Saturday, November 10, 2012

headed home...

Today I will fly home from Louisville in a Cessna piloted by a former student. What a great honor that will be! I was also pleased to spend time yesterday and Friday with fellow teachers who were interested in the strategic engagement of the hands. As one might expect, the overwhelming buzz in all of education is toward high tech. That is not all bad, though I would like to recommend low tech as well.

We have a great deal to learn from technology of all kinds. One expert in the implementation of laptops in schools warned about the Apple iPad. Despite the wonders of the machine, it is not one that one can easily program or develop programs for. As professor Alex Slocum at MIT had told me on the phone, students should be given explorational tools they are free to break if necessary. What good is a chisel in the wood shop if the teacher is unwilling to risk allowing the student to sharpen it, knowing that the student might damage the edge? When we invest heavily in our tools, do they become too precious for student use? Computers for student use should assemble and disassemble with screws, should be able to be taken apart, broken down in code, viewed inside and out so that students may become masters, not slaves of our technologies.

In Waldorf schools, it was once believed (and may still be) that students should not be exposed to technologies beyond their capacity to intellectually understand.

I want to thank those who welcomed me with their attention during my presentations at the ISACS conference and hope they will feel free to keep connected by hand as well as in spirit.

I have to say that I am currently a bit discouraged by some of what has been described as STEM education. STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. There is the opportunity for science in whittling a stick, and STEM in some cases may really be Scripted Technology Engineering and Math, with programs and design challenges taking away too many open ended possibilities for real service to mankind. As I was quoted in Matt Crawford's book, Shop Class as Soulcraft, page one, ch. one:
“In schools we create artificial learning environments for our children that they know to be contrived and undeserving of their full attention and engagement… Without the opportunity to learn through the hands, the world remains abstract, and distant, and the passions for learning will not be engaged.”
Some new contrivances in education may offer an improvement over the plate upon which our children are now served. But the greatest gift we can make to their educations is to push forward their hands-on, real, uncontrived service to family, community and self. In other words, let's make it real, not virtual, as only hands-on learning can be.

Make, fix and create...

No comments:

Post a Comment