Thursday, 28 January 2010

Baptize Me Brother, I'm a Believer

It started with Dan MacKinnon's blog at mathrecreation one of those blogs I read regularly (he writes, I read, that's regularly).

In this one he mentioned a speech in Ottawa... OK, I'm in England, and not likely to pop over to Ottawa for a quick speech, but he had this quote about what Alfie Kohn was all about..."Our knowledge of how children learn – and how schools can help -- has come a long way in the last few decades. Unfortunately, most schools have not: They’re still more about memorizing facts and practicing isolated skills than understanding ideas from the inside out; they still exclude students from any meaningful decision-making role; and they still rely on grades, tests, homework, lectures, worksheets, competition, punishments, and rewards. Alfie Kohn explores the alternatives to each of these conventional practices, explaining why progressive education isn’t just a realistic alternative but one that’s far more likely to help kids become critical thinkers and lifelong learners."
Wait... that sounds like me talking... no grades (not like we have to give now anyway)... Self directed students making their own educational decisions... HEY... I think I found my Edu-church...

Sooooo, I went to Alfie's web, this guy is a radical from way back..(you go guy)... and I liked what he was saying... so I read some articles he had published.. and I found one that may save me the price of an international flight from here to there... It may be the same talk he is giving..more or less... If this is not your bag, that's OK too, but here is a clip that I think will help you understand whether you may like this guy or not...

"A friend of mine, who is a teacher-educator, had a daughter in fifth grade at the time of this story. She came home, he wrote me, with a worksheet on simple machines—ball bearings, inclined planes, pulleys, that sort of thing. As he came home from work, she said, “Dad, test me, test me!”

“Well,” my friend said, “Why don’t you just tell me what you’ve been learning about?”

“OK, but first ask me what these things are!”

“OK, if you insist. What is a ball bearing?”

“OK, easy dad! A ball bearing is blah blah blah.” A verbatim repetition of the definition she had learned from the teacher.

My friend said, “But Rachel, what is a ball bearing?”

“I told you, Dad. A ball bearing is a blah blah blah blah.”

To make a long story short, he continues, “I turned over the ottoman, which is on wheels, and showed her the ball bearings, and her eyes got wide.

“‘Cooool! That’s what a ball bearing is? How does it work? Can we take apart the ottoman? Oh, I get it. Why didn’t Mrs. Lambert just tell us this is what it was? Can you buy these at the store? Where do they sell these things anyway? Hey, wanna help me make something that rotates? Hey, cool, watch what happens if I hold one of these things and try to spin this thing. What would happen to this thing if the balls were really big? Would the wheels go faster?’”

A progressive school is not about memorizing the definition of ball bearings, or the date at which an event happened in history, or the difference between a simile and a metaphor. That’s not to say that these topics aren’t covered. It’s to say that questions that kids have drive the education."

That's the kind of education I want to be part of.... Thanks Dan...


Sue VanHattum said...

Yeay for Alfie. :^) I haven't actually read his books because I figured I was already a convert. But I think Dan convinced me to read The Schools Our Children Deserve.

dan.mackinnon said...

Thanks Pat - it is great to hear what someone who really cares about learning and teaching thinks about these things. I'll save you a seat at the talk, just in case. :)