Saturday, January 30, 2010

and explain it

The following is from a presentation I've made to a variety of groups pointing towards the meaning of wisdom. I believe the term wisdom encapsulates all of these, but more as it also refers to judgment and the process of deciding what should or must be done

Levels of Knowledge
Knows about.
Knows how.
Can do it.
Can explain it.
Can do it well.
Can do it well and explain it.

Richard Baseley, shop teacher from Australia sent a link to an article from the Telegraph, Thinking out loud helps solve problems summarizing research that indicates a relationship between verbal expression and comprehension.

Do you ever talk to yourself as you work out complex problems? I do. It may have to do with what Jerome Bruner called scaffolding. Is knowledge best built on a single branch of what Howard Gardner called "multiple intelligences?" Or is knowledge best retained and used when it is constructed on a platform of various experiences.

Think of concrete and steel. Remove the hands-on experience from education and the resulting education has no steel and is thus fragile and prone to early failure. Richard had asked,
"How do you break down the barriers between curriculum areas? How do you get the Science, History and Woodwork teacher sharing ideas and working together? What model or method do you use at your school that works?"
I will add my reply here:
My program was designed from the outset for the purpose of integration, so it has been known by all the teaching staff what the purpose is, though it took some time for it to be accepted by some. Because my program has been supported from the beginning by a foundation grant that provides my salary, and some funding for material expense and overhead, it has had unquestioned administrative and board support. The other thing that I think has helped has been that I keep the teachers engaged by implementing projects that they have suggested, so they see the integration from their end, as well as mine. The teachers like very much to see their ideas take place in the wood shop. For instance last year the science teacher was wanting to build a table of elements, so we collaborated on the design and worked with the students.

On the other hand, I always ask what the teachers are studying at any given time. By knowing what they are up to, I can make suggestions based on what I am interested in. For example the book binding was a project I was interested in but because the students are preparing to go on trips in April, making trip journals was an informed suggestion I made. This last week my first grade teacher told me that they are at the point in math lessons that the kids needed to make abacuses, which was a project we had done before. Next week the first grade teacher will be introducing cursive writing, so carving pens will be the lesson. By concentrating on "tools" useful for engaging the hands in study outside wood shop, or even at home, we build the scaffolding described by Bruner.

Part of what I saw early on was that because I couldn't automatically expect others to understand the value of woodworking, I would have to prove it to them by having my program serve their "needs." I mentioned this to teachers in Sweden and they thought that I was overly subservient and failing to put forth the importance of my separate discipline. But my point was not the establishment of a separate discipline. By making woodworking central rather than a sideline, made it of even greater importance than others would have been willing to allow. This approach was based on a Chinese saying, that, "If you want to lead, you must first serve."

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