Friday, April 25, 2014

looking at real life...

Yesterday was a day for trying to get students to look at things and discover for themselves how they fit and how they work. As technology has become more complex and hidden under shiny sealed surfaces, we seem to have lost the natural curiosity about how things work. Students have given up observing, as "what's the use?" Three of my students wanted to make stilts like they had tried at a park while they were on their school trip. They knew what stilts were and how they worked, but not so much about how they were made. So I helped them design the blocks that mount to the sticks where you put your feet, but then how those blocks were to be positioned was a matter of serious consternation. "Use your imagination, play with them and analyze where you would stand and put your feet," I entreated. "Just tell me how they go," the students insisted.

It's not that I'm getting lazy. I want students to learn by looking at real life, and developing their own skills of observation and analysis. It would be wrong for students to become overly dependent on me. It's bad enough that dependence on digital devices is overriding observation and analysis of real life.

Another student was assembling her robot ramp walker, as she had missed last week."How does this go," she asked. "What do I do next?" I gave her the plans which clearly showed the order in which the various parts were to be assembled. She told me that she "can't work from paper." I told her that if she couldn't read plans on how to make things she would be limited in what she could make.
 "Just tell me what to do next," she insisted.
"Look at the drawing," I suggested. "It provides all the information you need on what to do next!"
She persisted,  "I'm a visual learner."
I parried, "A drawing on paper presents visual learning."
"No," she insisted. "I mean youtube."
Then she said, "This school is supposed to be 'hands-on learning' isn't it."

I put the paper in her hands and said, "Use your hands to do what the drawing says to do next!"

I was not the most patient teacher yesterday. In schooling we make the teacher the authority. It's a role that a good teacher attempts to resist. While students look to the teacher for the "right" answers,  let's remember that school is generally an artificial construct, and that students need to become proficient at observation, anaylysis and self-assessment in real life. They need to observe directly and with clarity what actually exists and act upon life with confidence that can only come by doing real things themselves and with as little teacherly intervention as is possible.

Today I'm packing up boxes in boxes and will travel to Little Rock, Arkansas to take part Saturday in the day long Thea Art Show in North Little Rock. Check the website for hours and location.

Make, fix and create...


  1. YouTube as a visual learning tool? Oh, good grief.


  2. Well, let me qualify that comment. I've used YouTube to see how some things are done, but still have to try it myself before it's learned.


  3. It's good for students to get pushback from time to time. Not every teacher should always strive to be a student's best friend.