Let’s Take Learning Off The Clock!

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Our current education system focuses on clock time to measure learning. The current buzz around teacher evaluations is that students should have a years worth of growth during a school year. These leaves two critical questions:

  1. Who defines the growth?
  2. Are all students going to grow equally in the same time frame?

Looking at my children, I struggle with this concept. They have all grown but in so many different ways and at very different rates. My three children have all been completely different when it comes to hitting “growth milestones”. My two boys Griffin (10) and Gavin (6) we late walkers and talkers. On the other hand Grace (6) was early. Then again my boys are way ahead on the height and weight milestones where Grace is “just” average. Having watched Griffin grow academically over 6 years of school, I have noticed he excels in Math, Science and Social Studies but struggles as a reader and writer.

Don’t we all have different strengths and weaknesses? Shouldn’t school honor this, allowing us to move faster in areas where we can, while helping us continue moving forward in areas of need?

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Making Makers

“Can we play games when we are done?” Those are the most dreaded words a teacher can hear on a day working in the computer lab. Teachers know that with games on their mind learning is very far behind. The learning targets won’t be the focus instead getting done to experience the pleasures of gaming. Other students might be focused on music instead of games. How can we allow students to get their gaming and music fixes while also helping them focus on learning?

My solution is to create makers not have consumers in my classroom. My rule is that students can play games and music they make in class. Many of my colleagues ask how I do this? It started last year when my class completed the Hour of Code. My students enjoyed creating the Flappy Bird games. After going through the tutorial, students explored different tools like Tynker, Scratch, and Sploder. Students don’t realize how much they are learning by creating their own games. They learn how to code, follow directions, sequencing, and trouble shooting.

For music there are other online tools students can use to create cool sounds. My two favorite are Incredibox and VirtualPiano. Incedibox allows students to explore the world of acapella music trying out different beats. The Virtual Piano gives them an opportunity to dabble in the basics of playing a keyboard instrument.  Students learn about harmony and pitch while expressing themselves musically.

Students need to know there is more to games and music than consuming them. Students need to feel empowered to make their own. Make products that their friends will want to consume. Teachers need to inspire students to be the next Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mozart or Bono. Technology gives students so much power to create. Our job is to encourage and guide students to do so!