Active Learning

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The key to this weeks #diglitclass lesson on “hacking” in school, is simply active learning. It is important for students to be engaged with what they are being taught. This means hands on schooling like Logan LePlante’s suggested in his TED Talk “Hackschooling Makes me Happy.” He and his fellow students built a giant Newton’s cradle model out of bocce balls. Now, that’s pretty neat. When a student can create something from what they have just learned, or if they can look at an object, touch it, and examine its inner-workings that student will be much more engaged than a student who is only reading about Newton’s cradle from a textbook.

Hacking isn’t a naughty word. LePlante explains that it has been used out of context for many years because everyone focuses on the bad hackers who steal identities or passwords to websites, but the original meaning of the word simply means to modify, and that is usually for a positive result. Hacking in learning is just a way to make a teaching method or style easier to learn. A student finds their own hacks, or their own way to better understand what it is they are being taught. Hacking can be changing study habits Hacking can also be knowing what kind of learner you are, such as a visual learner.

Along this same theory of hacking in learning, Bud Hunt’s blog post, “Centering on Essential Lenses: Make/Hack/Play” takes it one step further. Making is important to learning as we have said before and hacking is a way to make learning easier, but we also forget the importance of play. As Hunt says, “Playing with information or structures or situations can lead to powerful learning.” Being active is important to the growth of students and this includes having an active mind. Students should always think for themselves and play with ideas, ask questions and ponder possibilities.

One argument I have about LePlante’s TED Talk is that that pulling a child out of the school system is the only answer. In fact, every student that I have ever known to be homeschooled or to take a different learning approach has not been successful. For example, the students who left my class either dropped out completely after a couple of years or the student came back and was at least one grade behind. It isn’t about public school policies, it is about the will of the student to learn. For LePlante, he was eager to learn and worked hard to become successful, but the student must be the one active in his/her learning.

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4 thoughts on “Active Learning

  1. I’ve never been sure what to think of homeschooling. If done right, I suppose it could be more effective than public school. People are just so quick to try and take control of their child’s education, and don’t really know anything about being a teacher.

    My sister had one of my nieces transfer schools once because she had been picked on for wearing a skirt. Granted, bullying isn’t alright, but that obviously wasn’t going to help the issue. Like it or not, public schools teach some socialization skills that more often than not, I’ve seen homeschooled kids lack. I think with the right teachers, LaPlante’s ideal “pull everyone out of the system” answer could be achieved without the need to abandon the school system.

  2. I think it is better when the students can create something from what they have just learned. If they are not able to explain it in some way or show that they understand, then they probably didn’t learn the material. As teachers, we need to keep our students engaged and motivated. We can do this by having them “hack” their education. If teachers were to just stand at the front of the room and lecture the whole time, how much would the students really learn? There are going to be topics that are going to seem impossible to make interesting but there are ways that we can make them fun for the students. We could make them hands on projects or activities that keeps the students thinking.

  3. Love the quote you have at the end of your post. Yikes! But all too true. How is it that play gets such a bad reputation? How many times did I hear teachers yell at a class, “Quit playing around!”? I think we have a mania for control and predictable structures in school, and that might be why we discourage play. If you’re playing, there’s no end goal either: it’s 100% process. And everything in school is end-oriented.

    1. But is it really end-oriented? Fifth grade wasn’t the end… middle School came and went… teachers focused on just getting us to graduate high school… and then in college we work towards getting our degree… But none of this is the end. School should be whatever-is-next-oriented.

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