Last week our class discussion covered the topic of simulation as a tool for learning and inquiry. Oddly enough, one of the assigned readings for this week [Yearners and Learners] made mention of Logo. Logo is a simulation software program that first appeared around the late 60s, and it served as the impetus of contemporary programs like NetLogo. Papert, the author of Yearners and Learners, saw the value of using computational computer programs to create a lived-learning experience. Now, this is what some would refer to as “initial learning” or the simplification of complex theories. A point I stressed in the discussion is that simulation can in no way address our full reality, and Papert also makes this point.
There was a clear split on how we view simulation in relation to the real world. Some class members were concerned that the creation of an artificial world might replace our current collective reality, while others were able to provide examples of how we use simulation to address our needs (e.g. product production). After reading the excerpt from Papert’s text, I can liken our class discussion to the author’s description of Yearners (revolutionaries) and Schoolers (traditionalists). There are those of us that yearn for an immediate revolution in the way we learn, and there are those who are more comfortable with traditional forms of learning. I do not think that taking an absolute position on either side of the fence is the best approach. In fact, I think doing so contributes to the inertial condition touched on by Papert. Yet, that is what we typically find ourselves doing when major change comes into the frame. Who typically loses in a School of absolutes are the students.
I say all of this to get to one salient point. I hope that we can find some middle ground between traditional and non-traditional forms of learning. Doing so will create a pathway for students to advance beyond our static frames.
Mark Carnes wrote an article where he talked about his learning concept called Reacting to the Past. Carnes description of Reacting to the Past is in alignment with the established descriptions of active learning. However, I have found the term –active learning–lacking clarity. So I have started to refer to [what would be] active learning as lived-learning…with the outcome of lived-knowledge. We are more likely to reach students if we can immerse them in the material. One way to do this is to move the stories we teach closer to their realities and their experiences. Let them touch history. Let them change the outcomes outlined in a lesson with contemporary tools. I purchase this approach.
Now, a slight left turn from active learning. Last semester I wrote a paper asking the question Is education the key to a better quality of life. In particular, I wanted to know if college completion would yield an improvement in the areas of labor and shelter. What I found was a significant difference in the success outcomes and these differences were based on race. After running a few comparisons between racial groups, I found that–even with an increasing rate of college completion–markers of success had not improved for Blacks since 1964.
Carnes is concerned with students completing college, and the anecdotes he provided are great examples of how we can re-engage students. In addition to Carnes’ concern, I am concerned about what happens after college. Keeping students interested and engaged is just one step towards preparing them for success in life. There are other hurdles our students will have to overcome, and we can help them by finding ways to address the aforementioned disparities.
I would love to hear your thoughts about lived-learning and success beyond college.
In Alfie Kohn’s article , The Case Against Grades, the author deconstructs the traditional grading system. The author opens up a big wound, pours salt in it and offers lukewarm examples as the balm. While I agree that teaching towards the grade is not the best learning strategy, I am also aware that the traditional grading system is subject to larger systems and bigger issues. For example, if the school system, as a whole, does not agree to change how we evaluate learning, then the individual teacher that elects for a “non-grade” learning environment runs the risk of being terminated or they might jeopardize their school’s position. Now, there is a larger way of being and doing that modern society participates in…and that is risk culture.
Risk culture is fueled by fear. Fear of losing one’s job, fear of failing school, fear of disappointing one’s parents, fear of lawsuits, fear of not getting into college. The list of fears is neverending, and risk culture is what drives us closer to quantifying success with a rigid grading system. So if we are going to deconstruct the grading system, we should consciously take steps to deconstruct the larger systems that will eventually undermine any advances taken at the sub-system level.
This article left me wondering what was occurring at the higher levels of society—like the school board and the college systems that review the applications of the students participating in a non-grade environment.
Questions to Ponder: What type colleges were willing to accept narrative summaries instead of grades? Did the non-grade teachers have the support of their leadership?
I shamefully admit that I have tuned in to watch most of Trump’s speeches during and after his presidential campaign. Needless to say, each speech was more disappointing that the previous. He made the following statement during his acceptance of the Republican nomination:
President Obama has doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion and growing. – #45
The bit that I know about our budget process is that you can never pin the entire national debt on one person, and you most certainly should consider the inaction of congress in the equation. For me, this speech was the first sign of Trump’s alternative facts. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget wrote a piece entitled Has President Obama Doubled the National Debt? When you have a few minutes, read the article. While some of Obama’s policies did indeed have an adverse impact on the national debt, the Committee points out that the increase in the national debt was already set in motion before Obama took office (e.g. the Great Recession). The article also states that Trump’s proposed policies would also have a doubling effect on the national debt. So, this is what I gather from it all–Bush created the mess…Obama attempted to fix it…Trump points the finger at Obama while he designs plans to re-Bush us. This is tom-foolery at its best.