Saturday, 16 August 2014

Where does learning happen?

Well, just so you don't spend too much time thinking up clever answers, I'll give you a spoiler. In the learner's head.

This wasn't a geography question, because actually geographically, learning happens wherever the learner is when they absorb something new or make a new connection or see something that makes the curious. Connections and little sparks are always happening in a child's head, whether we know it or not. Whether we can measure it or not.

So learning might happen in a classroom. It might happen in bed reading a book. It might happen during a conversation with a bus driver. It might even happen while watching something on the telly, or while playing a video game. And it might be something that benefits the learner, and might not be.

But basically learning happens in the learner's head. Which is why ultimately, very little we do as educators can determine what is learned. The learner will retain the information that is valuable to them. We can offer opportunities for learning, and try to have fun along the way.

So I guess you know what my views on compulsory curricula are? Or on any curricula? Any curriculum is formed by somebody who decides what is worth knowing. One must know about the Romans and the Victorians. One must know about nouns and verbs. One must know about the angles of triangle. WTF? What if you want to know all about Pokemon, or Phil and Dan, or Dr Who, or how much chocolate you can eat in one day? (And many other things I have to live with!)

Actually, I want to know about knitting cables, and growing brassicas, and mortgage interest rates, and anything that takes my fancy. As an adult, I get to choose. So why can't kids choose? Why do so many intelligent adults deny that kids have curiosity, that they have an innate interest in the world around them and that they are capable of  learning without being instructed all the damn time. (Sorry, but I do get angry at the way some adults treat children!)

Of course, this is easily said. But the reason I have been thinking about this has to do with me having a brilliant idea to teach something, and it being completely rejected by the learner. In this case, the 4 year old one.

So we had a cardboard box. And instead of putting it in the blue bin, I though we could make a diorama. We have done dioramas before. They are fun. They can also be educational. And this one certainly was.

For me.

I offered up my brilliant idea to The Babe! "Yay!" She was very excited about the idea of a diorama. I suggested, an underwater theme, or a forest, or a desert. (Can you see where I am going?) She really wanted to do a camel. So deserts it was.

I plonked her on my knee in front of the computer to research deserts and look at Google Images.

"I want a camel!" Of course, dear little one. But look - there are bactrian camels and dromedaries.

"I want to colour in one with two humps!" Of course, dear little one to whom I am imparting great knowledge. That is a bactrian camel. They are found in the Gobi desert.

"I want a cactus!" Oh no dear little one, that image of cactus that you wish to colour in is a Saguaro cactus. They are found in the southwest deserts of America, whereas if you want a Bactrian camel, we shall concentrate on the Gobi desert.

(See my great idea coming into focus! Habitats! Flora and Fauna of different deserts! Using Art! We could do all sorts of dioramas!)

"I want it to have a pink flower!" (Slight detour to sing a Kimya Dawson song!)

I tried for a little bit longer. And then I remembered that the reason I started was to do something fun with The Babe. That she is a child and I am her mother and the best thing that I can teach her is that the world is lovely and so is she and that we should laugh whenever we can. Kimya Dawson helped. :-) And we should definitely add a bit of colour to the world too.

This is her diorama. :-)