Sunday, January 19, 2014

learning from something more than books...

Books and the internet are powerful learning tools (both are better for learning than teaching and there is a difference), and yet we have real life as an alternative for those who may show signs of greater interest in reality and doing real stuff. For example, Robert H. Richards was one of the first 6 students to attend MIT and his story is told in a small booklet called The Eliot School Course of Manual Training published in Jamaica Plain, Mass. July 1892.

After struggling with reading his whole life, he wrote a glowing report in the slender booklet of what it was like for him to attend MIT and learn from real things. When he began at MIT books suddenly made sense to him, for they connected with things that he had a direct interest in because he was engaged in doing real things. His brief account is worth reading, and also explains his view on the integration of educational Sloyd and the Russian system of manual arts training which came to be known as the Boston Compromise. Children from the ages 10-12 would learn educational Sloyd and older students would follow the Russian system. This became a model that many schools followed throughout the US until administrators became overwrought with reading and math and failed to realize the value of manual arts training in the development of character and intellect or its role in making reading and math interesting to kids.

Robert Hallowell Richards who could not be made to read in his early days went on to write a four volume treatise Ore Dressing, the general index of which can be found here.

Teachers (and others) should check out the ruler game. It is fun to play and offers levels for all ages. My students first come to Clear Spring knowing nothing about measuring and little about fractions. The ruler game states simply,
"Why Learn to Read a Ruler? Reading a ruler is a valuable skill that you will likely use on your job, in your hobbies, and in your personal every day life. Without measuring devices like rulers (and people who can read them) we would still be living in caves."
Wood shop can help with rulers and fractions, and this simple game may help with wood shop, particularly if used in connection with real measuring tools, and not left as a game. With just a bit of practice on the game, I had reached a score of 4500 at level 10, but a friend reminded me that I'd only been practicing for 40 years.

Make, fix, create, and teach others to do likewise.

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