Hands On With Experts

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It’s a lot of fun learning new skills. Today I learned how to make pictures show up in a slide show on my blog, how to build a robot hand, and more tips and tricks for speaking with different accents (specifically British, Scottish, and German for our winter show The 39 Steps).

I find it interesting how skills like this are often best learned and taught if you just have a teacher start doing it and you try to mimic what they’re doing as they provide feedback and work along side of you.

Sure I could have read tens of pages on rules and tendencies that are associated with other accents, but no one says “I can speak in a Scottish accent” after just reading some rules or even after listening to videos. You have to practice the accent and have someone else help tell you how you are doing by providing you with feedback along the way.

And with the robotic hand (which I’m going to be honest, I had to leave before we finished it), I could have been given the instructions and told to figure it out. If this was the case though, I don’t think I ever would have gotten far past step one due to confusion. Especially since the instructions were only pictures… However, this wasn’t the case, and instead I was working with one of my mentors to put this hand together and he was able to help show and tell me what to do, and I think if I was given the same tools now, I could probably replicate the process we went through.

On the flip side, not actually working hands on with a mentor can often make it really challenging to learn new skills. If you aren’t introduced to something, how can you be expected to try using that skill?

I think this fact exposes a struggle in education. Teachers are always trying to encourage their students to present information in new and creative ways, but people tend to stick to what they know. If they aren’t exposed a little to different forms of presentations, it would be hard to make one on their own.

So what if teachers actually co-created creative presentations. What if a teacher worked with students to write a spoken word piece about how we need to protect the rainforest? What if teachers and students worked together to make a documentary about the life of an artist. What if teachers and students worked together to design an art piece that represents the human rights? What if teachers and students worked together to write a letter about how members of their school community feel about the use of social media in education? What if teachers and students worked together to design an advertisement campaign for why it’s important to have proper safety equipment in science labs?

These would all be such cool presentations of ideas, but, while I think it is great to give students freedom, choice, and the ability to wonder and explore, I also think students still need guidance. As humans we naturally copy what we’ve been exposed to and seen other people do. That’s how we learn to walk, and talk, and write our names. We watch. We try. We fail. We repeat. We do. We explore. We teach. We repeat.

Learning is constant– It’s the learning cycle.

So if education wants students to be more creative with presentations, then students need to have more hands on work side by side with experts who can expose them to creative ways to do presentations. Then once they watch, try, fail, and repeat a few times, then eventually they will learn and be able to explore techniques further, and eventually be able to teach and lead others as well.  (And presentations aren’t the only things that this mindset can be applied to.)

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