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robertogreco : freedomtolearn   1

My student asked me a question | Gardner Writes
"What I always try to do, whenever I teach, is to arrange the class as a shared project. We’re making a movie together. We’re making a record together. We’re building a house together. The whole meta-team idea was an extreme version of something I now recognize I’d been doing for decades. The idea of the course as a series of meetings, all self-contained, has always been boring to the point of hysteria for me. I’d have a similar reaction (have had, in fact) to a PowerPoint presentation full of inane and obvious bullet points and nothing else–no images, no video, no sound, nothing out of the ordinary. Same thing. All inert lists.

Over time, inert lists have come to be expected by many students, maybe even most students. They actually come to prefer it, very often. Inert lists make everything so much more manageable. Stuff in stacks. I didn’t want stuff in stacks. I wanted art or mystery or eureka or games or symphonies or laboratories or studios.

So when I teach, I try to convey, in every way I can imagine, that this is not going to be an experience of stuff in stacks. And every time I sense a student is going along with the idea of no-stuff-in-stacks, I try to reward that right away with attention and commitment and equal blends of zaniness and intensity. When one fishes, there’s an art to landing the fish: the line has to be taut, but not so taut that it snaps or the fish gets away somehow. It takes a lot of patient back-and-forth and an art of the line as subtle as how a violinist holds her bow to make the strings sing. (Not to worry: I’m a catch-and-release kind of fisherman, though I do eat fish, I will confess.)

What’s never worked, in my experience, is making 90% of the experience stuff-in-stacks and making 10% “freedom to learn,” because the 90% just overwhelms the 10%. Truth to tell, “stuff-in-stacks” can overwhelm “freedom to learn” even at the 5% level. Stuff-in-stacks is a poison and it doesn’t take much to kill the learning.

I don’t know if any of that is helpful. All I can say this morning is that I try as hard as I can to help nudge the class forward in its journey, its project, its writing-itself-into-being. I try as hard as I can to let the class nudge me forward, too, because I’m also in it for the learning. And I try to do this with an absolute minimum, as close to zero as I can make it, of stuff-in-stacks. This is one of the reasons I love the internet. The web, at least so far, is full of what Walt Whitman calls “barbaric yawps.” These yawps can be like throwing a window wide open in the early spring, just before it’s really warm enough to do so, but just when you really want to because the stale inside winter air is just too stifling. So we shiver some, and we take in the cold air, and we smell some of the mud and early growth of just-spring, and our brains clear and our hearts beat faster for just a little while. And sometimes that’s enough to get everyone over the school-as-stuff-in-stacks hump and we can get another magic moment and recapture that feeling of determined yes.

I don’t mind syllabi or semesters. I kind of like final exams. I love projects and highly refined and purposeful zaniness. When creative thinking and critical thinking marry and have a child, the child’s name is joy–it’s the same child born to Cupid and Psyche in the old tale by Apuleius.

You’re working very hard to push a huge rock up a steep hill. When I teach, I have the opportunity to frame the whole encounter very differently. You don’t have that opportunity. But you do have extraordinary shining eyes and a heart for adventure and a mind for keen insight. So I’d say you should talk with the students, heart to heart, and tell them what your dreams are for this experience, and then see if anyone responds. If anyone does, then find a way to celebrate that, and keep on hoping that the response will catch on."
gardnercampbell  canon  teaching  howweteach  2014  via:audreywatters  stacks  freedomtolearn  learning  howwelearn  engagement  lcproject  tcsnmy  cv  openstudioproject  creativity  criticalthinking  content  openended  collaboration  cooperation  open-ended 
march 2014 by robertogreco

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