What's wrong with DIY/Maker Faire/hacking/tinkering for kids — and how we can make it better

Published by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2013 at 08:53 AM

It looks good on the surface. Adults love to see kids wearing protective goggles. They’re hacking! They’re tinkering! They’re making! It’s STEM-y or even better STEAM-y! These kids are going to figure out how to get us to a new Earth-like planet when the inevitable dystopian future arrives!

It’s not that we’re not moving in a good direction. Doing it yourself? Good. Making? Good. Hacking and tinkering? Good.

The problem is that everyone has sat down and taken out their picnic things and said, “Whew! Great, this works for me!” But we’re only partway toward the good stuff. We’re stopping too soon.

We’ve got a partial handle on it, but we could do so much more for the kids. Better options are right there within our reach. We just need to go a little further.

If you’re excited about a DIY/maker/hacker/tinker-like group or activity, please take a hard look and ask yourself these questions:

- Are the kids’ ideas driving the making/hacking/tinkering?

If your child’s ideas aren’t required, then keep looking.

If you are thinking, “Well, my child doesn’t have any ideas” or “What if my child doesn’t have any ideas?” or “My child only likes to do X and I hate X,” then you are treating this as an “apply externally” situation (“apply learning experience liberally to your child’s exterior; wait for projected results”) when you really need to be diving deep to find out what your child cares about and what your child wants to do.

- Are the adults doing all the teaching?

Is peer-to-peer teaching happening? (Are kids teaching other kids?) Do kids have the opportunity to turn around and mentor someone else? Do they get to grow in their role from beginner to expert?

Is all the learning happening unidirectionally, with kids absorbing what adults are teaching?

Are skills being learned from a variety of people of different ages and backgrounds, or do all of the “experts” look alike?

Are kids encouraged to create learning tools for other kids?

Do adults have all the power positions?

- Is there an adult-imposed schedule or adult-imposed deadline?

Authentic learning does not thrive inside an imposed structure. How can it? All kids do not learn at the same pace. Any time there is a structure that sets time limits, some kids will be bored and others will be left behind.

Authentic learning generates questions which require research that in turn requires talking to people, finding resources, and discussing relevance. None of those things can happen if we all have to have our remote-controlled planes finished by the Maker Faire six weeks from Monday.

Major red flag: adults doing kids’ work for them, doing work for kids who have missed sessions to “catch them up,” or finishing their work for them in order to meet a deadline.

- Are adults jumping in to solve kids’ problems or tell them what to do to avoid problems?

Authentic learning is problem-producing and problem-solving.

Do kids get the opportunity to make mistakes, discover problems on their own, brainstorm with peers, seek out help when they decide they need it, and solve their own problems?

A streamlined learning experience smooths off all the rough edges and the rough edges are generally where most of the learning happens.

- Do all of the projects look the same?

When you start nit-picking (please, come sit by me), you’ll hear a whole lot of “Well, you have to start somewhere.” But that is frankly a cop-out. You do have to start somewhere — so why start *there*?

If you see a table full of kids working with identical-looking projects in front of them, then you are looking at something that is not authentically self-directed or self-motivated. It is just a “cool,” “fun” project that an adult dreamed up for some kids to do, that an adult planned, that an adult organized, and that an adult carefully translated into directions the kids could follow. Look at all the work being accomplished *by the adult*. That is so much closer to what we expect to see in a classroom and too far away from real learner-centered education.

Sitting at a table following instructions is the equivalent of sitting on the bench. Kids need to be on the field, not on the bench.

- Are kids following directions to complete a project?

Again we hear “You have to start somewhere!”

Again, there are a million opportunities in life to follow directions and make something that looks like the sample. Prioritize kids’ ideas. Prioritize individuality. Save the group cookie-cutter projects for another day. If you never get to them, it will be *fine*. Their value is negligible if not zero.

- Are children offered limited choice?

If a child’s input into a project is deciding which stickers to apply to it, that is not a good thing.

- Are follow-directions projects jumping-off points or ending points?

Okay, you-have-to-start-somewhere people, this is your chance for redemption. What happened after that follow-directions project? Did the kids explode off into a dozen different directions with ideas of their own? No? :: buzzer sound ::

If kids cycle from one follow-directions project to the next, with everything on a time schedule (“We have to finish our rockets this week because next week we start remote-control planes!”), then what you’re looking at is not innovative, not learner-centered, and not offering deep understanding or long-term engagement. It’s the same old hash repackaged as something new. Don’t be distracted by the protective goggles.

- Is there a revision stage (or, preferably, many revision stages)?

The lack of a revising stage is a red flag for an adult-imposed schedule. If there isn’t time to do multiple iterations and revise your ideas, your ideas are not going to be deep, complex, or layered.

Everything should be open-ended. Work should be done until mastery is achieved *and only the learner should decide when mastery has been achieved*.

If a child is ushered through a “project” from beginning to end without the chance to share with others at various stages then return to their work to revise, add, subtract, extend, ask for help, take suggestions, and so on, then the learning potential was severely diminished.

I saw an infuriating video (can’t locate, sadly; it’s possible I destroyed it with my rage) where an adult leader chuckled over how one child only realized his (very individual) project couldn’t work at the very end, when it was (according to the adult-imposed schedule) shared with other children and someone pointed out his mistake. The child was not given the time to go back and improve on his idea. The project was over; everyone moved on. So what was the point?

Real learning requires testing and revision.

- Are kids getting peer feedback during the making progress?

See just above. Kids should be collaborating, supporting, learning how to offer and ask for help and how to say a polite “no, thank you.” They should be copying one another, getting excited by each other’s ideas, and extending one another’s ideas. They should be challenged by what another child does with their idea and want to go back and incorporate that child’s extensions into their own original plan.

If that is not happening, again, what is the point?

Real learning requires multiple iterations, feedback, collaboration, and sharing.

- Are the children working on REAL real-world problems or FAKE real-world problems?

There is a horrible trend among educators to give students “real-world” problems to solve — but the problems are fake.

In a more recent project, Richardson was surprised when her students became so invested in a project to reduce poverty in their area that many of them became genuinely upset when they found out that their plan would not be enacted. — read the article here

Please, no. No, no, no, no, no. Do you think these children who put forth tremendous effort and were emotionally and intellectually invested in their work only to find out they’d been *tricked* tackled their next project with the same level of enthusiasm? I’m going to guess no. Are we motivating children to become “lifelong learners” with this kind of bait-and-switch? What happens when they catch on? How do they feel about themselves, their teachers, and education in general?

This kind of “problem-based learning” shows a complete lack of respect for children’s ability to do real work. Please do not waste their time by asking them to work on “real” problems if their efforts are going into the recycling bin.

[P]rotoyping a recyclable lunch tray; setting up a water delivery system to guard against urban fires; building a public awareness campaign to combat hunger. These are just a few of examples of the types of tasks students are taking on… — A design challenge to students: Solve a real-world problem

One of the teachers from the above article is quoted as saying, “They get excited about it and they want to accomplish more than is realistic.

So, once again, you get kids excited about doing real work and then you yank the rug out from under their feet. You explain that their work is not actually going to solve that problem. You set limits; you put up fences. You tap into true motivation and then you waste it. You had an opportunity to engage a child with something meaningful and purposeful and you blew it.

Rather than asking children to think about problems they cannot actually affect in any real way, it’s a simple thing to let them work in their own community to solve real “real-world” problems. They can even identify the problems themselves before they set out to solve them.

If they choose their own problems, the work is self-leveling. And if there’s an adult who says “pish posh, who cares about this petty subject when they could be applying themselves to solving global warming?” … well, move back, because my head is going to explode.

The real world is RIGHT HERE — we live in it every day. It’s in your community, in your school, in your backyard. Children live in the real world. They can change *that* world. Don’t waste their time asking them to put real effort into imaginary solutions. Help them do real work that matters.

- Are extrinsic rewards are being offered?

Is your child being awarded a badge for the work she’s doing?

There’s some controversy about how damaging extrinsic rewards are, but it’s pretty generally agreed upon that you shouldn’t offer them for anything a child wants to do. Extrinsic rewards are okay if it’s dull, rote work that isn’t enjoyable. But if you offer an extrinsic reward for something a person likes to do, you sap their enjoyment. And you take their focus off their ideas and put it collecting badges.

[R]ewards cause people to lose interest in whatever they were rewarded for doing. This phenomenon, which has been demonstrated in scores of studies (Kohn, 1993), makes sense given that "motivation" is not a single characteristic that an individual possesses to a greater or lesser degree. Rather, intrinsic motivation (an interest in the task for its own sake) is qualitatively different from extrinsic motivation (in which completion of the task is seen chiefly as a prerequisite for obtaining something else) (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Therefore, the question educators need to ask is not how motivated their students are, but how their students are motivated. — Alfie Kohn

The data suggest that the more we want children to want to do something, the more counterproductive it will be to reward them for doing it.

Deci and Ryan (1985) describe the use of rewards as "control through seduction." Control, whether by threats or bribes, amounts to doing things to children rather than working with them. This ultimately frays relationships, both among students (leading to reduced interest in working with peers) and between students and adults (insofar as asking for help may reduce the probability of receiving a reward).

Moreover, students who are encouraged to think about grades, stickers, or other "goodies" become less inclined to explore ideas, think creatively, and take chances. At least ten studies have shown that people offered a reward generally choose the easiest possible task (Kohn, 1993). In the absence of rewards, by contrast, children are inclined to pick tasks that are just beyond their current level of ability. — ibid.

[G]ood values have to be grown from the inside out. Attempts to short-circuit this process by dangling rewards in front of children are at best ineffective, and at worst counterproductive. Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning. Rewards — like punishments — are unnecessary when these things are present, and are ultimately destructive in any case. — ibid.

People will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself — not by external pressures. — Theresa Amabile, “How to Kill Creativity,” Harvard Business Review

It’s an approach built much more around intrinsic motivation, around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting, because they’re part of something important. — Dan Pink, TED Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

“Extrinsic motivations crowd out intrinsic motivations.” That’s economist-speak for: if someone loves doing something and then you start paying them, money undermines that natural desire. — Is money a lousy way to motivate people?

What the research shows … is that the great wellspring of creativity is intrinsic motivation — that is, I do my best work for personal rewards (out of love or intellectual fulfillment) and not external motivation…” — Malcolm Gladwell

“[A]rtists who pursued their painting and sculpture more for pleasure of the activity itself than for extrinsic rewards have produced art that has been socially recognized as superior… It is those who are least motivated to pursue extrinsic rewards who eventually receive them.” — Dan Pink

[B]eing offered a reward for doing the work results in less creative output than being offered nothing. — Geoff Colvin

We destroy the love of learning in children, which is so strong when they are small, by encouraging and compelling them to work for petty and contemptible rewards, gold stars, or papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall, or A’s on report cards, or honor rolls, or dean’s lists, or Phi Beta Kappa keys, in short, for the ignoble satisfaction of feeling that they are better than someone else. — John Holt

Do rewards motivate people? Absolutely. They motivate people to get rewards.What really motivates us? 

What message do we send when we reward kids with badges for doing their own meaningful work? Doesn’t it belittle their effort and engagement? I think it does. Isn’t it patronizing for adults to pat kids on the head and say here’s a little prize for you? I think it is. It’s not the way I want to treat my children or their work, and I think they would be so insulted by it, it would be damaging to our relationship as well as their feelings about their work. I literally cannot imagine handing my son a badge for the challenging and meaningful work that he does.

Do you really want your child to focus on something as mundane as collecting badges when she could be focused instead on digging deeply into something she cares about?

I can already hear the “but my child LIKES badges,” so here’s my response: Your child deserves to do work that is intrinsically motivated, that matters deeply, and she deserves to learn how to care more for her own opinion than the validation of others. So let’s do more of that.

- Is your child the driver or the passenger?

True self-directed learning is not assigned. It is not done within a structure provided by someone else. It proceeds at its own natural, organic pace.

It is self-motivated. It grows out of a desire to learn something, create something, and/or solve a problem — but the motivation is personal.

The learner is absolutely necessary — he connects a collection of ideas, plans, questions, and actions to create something unique. If you can lift your child out and shove any kid in there, then it isn’t personal, which means you can do better.

- Is your child choosing the skills he needs or someone is teaching him random skills?

“You have to start somewhere.” Okay. Then start with a particular, individual child and find out what interests her and then help her make her ideas happen. Along the way, she will need to acquire knowledge and skills. Help her figure out how she’s going to do that. That is an authentic, meaningful process. That learning will last.

When you say, “You have to start somewhere,” you are really deciding that to acquire any skills at all is just as useful as to discover what interests you, set a goal, work toward something personally meaningful, and figure out how to do the things you want to do along the way. It isn’t just as useful. Random skills will be forgotten; personally meaningful work done for a real purpose set in a context of uniquely individual authentic interests and desires will never be forgotten.

 

You can throw it against the wall, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stick. If your child comes away from this group experience full of personally motivated plans, goals, and ideas that will no longer fit into a preplanned structure, then it worked — and now off-the-shelf will no longer suffice. And if he does NOT come away on fire to go further, do more, and make his own ideas happen, what’s the point? No matter how you slice it, unless your group supports individual kids’ ideas and plans, it is only a starting point. Eventually, you have to mentor your child as an individual and help your child build the learning experience he needs — the one that is custom-fit for him.

Start with the child, find out what’s personally relevant to that child, and every single ounce of effort you invest will return to you tenfold.

This is why learner-centered homeschooling is always, always going to drink formal schooling’s milkshake. Because it’s personal, relevant, tech-neutral, unscripted, deadline-free, fully customizable, and self-leveling.

And every parent can give this to their child, whether their child is homeschooled or not. Every parent can mentor their child to become a self-directed learner. Every parent can learn to be a self-directed learner themselves.

This can be accomplished in community-based groups. Children can do authentic project work with the support of adults who want to mentor rather than lead. It requires adults to put the individual before the structure rather than plugging kids into a preplanned framework.

Throw away the instructions. Throw away the agenda. Throw away the schedule. Apologize to the kids. Say, “I’m sorry. I got super pleased with myself and forgot this isn’t about me — it’s about you. I have my notebook. I’m listening. Please tell me what you want to learn. Please tell me what you want to do. I will help you help each other.”

We offer this kind of learning and imply that when kids are adults they’ll be "life-long learners" who can take over and do what they need and want to do. But all we’ve shown them is how to ride along in the backseat. They don't know how to CREATE opportunities. They don't know how to SELF-SELECT their projects. They don't know how to articulate their own goals and then break them down into manageable steps. They don't know how to shift their own habits and behavior to get what they want — because they've never had to do any of that. But they so easily could — if we let them.

Please look at the group you’re considering and ask yourself these questions. (I’ve made you a handy abbreviated checklist here.) Then, if the group doesn’t measure up, start your own group. You don’t need special materials; you don’t need to know the things the kids want to learn. You can find the materials; you can find the experts. You can acquire the skills. You can make it. You can hack it. You can DIY it. And by making it yourself the way you want it to be, you can show your kids how that is done.

You can do it. Don’t settle for something less just because it’s easier.

I don’t think every parent should have to form their own group or eschew the existing groups completely. What I really want is for these groups to pack up their picnic things and decide they’re only partway there after all and if they hike a little further, they’ll end up some place much better. It doesn’t really take a lot more effort — just a change of mindset and a change of heart. The work is really the same. If you’re involved in one of these groups, maybe you can speak out, start a dialogue, and instigate some change.

So, we need two things:

First, we parents — who buy our kids organic and handmade everything — need to be less complacent about accepting off-the-shelf, mass-produced learning experiences for our kids.

Second, we group leaders — who care deeply about the kids we work with but bend so readily to the constraints of time, parental expectations, and the exigencies of managing a group — need to take a hard look at our true objectives vs. our xeroxed agenda and see if we can reorganize ourselves around the true center: the individual child as learner.

Until kids are combining skills with their own ideas, we’re not there yet. Until kids are allowed to do their own organizing, researching, and decision-making, rather than waiting for adults to do it all, we’re not there yet. Until the adults step back and let the kids take over, we’re not there yet.

If adults are doing all the teaching — and if they’re offering the kids badges for acquiring skills — then we’re just glancing off the surface of what self-directed learning can accomplish.

If you’re out there trying, I’m a fan of you. I just want us all to think a little harder about why we’re doing this — then work a little harder to give kids the learning opportunities they deserve. Let’s help them rigorously pursue their own ideas.

 

Some good stuff here: Kathy Sierra on gamification of education, incentives, and rewards

44 comments

Comment by mckittre on November 4, 2013 at 10:56 AM

I agree with the sentiment, but I do think follow-the-instructions *can* be a jumping off point if you let it be.

Watching my kid spend weeks and months making paper airplane after paper airplane from instruction books, I wondered where the creativity was?
Then he started making paper airplane after paper airplane from his own designs. But the reason he *can* use his own ideas effectively is that he's internalized a lot about paper airplanes from all those instructions -- how to crease paper, symmetry, the variety of shapes that work, the types of folds used, how the weight should be distributed, how to make stabilizers, etc...

There's a place for learning from instructions -- especially if there's also enough time set aside to go beyond them.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2013 at 11:33 AM

 

I do think follow-the-instructions *can* be a jumping off point if you let it be.

it CAN. it unfortunately often isn’t.

but think about this from a group perspective. if you are setting out to teach kids how to make paper airplanes, then already you are choosing the subject matter. (your son chose his own interest and that is always where it’s best to begin.)

then you give the kids the materials and instructions and show them how to fold the airplanes.

at that point, it’s the last opportunity to say, “okay — now what do YOU want to do? what do YOU want to make? how would you improve or change these designs?”

every child doing authentic project work is going to need instructions at some point for how to do something they WANT to do (learn how to operate a sewing machine, learn how to fold a paper airplane, learn how to carve wood, learn how to build an armature for a large sculpture…). ideally, they will have the need FIRST, then they will do their own research, they will find the information they need, they will find a mentor or expert if they think they need one, and they’ll proceed to gather the information and acquire the skills.

not only does instruction-following need to be a jumping-off point, but it needs to be embedded in a larger learning context that is driven by the child’s ideas/needs/questions/plans.

There's a place for learning from instructions -- especially if there's also enough time set aside to go beyond them.

agree! and thank you for helping me clarify, erin. <3

Comment by mckittre on November 5, 2013 at 02:51 PM

The other side of this is that at the flight museum the other day, there was a craft table set up for kids to make follow-the-instructions straw rockets, and plastic bag parachutes. And despite the fact that he enjoyed the activities, despite the fact that he's super interested in flight, and despite having all those same type of materials at home, those activities didn't spark a thing.

The museum itself sparked plenty, though.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 03:12 PM

yeah, that’s not actually the other side, is it? that’s what we’re talking about. well, it’s what i’m talking about! ;)

it would be a very easy thing to shift those activities in a different direction.

Comment by mckittre on November 6, 2013 at 01:21 PM

You're right.

The instructions were super super useful when my kid sought them out on his own, and completely useless when they were presented as a fun one-time activity. Even though the types of activities (using common materials to make things that fly) seem basically identical on the surface.

That's what I meant by "the other side." The two sides of what a set of instructions can lead to---one side where the kid seeks them out, and one side where they're foisted upon him.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 6, 2013 at 02:41 PM

THAT is exactly what it’s about — a context of meaning where a self-directed learner is seeking out something s/he needs or wants to know vs. a random activity offered by an adult.

i’m not against *instructions*, i’m talking about adults setting up follow-the-directions activities vs. open-ended explorations.

Comment by HSofia on November 4, 2013 at 06:41 PM

I agree, mckittre, that there is a place for skill-building. Learning how to do something very fundamental, like crocheting granny squares over and over, or baking the same biscuit recipe 50 times until it's perfect. I think that's not the same thing as a project though. Building a particular skill is one aspect of a project.

Comment by sarah pj on November 4, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Yes. Yes. YES. You know how I feel about fake real world challenges and false obstacles. Basically I want to give you a high five.

I love going to Maker Faire because I love to see what amazing and creative things people are doing and have my own imagination kick started. That's what I want out of it for my kids too - that they see what's possible and get fired up and get to work on making their own ideas happen. But yes, the craft/kid area makes me a little sad. It could be so much more than it is.

Okay, now that I'm fired up, we're going to go downstairs and make stuff. Whee!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2013 at 11:35 AM

 

i will take that high five.

you put your finger right on it — maker faire is full of all this crazy, personal, inspirational stuff and then you go over to the “kid craft area” (sigh) and it is wah wah wahhhhhhh something entirely different.

there is no reason why kids can’t be doing more of that personal, awesome stuff and less (or none — please, none) of that everybody-do-the-same-thing-at-the-same-time cookie-cutter stuff. no reason at all.

Comment by ginaria on November 5, 2013 at 08:05 AM

I guess it depends on which Maker Faire? It's changed over the years as it gets more crowded, but one year when I went the kids' area was just a huge room filled with donated stuff from local buisnesses -- all sorts of weird plastic doodads, extra parts, strange bits of paper, CDs, random out of date electronics.... the *strangest* things. Then there were a few tables covered in scissors and glue guns and another table with soldering irons and other tools like screwdrivers and allen wrenches. There was no "project", just a room for kids to make whatever they wanted to. And *gasp* use tools and hot glue!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 08:14 AM

that sounds great! :)

Comment by sarah pj on November 5, 2013 at 12:44 PM

That sounds fabulous! When we've gone to the main one, the children's area has been generally quite organized. I'm glad they're not all like that.

Comment by Deirdre on November 4, 2013 at 11:46 AM

Thank you for the checklist! I think I'll hang it up in our work space ---our Comic Creators club starts next Tuesday and this post couldn't have come at a better time.

My one caveat ---since you enjoy the nit-picking;-)---is that "real world" problems and solutions often do involve deadlines. Not always, but part of working with the world includes working with deadlines. We got a grant to print an anthology of our students' comics for our local library/schools and to sell at our local bookstore (in hopes of not needing a grant in the future)...but I'm going to share your checklist with Aidan and discuss double-upping the revision stages.

BTW...is it just me and my eyes getting older or is the font of your posts getting smaller?

xoxo

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2013 at 11:52 AM

 

i can’t wait to hear about your comic club! :D jack loved doing his; i have fond memories. :)

part of working with the world includes working with deadlines.

pick away, and this is a good one.

REAL deadlines that are embedded in the work? fine by me.

deadlines that are simply an imposed structure? less fine. especially if the work is begun with the end in mind — e.g., if it’s a six-week maker group to produce something specific in time to show at a faire.

totally arbitrary deadlines? i do not see the point. in school, we have them because we’re imposing a structure and setting limits. but if you’re outside of school, any deadlines you work around or with should (as you point out) be real deadlines that have something to do with the work — finishing your piece of artwork in time to submit it to a show, for example, or solving a problem for your local animal shelter that they need by a certain date.

i’ll think about how i can word that better on the checklist! thank you, deirdre. :)

re: the font size, i lean back in alarm when i visit some current blogs that have GIANT TYPE, but there must be some happy medium between this and that — i’ll experiment a little. ;o)

(if it’s getting smaller, it’s just me doing something wrong…)

Comment by MarloJen on November 4, 2013 at 02:48 PM

I love this post as a personal check-in checklist. As a parent I have many irons in the fire (what's for dinner? did you say the brake lights are out again? Mooooom, I can't find my [fill in the blank], [It's under the pile of puppets]) -- including concocting our own unique recipe of homeschooling to accomodate the needs of this unique little set of people.

This recipe has some parts more formal, some less, some not at all, some project -- and it's ever-evolving, ever-changing. Some of those ingredients can feel like they're working in opposition at times. But, it's a big picture I'm holding, with lots of moving parts. Your thoughts on this are part of my roadmap. Thank you!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2013 at 02:52 PM

you are so very welcome. <3

Comment by amy21 on November 4, 2013 at 03:05 PM

the constraints of time, parental expectations, and the exigencies of managing a group

This. It feels like very few people want something different (I guess I'm focusing on parental expectations here). If you can't say, "This is what the kids are going to do and what they're going to learn" right up front, it's hard to get traction. It seems too wiggly to attract anyone's commitment, maybe? I've been thinking about this a lot, even the way craft books and magazines teach how to replicate somebody else's idea rather than teaching a technique...it's all part of the same constraint, the idea that nobody is interested in learning unless they know exactly what they'll be doing and what it will look like in the end? Maybe? Like I said, I've been thinking about this. I find it frustrating.

A local librarian is trying to start a group for homeschoolers (which I applaud) where she isn't in charge but rather facilitates, and the kids come to the group with their own ideas and share their own projects, which is awesome, but she's set the monthly topics already. She's sort of halfway there. I've already recommended your book to her. Maybe I'll forward her this post...

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2013 at 05:53 PM

 

It feels like very few people want something different…

i just had this conversation with someone earlier today.

they asked how i respond when people respond to our homeschooling by saying, “you should have put your kids in public school and then advocated for ALL the kids.”

i said my response is, “if all it takes is a parent advocating for change, then i have to assume that all of you want schools exactly the way they are.”

I've been thinking about this a lot, even the way craft books and magazines teach how to replicate somebody else's idea rather than teaching a technique...it's all part of the same constraint, the idea that nobody is interested in learning unless they know exactly what they'll be doing and what it will look like in the end?

well, that certainly seems to be popular these days — predicted outcomes. without them, you can’t build the standardized test.

A local librarian is trying to start a group for homeschoolers (which I applaud) where she isn't in charge but rather facilitates, and the kids come to the group with their own ideas and share their own projects, which is awesome, but she's set the monthly topics already. …

mmm. yes. there was a local hs’ing group here doing “project-based learning” and “self-directed learning” but the topics were assigned. and the activities were preplanned.

for the record: if you plan it, it’s not project-based, it’s unit based.

but if people are out there fighting the good fight and trying to do the right thing, bless ’em and i would help them in any way i could. all it takes is an open mind and the right motivations!

Comment by kirstenf on November 4, 2013 at 04:44 PM

Oooh, this gave me goosebumps! Not cranky, inspirational! As you know, I have the child who *won't* be led to do the beautifully packaged, already thought-through projects. He has his own ideas and he's sticking to them. So between this, and that other post of yours I s reading yesterday, I'm feeling quite inspired to support him. Thank you!

I also love the stuff about external rewards. I bang on about this all the time, to anyone who'll listen. I hate reward charts. I love Alfie Kohn. I love THIS:

"I can already hear the “but my child LIKES badges,” so here’s my response: Your child deserves to do work that is intrinsically motivated, that matters deeply, and she deserves to learn how to care more for her own opinion than the validation of others. So let’s do more of that."

Hooray!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2013 at 05:55 PM

 

haha, thank you, kirsten. the first draft was a little cranky. ;o)

as i said on twitter, i love my own intractable learner — he won’t let anyone get in the way of his self-directed learning. he has always been absolutely determined to do it his own way and i can say now that he is a teen that his way was the right way. he knew what he was doing!

and thank you again re: the badges. did you notice i never once said “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”?! but i was thinking it…

Comment by janet on November 4, 2013 at 07:15 PM

“apply learning experience liberally to your child’s exterior; wait for projected results." i have a strong urge to illustrate this : )

i love sugata mitra's hole in the wall experiment, so i had high hopes when i found his SOLE program: "How to Bring Self-Organized Learning Environments to Your Community." eek. i nearly cried. so contrived. why? i hope i'm misunderstanding the materials they sent me...but i don't think i am.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 4, 2013 at 07:36 PM

 

that’s too bad. :(

if you do the illustration, make sure you show it to me. ;o)

Comment by Michele on November 4, 2013 at 09:03 PM

There are quite a variety of opinions out there as to what project based homeschooling is. I really enjoyed your article as it matched how I feel and we approach things, until I reached the part about being awarded a badge.

I am a mom of three active makers on diy.org. My kids would not agree with the statement "Extrinsic rewards are okay if it’s dull, rote work that isn’t enjoyable. But if you offer an extrinsic reward for something a person likes to do, you sap their enjoyment. And you take their focus off their ideas and put it collecting badges.”

Just looking at one of my kid's pages only 28% of the projects he has done were to complete challenges toward earning a skill patch. Most of those he had come up with the idea for the project, made it, then looked to see if it fit under any challenges. The skill patch is not the motivating factor, however he does like that he can earn patches to display that represent his interests.

From a parent/teacher perspective, the challenges have opened him up to try projects he hadn't thought of previously. There are hundreds of challenges on the site that are open ended and individually-defined. The kids are not assigned a challenge, nor required to complete them, however they are there for those looking for ideas of something to explore or a way to stretch a current interest.

It's a tool and just like the term PBL, I'm sure there are many interpretations of it. I just wanted to share our experience with being awarded a badge and that it can be a good thing if the if the rest of your article is in place as it is in our home and with the events my kids help to run.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 07:42 AM

 

i am sure that your kids do like badges, but my point is that overall, extrinsic rewards are not necessary when children are doing work they want to do and they *can* be damaging. so why use them at all?

From a parent/teacher perspective, the challenges [on DIY.org] have opened him up to try projects he hadn't thought of previously.

that’s great. and as i said, if these programs are working, kids will discover interests and generate ideas that require a unique project and specific mentoring — at which point, prepackaged curriculum will no longer suffice.

 

obviously, skimming around doing random project after random project is not as valuable as digging deeply into one personally relevant area and doing more rigorous work. how many kids go on to do that more valuable work?

 

the most common reaction to these suggestions for improvement is “it’s not really that bad,” but i disagree — i DO think it’s that bad. because we’re talking about large organizations that are preplanned and prepackaged, whose guidelines scores adults will use to form groups for thousands of children. so why not set out to do it the best way you possibly can *for the kids* from the outset?

 

Comment by Michele on November 5, 2013 at 12:11 PM

"that’s great. and as i said, if these programs are working, kids will discover interests and generate ideas that require a unique project and specific mentoring — at which point, prepackaged curriculum will no longer suffice. obviously, skimming around doing random project after random project is not as valuable as digging deeply into one personally relevant area and doing more rigorous work. how many kids go on to do that more valuable work?”

That’s my point, these programs are working. The timing of your blog post is ironic as yesterday my son spent the afternoon with a designer pitching his product, touring the facility that will produce it, comparing different materials, figuring out the cost to make it, packaging, and what he will need to sell it for. The months prior were spent making prototypes, testing, and fine tuning his design. This has been an amazing learning experience that no book could have taught him. There are many makers on diy.org who are incredibly talented, are making a difference in the world, and are creating an individualized path.

It doesn’t matter whether the kid is public, private, or home schooled. It’s the mindset of those mentors in the kid’s life that makes the difference.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 12:18 PM

 

that’s wonderful, michele. congratulations to your son. :)

but not everyone has such a great experience. i would like to see more programs mentoring kids to self-manage and nudging their agendas in a direction that gives kids more autonomy and power. with your son’s success, i’m sure you would advocate for the same.

It doesn’t matter whether the kid is public, private, or home schooled. It’s the mindset of those mentors in the kid’s life that makes the difference.

agree! :)

Comment by leah hung on November 4, 2013 at 09:48 PM

I love this - so much juicy food for thought. I really enjoy the spirit of the Maker movement but you are so right the kids area sucks as everyone is doing the same thing and it's big business selling the pre-packaged kits.

Re: the iteration stage - oh yes! Like Rosie Revere (Engineer) we must learn from our failures and if there isn't that space there will be lots of sad kids. But, that is probably why everyone make an x from the kit is so popular as we can't have failure or rather we don't have time for failure. Oh Lori, why does everything and kids come down to a lack of time?

As I tweeted earlier, I spent 3 years working for a foundation coming up with "real world" problem workshops for businesses and charities that never went anywhere. Heart breaking for me and the charities (though we all put a brave face on it because charities have to be grateful by default) and the staff/businesses got a fake sense of achievement and team bonding.

I've also experienced this "real world" problem solving with charities trying to engage disadvantaged youth and turn them into pro-social entrepreneurs but without adequate mentoring so it turns into a wheel spinning exercise. At one presentation every single group were going to design a t-shirt to tackle a social issue. Not one of the mentors had explained where the ubiquitous charity t-shirt fits into a marketing/business plan. Design/sell a t-shirt solves a problem drove me batty.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 07:47 AM

 

Oh Lori, why does everything and kids come down to a lack of time?

i was thinking this reading the comment just above yours — why do these large groups set out to organize in this particular way? i think to make everything streamlined for the adult leaders. :/

Comment by HSofia on November 5, 2013 at 09:14 AM

"i think to make everything streamlined for the adult leaders. :/

This is the part that is so hard ... I like this article because you talk a lot about how we adults need to check our egos at the door. We need to start getting comfortable offering a different kind of "assistance."

I think when so many of us were schooled and conditioned in the schooled mindset, it is more difficult than we realize to really let go of it, even when we think we're doing something different. It's a constant swimming against the current, and I say this as someone who has been familiar with homeschooling and unschooling for 25 years (most of my life!). As you said, we're often not taking it the distance we could be - that little bit of change we're making to conventional educational methods can feel SO RADICAL even when it's really not. We can do better, indeed!

The good news is that people are interested in change, but we are at that critical juncture when "open-ended" and "interest-led" learning can either REALLY take off, or just end up being co-opted. (The old "reform" vs "revolution" issue - in education.)

What times we live in to witness all this! And to be able to influence it with our voices and relationships. There are days when I am truly in amazement just thinking about it.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 12:21 PM

 

As you said, we're often not taking it the distance we could be - that little bit of change we're making to conventional educational methods can feel SO RADICAL even when it's really not. We can do better, indeed!

see deirdre’s comment further down where she talks about adults taking over a comic club and discarding kids’ ideas. :(

The good news is that people are interested in change, but we are at that critical juncture when "open-ended" and "interest-led" learning can either REALLY take off, or just end up being co-opted. (The old "reform" vs "revolution" issue - in education.)

YES. this is what i was talking about when i ranted a little on facebook today about the “it’s not that bad” attitude. THIS is our opportunity to really build something good from the ground up. let’s not just tweak the old model.

What times we live in to witness all this! And to be able to influence it with our voices and relationships.

<3

Comment by Michele on November 5, 2013 at 12:21 PM

"What times we live in to witness all this! And to be able to influence it with our voices and relationships. There are days when I am truly in amazement just thinking about it."

It is amazing isn't it? People are interested in change and that in itself is progress.

It takes time for adults to break away from doing things the way they've always done them and trust empowering kids.

It's been a long time since creativity has been valued like athletics and traditional academics are.

We live in a society that likes to measure and compare, but creativity is difficult to measure and doesn't have the same bragging rights as athletics and traditional academics.

Comment by Shoshana on November 4, 2013 at 11:11 PM

I'm not sure you need the checklist. I think the most useful criterion you give is this one: "If your child comes away from this group experience full of personally motivated plans, goals, and ideas that will no longer fit into a preplanned structure, then it worked." Everything else is just -- pardon me :) -- another version of adults deciding for kids what kids should want.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 07:48 AM

good point! :)

i do think, however, that the checklist could help some people involved in groups (i have friends in this position) who want talking point to bring up among adult leaders when suggesting changes.

Comment by Cp on November 5, 2013 at 08:47 AM

You wrote:
"every child doing authentic project work is going to need instructions at some point for how to do something they WANT to do (learn how to operate a sewing machine, learn how to fold a paper airplane, learn how to carve wood, learn how to build an armature for a large sculpture…). ideally, they will have the need FIRST, then they will do their own research, they will find the information they need, they will find a mentor or expert if they think they need one, and they’ll proceed to gather the information and acquire the skills.

not only does instruction-following need to be a jumping-off point, but it needs to be embedded in a larger learning context that is driven by the child’s ideas/needs/questions/plans.
- See more at: http://project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/what%E2%80%99s-wr..."

If you did your research, you would know that THIS is what Hacker Scouts does. Yes, there is a starting project where kids learn a SKILL SET. And yes, while learning this skill set they follow instructions. Then the kids are free to CHOOSE what they want to do with that skill set. Hacker Scouts Open Lab is open for kids to come in with ANY project that they have in their head. The mentors work with the kids to give them materials and skills to make the project happen. No project or idea is turned away.
This piece sounds like a catty criticism of something that you *think* doesn't fit into your narrow scope of what learning should look like.
In reality, Hacker Scouts give kids skill sets and then lets them run with those skills. And guess what? Hacker Scouts has peer mentors. And guess what, the kids come up with the projects.
And yes, there is a station for kids to build paper airplanes. But are you aware that not every kid is homeschooled? And not every kid comes from a home where these materials are available? So, to have a space for kids to learn something, and yes, learn to follow directions can be very empowering for a child. That child now has the confidence to do things on their own. Sometimes learning from a caring adult in a nurturing environment can be all the difference.
This post just seems catty, uncalled for and another notch in the Homeschool Mommy Wars.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 11:37 AM

 

If you did your research, you would know that THIS is what Hacker Scouts does.

i never referred to hacker scouts.

This piece sounds like a catty criticism of something that you *think* doesn't fit into your narrow scope of what learning should look like.

it’s criticism. “catty” means deliberately hurtful or spiteful. do you think i wrote this because i care about education and groups organized for kids or because i wanted to hurt someone’s feelings?

And yes, there is a station for kids to build paper airplanes. But are you aware that not every kid is homeschooled? And not every kid comes from a home where these materials are available? So, to have a space for kids to learn something, and yes, learn to follow directions can be very empowering for a child.

i am aware that not every kid is homeschooled. are you aware that i owned and ran a private school? are you aware that i ran after-school and summer programs for kids for many years? this isn’t about homeschooling. it IS about giving kids a higher-quality learning and mentoring experience.

and i don’t think learning to follow directions is empowering. the power resides with the person running the show. i think moving beyond following directions can be empowering. ergo the above post.

This post just seems catty, uncalled for and another notch in the Homeschool Mommy Wars.

why? because i homeschool? because i’m a mother?

the post says that i don’t think many of these groups are going far enough to give kids what they need and deserve. and i ask parents — and organizers — to take a hard look and see if they can be improved. that’s it. i don’t see how you can frame that as a mommy wars thing.

and if you are a member of a hacker scouts group and you’re entirely satisfied with how it’s run, then are you saying that you think those decisions you stand behind shouldn’t be applied to other groups? because that’s what i’m advocating — that people try to create or find groups that meet these criteria. if you think your group is doing all of these things, but you don’t think they’re important (they’re catty criticisms) and you don’t think people should advocate for them (it’s a mommy wars thing), then … i’m sorry, why are you here again?

Comment by Deirdre on November 5, 2013 at 09:32 AM

Lori, you are a rock star:)
Where else on the net these days are the comments still worth reading?

I love Leah's observation:
"we can't have failure or rather we don't have time for failure. Oh Lori, why does everything and kids come down to a lack of time?"

(I appreciate your restraint in not attributing the lack of time to all that time spent at public school & in organized sports---both of which we happen to love, even though their terrible price is time.)

I knew Jack was a comic-artist and genius, but had no idea he had a comic club! What are his consulting fees? We need to pick his brain!

I am SO resistant to doing group things, because my boys LOVE autonomy and are intrinsically motivated, and the more you get out of their way, the more they will do. But...I'm already hearing criticism/concern from parents as well as program leaders. They would love an agenda/lesson plan for every meeting. (Aidan's plan is to start mtgs with one of his favorite strips on a screen for the group to discuss/dissect and then lots of time to work on their own strips.) I'm being told that lots of the children aren't as familiar with narrative and characterization and we need to "teach" these things. And, as an old English teacher, I know I could, but I think that is the very last thing these kids need (especially as most of them are coming from a full day already spent in a classroom---though, tangent, we've had two home-schooling kids sign up too!).

Aidan says the kids will figure it out by creating strips, and then sharing them with the group and if the readers don't get the story, they'll know to change it. It would be "faster" and less risky to just streamline some of that learning, at the cost of any of it actually being learned though. So it comes down to lack of time and lack of trust vs actual learning.

All of which is to say (and probably should have been said via email, sorry), that the checklist is invaluable. Today is our "planning meeting" with the people offering us space for the project, the umbrella organization for after-school groups, and the grant provider---all of whom will expect the "plan" to be assigned topics and pre-planned activities. But I'll have your checklist, which will help them see my resistance (I hope) as a commitment to authentic learning, and not just laziness on my part:P

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 11:59 AM

 

jack had a comic club several years ago — it was online with a weekly challenge (the kids took turns submitting them) and the ability for club members to upload comics to share. it was great!

I'm already hearing criticism/concern from parents as well as program leaders. They would love an agenda/lesson plan for every meeting. (Aidan's plan is to start mtgs with one of his favorite strips on a screen for the group to discuss/dissect and then lots of time to work on their own strips.)

ahhhh haha, well, adults like an agenda, don’t they?

i LOVE aidan’s plan — a group critique of a professional comic strip and then free collaborative art time! what could be better?!

I'm being told that lots of the children aren't as familiar with narrative and characterization and we need to "teach" these things.

-_-

Aidan says the kids will figure it out by creating strips, and then sharing them with the group and if the readers don't get the story, they'll know to change it.

i’m with aidan.

It would be "faster" and less risky to just streamline some of that learning, at the cost of any of it actually being learned though. So it comes down to lack of time and lack of trust vs actual learning.

yes, it does.

i’m glad you said it here instead of in an e-mail! :) good luck with your meeting — i hope it goes well. maybe you can convince them that rather than assigned topics and preplanned activities, you’re going to offer ongoing mentoring and support while the kids practice building their own curriculum. or something like that. ;o) let me know how it goes!

Comment by dawn on November 5, 2013 at 01:50 PM

now i'm reconsidering getting the kids involved with odyssey of the mind at school. i *was* all for it, having fond memories of it from my own school days, but i'm now having second thoughts based on reading this post. maybe wanting their involvement is more about *me* being nostalgic, or me seeking places or groups where *i* think they can be comfortable with their unusual ways of thinking or looking at things, since they aren't currently homeschooling.

i have volunteered to be a coach, mostly because i want to stretch myself and see how i can be involved in mentoring children other than just my own. this is a chance for me to build my own skills.

i bet it could be interesting to my dd because of the self-selection of students into the team. she appreciates opportunities to find other people with similar interests and abilities, happy when she can be around other intense, creative thinkers. i wonder what she will think of it when she sees that there is a competitive aspect to it. she tends more to do things just for the sake of doing something interesting and rejects comparisons.

wow. i *really* have some reconsidering to do. i'm so glad you posted this.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 01:59 PM

 

thank you, dawn. :)

i’m unfamiliar with that group. let me know how it plays out!

Comment by Stacey B on November 5, 2013 at 03:02 PM

I wish I had more time to really express what I am thinking or to read through the entire discussion but one thing I have discovered helps when we are "tinkering" on our own, is that I do a project along side of my son, this lets me have control over an outcome and not "invade" his project. I wish I had more time but the stack of work next to me is telling me no.

Comment by Michael Maser on November 5, 2013 at 03:51 PM

Hi Lori, I really appreciate how you've dug into this; I know what you're talking about and it's a bunch of things to recognize when adults get together with groups of kids, and also in schooling situations. As a homelearning father and educator I've been in my share of both. What is tricky is addressing these situations when you see them arising, yes? In both scenarios I've seen well-meaning parents and/or teachers choreographing (also overtly manipulating) activities and access to resources, etc. to their own ends, and not those of the kids. In fact, the kids were never consulted. It helps to have an agreed upon plan with your kids to help them "get out of Dodge" when a situation arises, to be on their side and sincerely listen to them evaluate an activity and suggest improvements. And then pass the suggestions along. Homelearning parents are more open to hearing this, IME, than school teachers, who say witty things, "it's on the curriculum" or "I designed the activity for Multiple Intelligences."
- Michael Maser

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 5, 2013 at 04:22 PM

 

What is tricky is addressing these situations when you see them arising, yes?

definitely.

In both scenarios I've seen well-meaning parents and/or teachers choreographing (also overtly manipulating) activities and access to resources, etc. to their own ends, and not those of the kids. In fact, the kids were never consulted.

unfortunately common.

It helps to have an agreed upon plan with your kids to help them "get out of Dodge" when a situation arises, to be on their side and sincerely listen to them evaluate an activity and suggest improvements.

that is a great idea! i could see the value of teaching your children polite things to say to adults to keep them from taking over or to politely decline a suggestion.

Homelearning parents are more open to hearing this, IME, than school teachers, who say witty things, "it's on the curriculum" or "I designed the activity for Multiple Intelligences.

having worked with both, i’d say there are controlling people and people working toward best practices on both sides. i think teaching tends to attract a person who really likes to be organized — which includes preplanning. that is a gross generalization, but one i’ve found to be (as generalizations tend to be ;o) generally true. but there are a lot of teachers who care deeply about doing what’s best for students, and as a group they embrace ongoing professional development — and some of them really do try to reflect it in their work.

the problem in schools is the demand for scripting, preplanning, objectives, and so on coming from the top.

there are great programs here and there, but they stay scattered and die out before they can replicate.

Comment by Julie on November 8, 2013 at 06:37 AM

Lori,

When I first read your comments and your article, I thought that I couldn't disagree more. I love DIY and pinterest and my bookshelves are FILLED with art project books. I've never heard of diy.org so I've checked it out the past few days... and I've signed up for maker stuff online... bought many a pre-packaged project for the kids (and myself)... and I've taught many projects throughout the years that weren't 'cookie cutter' (hey! nobody wants to be called that!) but all had the same goal. So, I've been thinking and even losing sleep over this topic, I've turned it over in my head... over and over. Ok, and... you're right.

Honestly, I was mad when I read your thoughts on this topic at first. I was mad because it seems like all this effort that we as teachers/parents put into finding a lesson and applying it to education (because doing all that does take a lot of time and energy!) is not out of selfishness. We do it with the best intentions. I think you are very courageous to tackle this topic. The maker movement and all of this DIY stuff is very inspirational.... to me. But I'm a 'dinosaur', and my kids are not nearly as inspired by it as I am (and I was always a little amazed by that, but I'm starting to 'get' it). I'm inspired by it because I grew up in an era when art lessons where assessed the same way math lessons are~ where there is a 'right' answer and if you get the 'wrong' answer (you didn't paste that on right!) you get a bad grade. Creativity was measured... and still is in many schools today. Why, as homeschoolers, are we copying what they do in schools? This is an opportunity to make a change in the direction of education (and as dominoes... eventually in the world) and put things right. If we continue to measure creativity and use extrinsic rewards that we turn into carrots, training kids to think they're important (grades... badges...) then all we're doing is perpetuating the machine that some of us are fighting so hard to change.

I grew up in the machine. At times I am the machine (as a teacher for sure, I've never felt comfortable grading elementary art but schools require it)! I have my extrinsic rewards that make me feel good about myself (collecting dust on a shelf somewhere... many degrees... trophies... yes, badges...). Sometimes these things are nice to lean on, but are they truly authentic? Am I a better artist than little Johnny because I have an art school degree and awards? I never thought so, but those awards suggest otherwise. Those extrinsic awards are just proof that I got some support, somebody thought I was 'good enough' and I 'earned' a representation of that... But where is my representation of me thinking I am good enough??? Nowhere, not even collecting dust on a shelf. I'd like to say that I just 'knew' I was, but I didn't. That is not what I want for my kids. I want them to first value and respect their own opinions and thoughts before what the world tells them to think.

My daughter is in a soccer class and I just learned that they had a drawing contest during class- whoever draws the 'best' witch wins a soccer ball. Well, they did this in class and their teacher decided whose witch was the best. My 7 year old was saddened that she didn't win and didn't win the soccer ball (she already has a nearly new, pink soccer ball that really doesn't get played with nearly enough but me reminding her of this didn't seem to help). This made her feel like she was not a good drawer and if she can't win the contest at it, then why even draw? I was really angry to learn that they did this and it's not what I signed up for. It made me realize that this sort of thing happens all the time everywhere, and I might have been the only parent that even cared because everyone else seemed to be used to it. Her friend Maddy won the ball. I was Maddy when I was a kid. I would win those drawing contests, but looking back... that is wrong that adults put themselves in the position to decide what is best simply because they are adults. There is a lot of ego in that. Seeing how negative that is through my daughters experience, helps me realize how right you are... as adults we need to let go of our egos and stop thinking we are in a position to measure everything kids do. Yes, some kids love getting the badges and participating in contests. There's always going to be opportunities for that, but does it need to be everywhere? Should it be in areas where creativity resides and are even labeled as 'creative'? No, I don't think it should be. I agree with you ten fold on that. Kids should be respected and trusted to have their own end goals in mind. I like diy.org because of the stop motion app it offers, and I'm sure there's a bunch of other cool stuff on it. The badges, well... I don't think the website needs the badges and it would be better to make the badges an option for those that care about them. As a kid, I would've cared about them.... but I also really craved that kind of approval. It would have been nice to get that kind of esteem through other avenues.

Sigh, so, as your posts often leave me a little emotionally spent and determined to work harder at getting to the heart of what true learning is... I really appreciate how you tackle these hard topics and most importantly you are doing great work that benefits my kids and I believe- all kids. Thank you!!!!! Very courageous you are. Thank you for creating a venue to process and publicly discuss these thoughts!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 9, 2013 at 01:15 PM

 

julie,

thank you so much for your powerful comment! i so appreciate your taking the time to 1, think over my words :) and 2, respond in such a thoughtful and measured way.

the story of your daughter’s drawing contest — wow. what a great example of an activity i’m sure none of the involved adults gave a second thought but can have lasting effects on kids.

your posts often leave me a little emotionally spent and determined to work harder at getting to the heart of what true learning is

i feel bad about the emotionally spent part but great about the other part! :)
 

I really appreciate how you tackle these hard topics and most importantly you are doing great work that benefits my kids and I believe- all kids. Thank you!!!!!

thank you so, so much.
 
i really thought about your saying that it took courage to write this post. i knew it was likely to get a very angry response from people who disagreed with me. but that’s okay. i feel like my regular audience is made up of parents who are really doing the hard work of examining how they live and learn and work with their children — they’re willing to wrestle with these ideas. (you included, of course!) and i think, too, that we’re interested in thinking about ways that we can make things incrementally better for our children — with small but crucial decisions and choices.
 
many people took what i wrote to mean i’m completely against these organizations and groups — of course, i’m not. (i think that’s clear from what i wrote, but evidently not for everyone.) i just think we can do better. every adult who is trying to help children learn and make and do can keep leveling up their practice and making those experiences and activities as meaningful and relevant and beneficial as possible for those kids.
 
i just don’t want us to settle! :)
 
thank you again for reading, for working to understand, and for sharing your perspective. you rock. <3

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