Nelson, New Zealand
Yesterday, we drove about four hours from a beautiful little town named Hanmer Springs (many Flickr photos to come) up here to Nelson which sits at the top of the south island. On the way, we stopped to zip line across a gorge, herd some sheep off the road that had gotten through an open fence, and roll some boulders out of the way on a one lane (barely) gravel and dirt (to be generous) mountain pass road that when we finally descended to the bottom turned out to be closed to all vehicles trying to come up the way we had just come down.
Pretty boring day.
What was occupying much of my brain power when we were on the two-lane, paved roads, however, was trying to stay on the right (or should I say left) side of the road. It took a while for my driving mind to get into some balance after the initial dissonance, and I was trying to pay attention to all of the things I had to “unlearn” in the process. For about the first hour, every time I went to signal a turn, the windshield wipers started up. Right hand turns were a real, real struggle, as you can imagine, surpassed in difficulty at the outset only by trying to navigate the roundabouts and always feeling like I was looking the wrong way. (A couple of times after going over one-laned bridges, I reflexively went over to the right hand side of the road only to have my kids scream “DAD! Wrong side!”) And the hardest part for me, at least, was getting in the habit of glancing to the left to see the rear view mirror. A bunch of times, cars that I didn’t even realize were behind me came whizzing by (on our right) almost causing me to drive off the road in the process. After a few hours, though, it all started to make sense in my head. No more wipers. No more screaming from the backseat. No more surprising passes. I actually started enjoying the view. (Actually, that part was easy.)
There is a point in here somewhere about unlearning and re-learning and fighting through the dissonance of change to come out the other side doing some things differently. Maybe a microcosm of what Sheryl and I have been over here prodding teachers to do. There is no question that they are further down the road in all of this than we seem to be, at least from an understanding that there are some technologies out there that are challenging the status quo of classrooms. And, from the standpoint of making it a national initiative to understand that stuff as well. New Zealanders seem to be much more in tune with the value of reflective assessment and the uses of assessment in general to help guide choices that kids make in addition to seeing what they “know.”
Still, it comes down to individuals getting comfortable with doing things differently. Driving on the “other” side of the road really isn’t so hard once you get used to it.
Julie Squires says
I think many underestimate the importance of ‘unlearning’ during any new learning path. Letting go of the old ways and taking a risk with something new is very scary! Not unlike learning to drive on the right, or wrong, side of the road!!
Kelly Daw says
I feel that people are more afraid of learning something new and/or changing that sometimes people forget to just relax and enjoy learning. As mentioned in Richardson’s blog, after he let go of the fear he truly enjoyed the view.
First, you are in one of the places I intend to visit before I die! What a treat!
Your point is well made about unlearning. I see this at a very basic level with teaching handwriting. When a student has developed a habit of making a letter in a certain way, it is very difficult to change. They have to be really motivated.
I’m going to have to unlearn some “givens” about teaching to prepare my students for their lives. I hope I’m motivated to make the changes for myself and for them.
Paul C says
“Unlearning and relearning through the dissonance of change” expresses so well what adolescent learners face when they try to master learning skills. It is the pivotal role of teachers to encourage this “reflective assessment.”
Interesting that New Zealanders seem to focus more on metacognition.
Will, I loved the analogy you’ve used here. Yes we do need to unlearn, and sometimes it is so difficult to do that.
In similarity to your story, I picked my Son up from the airport recently as he had returned from Germany, this time it was him telling me I was on the wrong side of the road, even though I wasn’t. Mind you, he’d been driving on an Autobahn, and I was extremely jealous…
Glad all has gone well in NZ for you. We look forward to your next visit to Aus too.
Andrew (Teacher friendly tech).
It was great to have you over here at ULearn08 and I laughed at your analogy. We went over to the USA to NECC this year and seemd to spend a lot of time doing just what you described – except the intersection thing you guys have going on adds to the complications. You are right about the unlearning. Especially sad that our kids are having to do this too – unlearn some of their 21st C way of doing things to keep in tune with Old Skul teachers!
Yet if we ever get comfortable then we are not prodding ourselves enough. Heard a professor from Mount Holyoke today (streamed alum panel) that said if students are not put in a place beyond their comfort zone then immersive learning is not taking place. She was addressing foreign language needs – but this is so true for all of us. We have to constantly seek to be in that place beyond our comfort zone, to be immersed in something different, and as you said to unlearn, learn, relearn (allusion to Toffler thinly veiled). Too many k12 educators I meet are finished learning, happy to shut the classroom, to hide from innovation. Meet me the disruption.
It is not so much what happens when you are out on the open road and all is comfortable. It’s how you respond when things get tough at the intersections & you want to revert to what you know. 😉
Now for the real test Will, when next in Melbourne you’ll need to do a right hand turn in the City…..
I’ll just leave that one out there.
Robin Heyden says
Very apt analogy. And your kids, screaming from the back seat, were the ultimate formative assessment instrument! Great to hear reports from your travels. WIll be eager to learn more about why you think New Zealanders are further along the curve.