I’m sure I’ll find some more links to bring it together. But for now, it makes me think that this is an area that I need to spend more time on when I’m designing learning. One of the integral qualities of a discerning learner is their ability to sort, sift and select the most meaningful tenets of information so that others might access the knowledge that they have discovered, re-interpreted or even created from scratch. For me, this demands that we consider the ways in which we offer opportunities to our learners to be able to present their information. Such presentations of understanding can certainly serve as a valuable and public validation of learner-thinking. In addition, such visual presentations will help to consolidate their own knowledge and deepen their understanding.
(1) Be clear that any approach is the ‘right’ approach
(2) Restrict the the time to one minute
(3) Invest in feedback: How did it FEEL to think like that? How confident were you in completing the activity? What were your concerns? In what ways did you feel pressure (from others/ yourself/ me…?)
(4) How could you adapt this and make it a subject/topic specific activity to free up thinking and establish a ‘safe-to-try’ culture of learning?
Dave Eggers set up his pirates shop as a way to secure a property to house his writing workshops, as you will learn from this video. Since this, a crop of similar projects have sprouted, including a superheroes shop in New York and a whole diverse range of chapters under the 826 umbrella.
Making learning relevant to learners is one of the hardest tasks we have. Dave Eggers discovered, by accident, the lure of practical imagination alongside the power of mentoring. His discovery was to go beyond just asking children to write down or to talk about their imaginative musings but to actively imagine that they can step into their very own imagination and take an active role in them. Alongside this, he put people who had already found their passion for writing in the same space as those who were yet to find theirs. Together, they get to scope ideas, draft their dreams and publish their imaginations.
When we ask students to get creative or ‘use their imagination’, what is it that we are asking them to do? What do we hope to see? What do we want them to show us? How do we want them to feel about their learning when they activate their imagination? How can we give them the necessary space and time to develop the confidence to really develop their most powerful ideas? How far can we let them really run with their ideas? How far could they go…? If thinking creatively is all about making connections between previously unrelated concepts or objects, then what Dave Eggers has done here works really well.
Consider the topic of Pirates or Superheroes and how you might make some links to curriculum topics and the characters themselves:
Maths: What kind of insurance plan would Batman need for Robin? What sort of premium would he need to pay to protect against damage to the Bat Cave ?
Geography: What route should Captain Jack Sparrow take if he sailed from the Bahamas to the South Coast of Ireland?
RE: What code of ethics would Spiderman enforce if he were made Prime Minister?
Citizenship: What role in government would The Green Lantern be most suited to?
PSHE: What health issues would Blackbeard need to be educated about and how could he and his crew make sure they stayed healthy?
History: What knowledge, dispositions and skills would a superhero have needed to prevent WW2?
Science: What physiological differences exist between the Justice League of America? Compare these with X-Men and evaluate the ways in one group might be more powerful than the other.
And so on…if you have more reflections or inspirational ideas connected with this, please leave a comment.
Jane McGonigal presents a great argument here that attempts to demonstrate the potential force for good that could exist within games-playing. Games like World of Warcraft require a commitment on the part of the participants to collaborate with their fellow players in order to achieve their goals.
For me, this brings me back to considering the power of games-dynamics in themselves and of the need for students to get as many opportunities as possible to learn together, in groups. The structure and integral components that underpin interactive games-playing might be translated into a some form of taxonomy of learning design. Here’s a very rough draft of what it might look like:
- Identifies what needs to be done in order to achieve goals
- Recognises that attainment of goals cannot be done independently of others
- Identifies who and/or what can help in the attainment of such goals
- Adapts own behaviour so as to foster collaboration from others
- Collaborates with others to achieve own goals
- Works effectively with others to achieve own goals
- Is prepared to offer collaborative expertise to achieve goals of others
- Recognises that working with others is more effective than working independently
- Actively seeks out further collaborative opportunities with others
And so on.
And what if we created a game-scenario that was intended to solve some of the world’s greatest problems and handed this over to our students? How might this encourage learners to engage with the wider world and begin a process of problem solving from which innovative solutions might emerge? We know it works, after all. Consider the way in which the human gene was finally coded, or the creation of WIkipedia or…well, you know what I mean.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we should ditch the curriculum and get students to start playing WoW. What this talk does make me think about, however, is how collaborative skills need to be deliberately practised just as much as skills in calculus, research or reading. As I’ve said before in posts and I’m writing about in other forms at the moment, if we can design learning in such a way that it offers engaging opportunities for students to mindfully practise the skills required to collaborate, then surely that’s one step closer to their readiness to both give and take from the world everything it has to offer?