to be a teacher.

Comment by MirandaMiranda on September 5, 2016 at 03:48 PM

Interesting points, I hadn't thought about it from the perspective of schools and teachers needed to safeguard their roles. I think it also brings up the idea of what it means to be a 'teacher' - I know HS parents who say that they don't 'teach' their children and I think that's partly because of negative associations. I think reading aloud, playing a game, explaining your thoughts on Hilary Clinton, can all be seen as 'teaching'. But perhaps the difference is in whether the teacher or the learner is deciding what is going to be learnt - hence, PBH of course!

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