Generally, I’ve always “liked” school. I never really minded going to class in high school. Sure, tests were hard, and studying for them was too stressful for my health, but I never truly hated the concepts of tests and grades and homework. My brother, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. He’s smart, but he dislikes school and everything associated with it. He’s trudging through his undergraduate degree longing for the moment he can be done forever. Over the years, I have noticed that he is definitely more of a learn-by-doing type of learner; lecture doesn’t do so much for him. He has a graphic design type of side-business that seems to be doing quite well, and all he knows, he either taught himself or learned through online community.
So reading these articles dealing with reaching those who are “digital learners,” who learn by play and community, really reinforced the idea that communal learning is something I truly would like to incorporate into my classroom in any way that I can. Robert Talbert’s “Four Things Lecture is Good For” reminded me that lectures, though some are inspiring and memorable, are actually not that inspiring and memorable. How many lectures do I remember from high school? From undergrad? Few. In fact, as Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s Chapter “Arc-of-Life Learning” suggests, play and imagination combined for a more emphatic experience. He states that these concepts are “the very heart of arc-of-life learning” (18). The classes I remember from high school tend to be the days of active learning, of play. Any class’s favorite days were the review game days where we split up into competitive groups determined to beat each other by proving what we remembered, the lab days where we got to heat a solution and watch it turn a deep magenta pink. But the question that will probably make its way into every one of my posts now appears: how do I do this in my own classroom? In a writing class?
Thomas and Seely Brown’s chapter differed from my regular type of article reading mainly in content because it dealt so much with games and science. I don’t play games. I’ve never played games. I don’t understand them. But the article was actually really interesting, especially the segment on the little boy Sam, who knows more about technology and codes at the age of 9 than I could ever hope to learn over the course of the rest of my life. Sam grew as a learner, a teacher, and a professional, if you will, because of the collaborative learning community in which he took part (23).
This reminded me of the concept of peer review. I supposed I could even refer to it as a type of pedagogy. And it’s one that I have scheduled a lot of into my semester. Why? Because I believe that it teaches my students about audience. They’re writing for more people than just the instructor. It helps their writing become more clear. If their peer can’t understand what they’re saying, the likelihood of my understanding it goes way down. It helps them learn in a hands on way. Spotting problems in another person’s project is easier than spotting the problems in their own. As they practice finding issues in writing, I hope recognizing problems in the writing they produce becomes easier. But I’m always on the look out for more group work ideas and interactive ways of teaching concepts. I truly think my students have more fun when they have a sort of game or group work to take up class time. I think they learn more, too. But that’s the hard part, I think–coming up with ideas.