24 Learning: Millionaires or Monsters

24 Learning

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Millionaires or Monsters

I listened to Mike Anderson speaking at a school function last night and he presented a really excellent analogy that I think will help people understand what we are trying to develop in education in New Zealand. He contrasted the type of education required to be successful at "Who wants to be a millionaire". The filling up of the mind with facts as a model for teaching and learning contrasts with the sort of learning that is happening in "Monster Garage". If you haven't seen this great show it is worth a look. Briefly, a group of blokes transform a vehicle into something else by chopping and modifying. The example Mike showed was the transformation of a race car into a high speed line painter. The point he was making was that the planning, trial and error, arguing over, frustration, testing, hypothesising, remaking, collaborating, conflict resolution, measuring, building, rebuilding, evaluating, drawing, resource gathering, task definition, and celebrating the success demonstrated in the learning required to be successful in Monster Garage is far more relevant and important than the fact learning required to be successful at 'Who wants to be a millionaire".

I loved his analogy and think it illustrates well the shift in focus of education away from teaching stuff, to teaching children to be good learners. I wonder though how much time to we spend assessing children's abilitiy to learn rather than measuring what they have learnt. I'm not saying that all knowledge is unimportant because clearly we want our children to know their basic facts and their times tables and to be able to put capital letters in correct places and know that speech marks indicate what was spoken etc etc etc. The point is that if we only focus on measuring this content we miss an opportunity to work with children to help them learn what will help them to become better learners. In listening to Mike I was encouraged to think that the things he was highlighting as important issues are the things we have been talking about as a professional development cluster.

The new draft curriculum implementation in New Zealand is an opportunity for teachers to grapple again with the balance between content and learning skills. The draft curriculum calls them Key Competencies.


Blogger gregcarroll said...

Hi Paul. Absolutely!!
I've heard this talk from Mike as well. It is valuing the trial and error, persistance and conflict that struck me with the analogy. Errors and conflict are something we certainly don't value or encourage in our classrooms do we.

10:17 am  
Blogger Paul Wilkinson said...

No. And we should. But it is how we value them that counts. Adrian Rennie is the best example I have seen of this. One of his rewordings of the Habits of Mind is "Make it Right" He often has conversations with kids along the lines of "That's not quite right have another go" or "Is that your best effort? Give it another try". And becauseof the climate of his classroom and the attitude he displays to reworking stuff, the kids just go away and have another go. I have seen them do it happily where I would have xpected grumbling. Powerful tools are being built into those kids lives and they probably don't even realise it.

8:02 am  
Blogger David said...

Thanks for reporting on this. It has started all sorts of ideas in my head. I suspect the happiness to "have another go" comes from the children themselves. If they are engaged in the activity, and they see it as authentic, they will want to do it right!

1:11 am  

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