Friday, August 20, 2010

Young learners leading the way

Image source
 There is much talk of creativity and concern that schools indeed, in the words of Sir Ken Robinson, kill creativity. A Futurelab review (2002 - click here to download the .pdf of the review) indicated that the "Understandings of the nature of creativity have changed in scope and depth over the last hundred years.... More recently there has been an acknowledgement of the creative potential of all individuals in different knowledge domains, or subjects not confined to traditional definitions of the ‘arts’ or ‘sciences’. An ethos which encourages creativity in different communities and environments also has an influence on individuals and groups. Creativity can now be recognised and valued at the level of individuals, peergroups or the wider society and considered as an essential element in participating in and contributing to the life and culture of society".
With this notion of creativity in mind it is heartening and reassuring to find concrete examples close to home. I found the following learning story to be inspirational, and think that it illustrates how important it is not to underestimate young learners, and what they are capable of when given the freedom/scaffolding to be creative.
(Note: The person who contributed this information to a discussion forum of which I am a member has given me permission to reproduce the story - many thanks, but wishes to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of 'M').
"Some days you just get blown away. Some of you may stop reading now. We have had a number of comments about what 'young learners' can and cannot do and whether it is 'real' learning or even fits the curriculum?? I would like to recount a situation i observed yesterday....
Place - small rural school of 9 pupils (yes pupils not teachers) 7 classroom computers (cross platform) with 3 not working "we can't afford to get them fixed right now even if I take them to town". This school has minimal (like no) technical support, no technical expertise on staff, have one password for everything (that HAS to change) that was set two principals ago but the kids are confident, thinking eLearners and doing some stunning stuff.
Subject - girl 6 years and 7 months (I checked). School focus Water - special stuff. That's not quite what the teacher called it 8-}
9.00am a quick class discussion about looking after water and with each of the kids having previously chosen a question to focus on, they headed off. the kids had learning intentions for the process basically 3 page presentation a minimum of 4 of their own images and/or drawings (NO Clip Art allowed), one embedded video commentary, a title and explanatory text throughout. They were 'allowed' one piece of Comic Lettering.

M grabbed one of 3 digital cameras and a year 7 buddy (I am not allowed to go without him) and headed across the playground to the creek. Took at least 10 photos of the creek - talked about showing the important things, getting close (mud, rubbish and weed) and telling a story. The creek was really pretty clean but M thought the slime and the mud were 'gross' - she was thrilled to find the Coke can 8-} I am not sure how she would have handled it if the creek had been pristine??? Got back and dismissed Year 7 - "thanks X". The rest was all done on her own.
  • Downloaded photos - had to search for the cable 8-}
  • Opened Comic Life
  • One screen large photo of Coke can and comic lettering YUK
  • next screen 4 photos with captions (got help with spelling!)
  • Saved as .jpegs
  • Opened Photobooth and then spent time thinking about what she was going to say about the state of the creek. Had 4 trial runs and deleted them all.
  • Happy with the 5th - 18 seconds of commentary!!!! Dropped movie onto desktop.
  • Opened KidPix made a title page - no clip art - her drawing of the creek with a 'Mind our creek' title.
  • Inserted coke picture and caption on second slide.
  • Brought in 4 picture jpeg and added some colour (frilly stuff with the pencil) onto slide 3
  • Then embedded her movie commentary in the middle of it - checked it a couple of times - giggling
  • then went to slideshow and bought in each of her 3 slides - timed them herself!! so that her commentary finished.
  • Exported that as a Quicktime and put it on the shared drive saying 'this is going on the class story (shared keynote I think) ticked a box on the board so the teacher would look at it and then went off and did a maths exercise with counters.
Image source
I sat back thinking 'Far out' or something similar - I must note here that i had been 'floating' around the class.
This was a quality learning experience, all of the tools worked and were suitable to age stage and focus. There was significant thought, planning, multi literacies, minimal collaboration, mountains of construction. She problem solved verbally throughout (and not just because I was there)."
The person who contributed the story, went on to say that the creativity, autonomy, responsibility, involvement, sense of ownership, and quality learning were in part facilitated by access to reliable and appropriate tools. The writer pointed out that they wanted "the software to be kid friendly and as bullet proof as possible.When we are talking about new environments we need to make sure the steps are forward, manageable by the '3rd principal in 4 years' and are robust and affordable". And finishes with the key question: "if she can do this at 6 what might we be able to support her to do at 16?"
What are your thoughts? Experiences? Stories?
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