Friday, April 22, 2016

wired to learn

The Kindergarten - Froebel Teaser Trailer from Match Frame Creative on Vimeo.

Please click on the trailer above to watch full frame.

The Kindergarten documentary I helped to sponsor on Kickstarter is moving forward, and I hope it has a positive effect on education. Scott Bultman plans to divide it in 4 parts, including one about how the very nature of Froebel's invention became distorted as it was applied popularly worldwide.

Maria Montessori's methods were devised in opposition to militaristic application of Froebel's methods with as many as 50 kids in a class. Final episodes will address its promise for today's education. The very idea of children learning to love learning is one whose time has come, and come again, only to be distorted again and again by those who demand education based on the cheap.

We might think that learning how to learn is a big thing, but we are actually hard-wired through the hands for learning. It's when the hands are kept out of the learning process that learning to learn comes necessarily into play.

How are we to learn without ever doing anything? Can we not re-engineer schooling to take advantage of how children are wired to learn best? That was what Froebel did in his invention of Kindergarten, and what Cygnaeus and Salomon attempted to do with their invention of  Educational Sloyd.

I have completed a "K" body guitar for a benefit auction for Max Elbow, a local artist who has had serious health problems, and limited resources. Photos are shown above and below.

I was surprised when I was in Portland at the Educator's symposium, that when I mentioned Howard Gardner, most of the teachers in the room seemed to be unaware of his theories and groundbreaking work in American education. Fresh weeds do grow up each year to obscure the best soil.

Howard Gardner in his work "Frames of Mind" described how we are smart in a variety of different ways beyond simply being school smart. Before Howard Gardner some kids might have been identified as "street smart," and as having abilities to get along in the real world that would be of no use to them when confined at a desk.

Howard Gardner took the basic senses and applied them to an understanding of mind and recognized that some children had a strong inclination to be musical, some might be happy all the time with their noses stuck in books, still others needed to be running, and others are haptically inclined. He came up with about 7 ways children are smart, with several of them being beyond what could be narrowly defined as "desk smart."

To break things down more clearly and distinctly, we can use "street smart" and "desk smart" as a dividing line between what works and does not work to engage all minds equally in learning. Desk smart involves passive learning in an environment sequestered from real life. Desk smart learning makes an effort to isolate the child from its normal range of senses to focus on reading. Street smart learning engages the full range of senses in the thick of real life and thereby has far greater effect and effectiveness. Those things that are learned from the real world and from experience are learned to greater lasting effect.

From Howard Garner's recognition that we learn in different ways and are smart in different ways, some educators attempted and are currently attempting to engineer learning so as to include each specific learning style in the same classroom. It's a noble enterprise, but a challenge. It puts a burden of engineering on the teacher who has learning style predispositions of his or her own to overcome. In fact, most teachers become teachers because of being "desk smart." To conceptualize a classrom learning environment in which students' senses and bodies are fully engaged would be a desk bound teacher's worst nightmare.

But when you do real things, all the senses are thus naturally engaged, and so the doing of real things, hands-on, can serve as the model that all schooling must learn to follow, IF we choose to offer meaningful and productive education to our kids as Freobel and his early followers attempted to do.

The same applies also to adult learners. The difference between child learners and adult learners is that child learners are more generally forced to sit at desks. Adult learners are often empowered to choose alternative learning opportunities, and even when sitting at desks are likely to be engaged in doing real things. Children in schooling, on the other hand,  are trapped by their desks in senseless isolation from reality.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the opportunity to learn likewise.

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