I’ve been spending some time today reading and researching for a paper that focuses on the connection between constructivist theories and the idea of ‘connectivism’ – almost a form of constructivism for the digital age. After wearying of reading, I decided to search TED talks for some practical and engaging discussions based one or both of these theories. As usual, TED provided some gems:
1. Kiran Bir Sethi teaches kids to take charge
Working on the principles of building awareness, enabling and empowerment Sethi’s students learnt the value of acknowledging ‘I can’ to help them construct knowledge and connect with others to solve community issues – learning by doing. Improvements were seen in the students’ academic performance as well as their social activism.
2. Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education
“Children will learn to do what they want to learn to do.”
Sugata Mitra explains his “Hole in the Wall” project, the results of which demonstrated that in an environment that stimulates curiosity, children will learn effectively through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge. Mitra and his students achieved some amazing things by connecting with each other and with teachers and learners across the globe. He proposes a self-organising system of learning – one in which the system structure appears without explicit intervention from outside the system (i.e., teacher acts as a ‘guide on the side’ not a ‘sage on the stage’, allowing students to construct and own the learning).
Constructivist theories allow students to engage in authentic and meaningful learning, as demonstrated in exceptional ways by Sethi and Mitra. It is not necessarily about the teacher simply standing off to the side and giving learners absolute free range, but it does redefine the roles and responsibilities of teachers and students. What I am now interested in exploring is how social media and other networks can contribute to this learning to create a form of constructivism that is even more “connected” than ever before. One that helps students to be the “owners” of their own learning and to engage with and implement solutions for real-world problems, thereby empowering them to be the leaders of the future.
Part of the partnership between educators and parents involves helping children develop their understanding of themselves and their relationship with the world they live in. It’s a big task but I think overall teachers and parents as a collective group do a darn good job of it. Between the exploration of amazing scientific phenomenon, learning and playing with languages, engaging in many artistic pursuits, exploring spirituality (in some cases) and all of the rich opportunities that learning in its various forms presents, children have the chance to begin to develop an incredible awareness of their world.
But how do we help them to understand what is seemingly inexplicable, even to adults?
This morning we woke up to the horrific news of the Boston Marathon bombings. Images of smoking buildings, terrified and bloody people, and a blood-stained street flashed across our television, computer and mobile device screens all day. They will continue to do so for days and weeks to come as the fall out continues.
On social media there has been an outpouring of grief, condolences, prayers and expressions of disbelief from across the world. Just like the recent Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, there has been coverage in such a way that did not even exist on September 11, 2001.
Meanwhile in Iraq, 50 people have been killed and 300 injured in 30 bomb explosions in the past 24 hours. Of course, the coverage of this has paled in comparison to that of the events in the United States. Perhaps this is because Iraq seems so distant and different from our home compared to the USA – the streets of Boston could have been the streets of a city here in Australia. But it is still horrific violence.
Whether in Iraq or in Boston, there are only two words that go some way to explaining such events. They are words that are used far too flippantly in our day-to-day language but that also carry with them a certain ambiguity that prevents being able to fully understand them.
Hatred and evil.
So how do we even begin to understand or cope with this? And how do we help our students and children to do so?
We focus on the love and the good in the world.
We remind ourselves and them that, as comedian Patton Oswalt wrote in response to today’s events, “good will always outnumber evil.”
We help them to see that even in the most horrific of situations, “you will always find people who are helping.” (Fred Rogers)
We give them time to talk and to ask questions. And we are honest in our responses.
We make sure they know that they are loved completely and unconditionally. Our young people are growing up in a world and time characterised by an incredible uncertainty. We need them to have a sense of safety and security both emotionally and physically in order to endure the uncertainties of life.
And in our incredibly busy lives, we take the time to be grateful for our own lives and for our loved ones. Because that love is what matters the most in life. And hatred and evil may hurt us, but they can’t put an end to love.
Love conquers all.