“The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.” ~Seymour Papert, (The Connected Family: Bridging the Digital Generation Gap, p45)
Right now, think about the typical classroom in whatever school that is a part of your life. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a superintendent, take an inventory right now of what “conditions” exist for kids in that room. Make a list. What systems or structures or roles or dispositions are in play when it comes to a student’s ability to learn?
Now look at the list. Does it support “invention?” Do those conditions create an environment where kids learn deeply, as in using that “learning” and wondering more about it long after the school day has ended? As in solving or “inventing” solutions to real problems that exist in the real world?
Or do they support “schooling” in the sense that we’ve traditionally known it?
Papert, who unfortunately passed away last year, argued for conditions that expanded kids’ agency to learn. And I’ve been really moved by that question of conditions for a number of years now. To me, it’s foundational. Those classroom conditions tell powerful stories about what the teachers in them and the schools around them believe about what learning is and how it happens.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of classrooms begin to change in terms of the conditions that are present. There is a move toward passion and relevance and making. It’s not a wave yet, but it is a ripple that’s growing. My sense is that current conditions in the world writ large will force that ripple to grow as more and more in education begin to understand the changes required by the profound shifts in technology, the environment, globalization, and more that we’re living through right now.
Few classrooms are “learning out loud,” however, a phrase that connotes the idea that openness and transparency are now essential conditions for learning in school. And there’s no one better than David Wiley to drive my thinking on that, and to make the compelling case for sharing our work online in the context of Papert’s “invention” idea:
As I’ve reflected more on the recent writing on open pedagogy, it’s led me to trace some of it’s intellectual heritage to constructionism. And while I realize that I’m significantly under-characterizing constructionism by saying so, and I apologize in advance for those of you who are more familiar with the work, if you’re not familiar with constructionism you might think of it as “learning by making.” When learners work to create artifacts that have real value in the real world, awesome things happen – and that awesomeness has nothing to do with open. But you can add the awesomeness of open to the awesomeness of learning by making to get a multiplier effect. Here’s specifically how I’m thinking about it (today):
Learning by making… Society gets to build on… in the classroom. nothing. in public (e.g., the artifact is posted on the web). the ideas expressed in the artifact. in the open (e.g., the artifact is posted on the web under an open license). the ideas expressed in the artifact as well as the artifact itself.
I know that many in education are not comfortable with the “Society gets to build on…” part when it comes to student work, especially in K-12. But this now a modern condition for learning. We consume, we create, we share, and we learn as others read, think, add their context to our ideas and artifacts. And, importantly, we do the same for them. Today, given our connectedness, this condition of openness and sharing really isn’t an option. And when we allow our work to be remixed and repurposed openly, when we create it an then give it to the world to use without restriction, learning multiplies.
Just like in real life, there’s no requirement here to share everything we do in classrooms openly. For instance, we’re getting ready to offer an online experience for leadership that we’ll be asking participants to pay for. That’s part of our livelihood. But in school, “giving it away” is one way of nurturing even more invention. And as David says, it leads to new ways of thinking:
And that brings me back to the basic logic underlying my interest in and excitement about open pedagogy:
1. We learn by the things we do.
2. The permissions granted by open licenses make it practical and legal for us to do new things.
3. The ability to do new things will likely lead to new kinds of learning.
So, check your list. Is “open” one of the conditions you thought of? And if not, how might you add that amplifier of invention to the classrooms you care about?
Image credit: Alan Levine
I often consider the “openness” marker to be an indicator of quality in the curricula and/or curricular tools I consult. Consider EL Education’s ELA curriculum or EngageNY’s curricula – although there’s some overlap there. Students shouldn’t be the only ones getting their work out there under open licenses!
Hayden Vick says
Thanks very much for writing on this topic. I am a student at UNC Chapel Hill, and one topic I’ve studied is active learning versus traditional lectures. In the elementary classrooms I’ve volunteered in, making and doing always seem to be the main focuses for learning everything from reading to math and of course science. It’s become obvious to me in my experiences thus far that creating in the classroom is incredibly important for all students. Should I choose to become a teacher myself, I will certainly keep this in mind. Thanks again!
Thank you for allowing me to consider learning versus schooling. The opening to this post really caught my attention. Learning is what should truly occur within a classroom. Students need to have opportunities to apply and explore the content in a way that allows for discussion and analysis. It is meaningless to teach content and not allow it to be applied in some way. Using the comparison of learning and school really opened my mind to something I had not considered in this exact way before.
Bryan Alexander says
Last year I worked on a report about digital literacy, and argued that such literacy required making and creating.
One critic dinged the report for this, claiming creating was a cliche and overrated. That was fun.
Scott Bennett says
Thank you for another thought provoking post. I agree wholeheartedly with your point regarding inventing and constructionist theory. Speaking of my own educational experiences, the lessons and values learned from constructivist teachers we so much more powerful than the more traditional classrooms. So while we see and know this as practitioners, I also can’t help but recognize that this type of learning environment runs counter to just about every federal, state, and local initiative. Constructivist often decry the big final assessments aligned to state standards. So my first question is how do we as educators turn the tide of political pressure. How do we change the narrative from one of over testing and drill and kill, to one of open creativity, invention, and design cycles assessed by portfolios and rubrics?
Second, I owe most of my successes in my first ten years in the classroom to the people who have shared and mentored me, and in turn I am now mentoring and passing it on. BUT… I’m also paying out of pocket for a second master’s degree. How much of that knowledge do I share? I’m not being compensated for the professional development sessions or the hours after school helping teachers learn tech. So how do teachers turn experience and knowledge base into compensation. I desperately do want to share what I’m doing, but I also want my time and curiosity and contributions to be valued.
Thanks again for another thought provoking post! I look forward to the next one!
Lucas K. says
Thank you for your post. I think the quote you included at the top from Seymour Papert concisely sums up an ideal classroom situation. The way you link this to Constructionist theory makes. Also, it was very interesting the idea of sharing student work with the public, or “learning out loud”. When you wrote, “We consume, we create, we share, and we learn as others read, think, add their context to our ideas and artifacts”, I was drawn to think about my classroom. In fact, these ideas are in many ways the principles driving many of my lessons–I’m trying to get the students to engage with each other and build on each other’s ideas. In fact, this idea directly relates to the Common Core State Standard for Speaking and Listening, which is the idea that students should engage with each other to help build their learning together.
However, all of that said, after reading your blog I realized I had been doing this in a sort of a closed system. Specifically, all of the work we were doing never left the classroom. After reading your blog, and the work of David Wiley which you linked, I’m interested in dabbling with this idea in my classroom. My students already use a software program called Kidblog, but this is done mostly just for fun. I’m thinking this would be a great place for a first attempt at “learning out loud” for my classroom. Students can begin sharing their work on their blogs and commenting on each other’s work. In fact, this is very similar to some of the work I’m doing for my graduate school courses, so I see some real word applications already for their work on Kidblog.
Thank you for the ideas. I think this will have a great influence on my class.
Career Secrets For Beginners says
Bundle of thanks for your time to write this worthy post for us and i hope you will do share more in near future to bring new things in our notice. Thank you
Awilda Balbuena says
Not being an experienced blogger leads me to thinking I must qualify who I am why I’m moved/inspired with your article, thus perhaps, being OPEN to change and more importantly, reflection and growth.
I’m an elementary, inner city school principal with 730-750 K-4 students on any given day (high transiency population). The students’ movements, frustrations and outbursts in their classroom that spill into the hallways at an all time high rate leads me to rethink HOW we teach our students.
Beginning a Genius Hour (frequency a week TBD) next school year is bringing on excitement again from the teachers. They too have been bored. Teachers will compile a menu of ‘learning’ and offer a description of what they will be ‘doing’ and students of all grades will select their favorite for the month. Taking center stage next year is the “move toward passion and relevance and making.”
The part of your article that probably excited me to the point of blogging, was this notion that “when we allow our work to be remixed and repurposed openly, when we create it an then give it to the world to use without restriction, learning multiplies.” My leadership team and staff have lots of work to do this summer to ensure this occurs, but it is with exhilaration that we go on our summer break knowing that next school year will be fun for everyone!
Tiny spelling error:
And when we allow our work to be remixed and repurposed openly, when we create it an then give it to the world to use without restriction, learning multiplies.
Should be and, not an, after “create it.” Would it be possible to correct this so I may share this on my Facebook page? Thanks. Wonderful, insightful read.