Monday, July 30, 2012

lip service...

One of the things that may begin to happen as I and others remind that the hands are essentional to learning is that more and more educational institutions will begin to claim hands on learning, while simply offering lip service to it.
lip service n. Verbal expression of agreement or allegiance, unsupported by real conviction or action; hypocritical respect: "Lip service continues to be paid to resolving regional conflicts, but there is no sense of urgency" (Henry A. Kissinger).
The point is that it is easy to claim hands-on learning without actually making a real committment to it. I received an email from Mary, a retired teacher in Australia, who had discovered the blog when researching her remembrance of Sloyd being toaught to boys when she was in high school. She described her own teaching experience as follows:
"I spent most of my working life as a teacher of Geography in High Schools. I always felt that  using their hands to make things from the culture or country we were studying helped students to understand and remember more.  We cooked food or painted on silk or did Tie  Dyeing or made models of Desert landforms or wrote and performed plays for Indonesian puppets or made flower leis from Polynesia.  I tried to find some manual activity for each term. I was regarded as a bit crazy by some other members of staff  but I was Head of Department so I was able to keep at it and encourage my staff to do likewise (In fact I gathered around me a set of amazing teachers who were more inventive than I in coming up with new ideas for physical activities.) Since I retired from teaching about 10 years ago I know that all of those activities have gone from my department because "There is not enough time to teach all the content if these extra are added"  What rubbish!!! It is doing all that hands on stuff that gives interest and meaning to the "content" I was particularly pleased with very many letters I received on retirement  from students who thanked me for making Geography more interesting. What they did not realize was that those interesting activities were developing their intellects."
Getting hands on learning in place can be done at a variety of levels, and some will warn not to let hands-on learning get the upper hand. Some of course won't understand the importance of it in the first place. Some teachers will like Mary will go against the flow and knowing their children's needs will make an effort each week to put the hands into play.
You can recognize a school that gives more than lip service to hands-on learning. Within its walls, you will find the arts, woodshop, theater, music and laboratory science. In addition, you will find teachers like Mary who try to bring the hands into all things. All of education within those walls will be experimental rather than set, leading to unknown outcomes. And you can expect the outcomes to be far better than what we have now in American education.
7 Make, fix and create...

3 comments:

Mario Núñez said...

Good for Mary! And a shame her ideas didn't catch on with the teachers who came after her.

Mario

Doug Stowe said...

Mario, the role of the hands is sensed intuitively br some, and not others. If we can prove the role of the hands as a general theory of pedagogy, we will be on the road to change.

Mario Núñez said...

Teachers get some odd educational theories dumped on them by school systems that have no clue. We can only hope that they will figure out that the hands are important.

Mario