Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The following is from William James, Talks to Teachers on Psychology.
"No reception without reaction, no impression without correlative expression,—this is the great maxim which the teacher ought never to forget.

An impression which simply flows in at the pupil's eyes or ears, and in no way modifies his active life, is an impression gone to waste. It is physiologically incomplete. It leaves no fruits behind it in the way of capacity acquired. Even as mere impression, it fails to produce its proper effect upon the memory; for, to remain fully among the acquisitions of this latter faculty, it must be wrought into the whole cycle of our operations. Its motor consequences are what clinch it. Some effect due to it in the way of an activity must return to the mind in the form of the sensation of having acted, and connect itself with the impression. The most durable impressions are those on account of which we speak or act, or else are inwardly convulsed."
I read an article on CNN about the educational success of iPads in schools, iPad a solid education tool, study reports. We know that computer technology is having a major impact on every facet of modern culture, and human life. And so the question becomes, how to connect that technology to actual usefulness, and what James referred to as "correlative expression." Correlation was the term educators once used for curriculum integration, where all things even subjects as diverse as literature and math are seen as connected and in relation to each other. Correlation is the process through which students see that all things are related, and that they are also connected, woven so to speak, into the fabric of community and the full breadth of human culture through meaningful service to others.

To put most simply, we learn best those things which we are able to put to use in our homes and in our communities through meaningful service to others. The iPad can be a successful tool in that endeavor, but we must not forget all the other tools necessary to make human correlative response something greater than fingers sliding effortlessly over glass.

Today in the CS wood shop, some of my 7th, 8th and 9th grade students worked on automata, and others worked on the development of old time woodworking hands skills. The plane being used in the image above is a new design bevel-up smoother made by Veritas. New also to our wood shop, I allowed my 7th, 8th and 9th graders to spend time sharpening them and learning how to plane wood flat and square on the edges. It's an exercise I did in 7th grade wood shop, except that I was not allowed to sharpen the plane irons before use. Woodworking is not simply learned in the head, but must be learned in the hands, eyes and body as well. In order to do hand-tool woodworking well, one must sense a relationship with gravitational forces, the angle of hand and wrist and be deeply engaged in observing the effects of one's labor. Some, having too little understanding of reality would consider it "noncognitive."

Make, fix and create...

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