14 May 2013

Learning Creative Learning - Summative Reflection

At the close of the MIT Media Lab 'Learning Creative Learning' Course, I've been enjoying organizing my thoughts to write this summative reflection. I took the course as an elementary school teacher looking to expand my approaches to teaching and learning, so most of what I took from it is what I can apply to my profession, although my experiences were not limited to the classroom-related.

Introduction to MOOCs
This was my first Massive Open Online Course. I was most impressed by the lack of deadlines. I could complete reading and watch class session videos at my own pace, yet the imminence of the live sessions helped me to maintain a reasonable schedule. Despite not being required, I sincerely looked forward to watching each session video each week, diligently read assignments, and felt odd pangs of guilt when I fell behind.

There were many tasks which I didn't complete, in particular when materials were needed, but through the nature of being 'massive' and 'open', I still gained insight into the technology presented through other people's sharing and reflections.

Now I'm very curious about non-structured MOOCs and collaborative inquiry. To me, Internet tools provide endless possibilities for open-learning. Through the LCL, I have even met several people with whom to experiment and many of us are beginning to assemble an open course on the topic of cities. I believe that my experiences living in many of the world's most diverse cities will contribute to the course quite well.

Primarily, I think that the experience of participating in totally open learning collaboratively will inform my classroom practices as I strive to design learning environments which empower students to design their own learning.

To me, STEM, the ubiquitous acronym for Science + Technology + Engineering + Mathematics, is painfully inadequate. What is the point of that name? I understand that it's a way to learn those disciplines within the authentic contexts in which they are actually found, but aren't they also found in the contexts of Design and Sociology? Geography? Philosophy? If we're aiming for context, let's get all of the context. End of diatribe.

I don't consider myself a 'maker'. When I built a bookshelf for my bedroom when I was sixteen years old, I followed the directions.

However, during the maker- and tinkering-oriented discussions, I related to their ideas in terms of music.

As a composer and arranger, I am a musical tinkerer. In fact, musicians utilize the same pitches and rhythmic language with remarkably little variation when one considers the full possibilities of sound manipulation. They say that Bach already wrote all of the possible melodies and that the rest of us are just adding variations (iterations).

Jazz music in particular, being collaborative, interactive, and improvisational, aligns beautifully with the maker mindset. I'm sure I'm at my best when I apply this mentality in the classroom. The skills we apply to building together should be identical to those we apply to learning together. It's also important to note the critical role mentors play in these constructions, the best of whom use their expertise to help learners practice the skills to form their own understandings.

Anybody can call a meeting; nobody can oblige others to attend
This concept will stick with me. It's from Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society and represents the essence of what I want to achieve in my teaching and learning. It may also be the very definition of Democracy.

How we learn
The greatest reward of participating in this course has been the development of my teaching philosophy.

Through experience, I have always believed that 'fun' and 'social' are as important as 'visual', 'auditory', and 'kinesthetic' learning modalities. The LCL readings and discussions have provided a firm pedagogical foundation for me to develop as a Constructionist teacher and learner.

Building on what I've learned from Dewey, Vygotsky, and Gardner, the pedagogy behind the LCL course has focused my attention more toward the processes of learning, a reorientation which I have already seen lead to superior learning products.

In my opinion, there is no debate between learning process and product. If we focus on process, the products will avail.

In particular, I enjoyed this excerpt from Design, Make, Play. I look forward to utilizing their criteria, Engagement, Intentionality, Innovation, and Solidarity, for assessment as I attempt to guide students, and myself, along paths of inquiry and collaboration.

You can take the course now
All of the materials are posted on the syllabus!


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