Tuesday, April 05, 2011

viewing the scaffold from within

I am still working on my attempt to use a diagram to come to a better understanding of educational scaffolding. I find it fascinating that my use of the term scaffold in the blog, now has me targeted for advertising and email related to real, physical scaffolding for sale, but I guess that loss of privacy is the price I pay for sharing my own exploration of educational principles with readers in this blog. Maybe someday the technology will become smart enough to know the difference between educational scaffolding (a metaphorical use of the term) and physical scaffolding like someone might use on a construction site or want to sell on eBay. Don't count on the Internet for being smart, yet, which is part of the point of my discussion today.

I've mentioned that there are two traditional uses for scaffolding. One is to lift the worker to a particular height. The other is to serve as structure within which a form is constructed. Both are applicable to the concept of educational scaffolding, but to see the scaffold as that form within which the student's scholarship is formed, invites us to look more closely at the legs of the scaffold itself and to examine the relationship between the student and those components of his or her growth.

If you view the scaffold from within, as would the student whose life is under construction, and look at the four corners which have you surrounded, those are technology, a teacher or mentor, a culture of inquiry (or not) and your own personal experience. Any of those could be at various times, the principle component leading to your educational success. In an earlier time in which the pencil might  have been your only tool in the classroom, the teacher/mentor, your own experience, and the culture of learning would play balanced roles in your growth as a scholar.

One of the things I've been noticing is that students in the classroom are having increasing difficulty in paying attention and following directions. There has been some speculation among educators that the computer is actually changing the ways we think and learn, and as you poke keys and move impulsively from website to website, you may notice the same changes in yourself.  If you visualize the scaffold from the point of view of the student, you see that technology has become the major component in children's lives and learning, dwarfing the relationship with a mentor and even dwarfing the student's relationship to his or her own experience. The role of culture in our current technology dominated scaffold could be described as "translateral" in that it expands the child's relationships outward as with Facebook, etc. (not upward) without regard for future growth or the growth of cooperative inquiry.

I discussed this today with my 7th and 8th grade woodworking scholars and one noted that technology teaches about things, but that real teachers help you learn how to actually DO real things.

It seems like no one is concerned.  Maybe you and I and a few like-handed souls rowing against the growing technological cacophony can do a few very small things to stem the tide.

Make, fix and create.


  1. Anonymous5:07 AM

    Your young scholar is on to something. And you're spreading the word, one blog post and one student at a time.


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