New Learning and Old-School Games
As a child, learning was playtime. When I was young, I spent most of my time alone and entertained myself by reading or by asking my mother question after question about the world around us- why was glue sticky? Why did leaves float but rocks sink? Learning was about discovery, not rote memorization. Much like the True Blue learners in Freid’s classifications, I wanted to learn simply to learn. I asked for experiment kits for holidays rather than Barbies (granted, I thought Barbies were scary).
However, as I got older and expectations changed, my love of learning dimmed as I aimed for grades and top honors rather than love of anything. Through class discussion, it seemed as though most of us enjoyed learning, even if we didn’t like school. Grades were paramount (which is to be expected in a sample of Honors students. Come on.) and learning was secondary. This is very in line with the progression of attitudes toward school as described by Freid. We also agreed that the teacher was an extremely important factor in our learning and enjoyment of the class.
My senior year, I had a fantastic set of teachers who truly loved the subjects that they taught. Namely, my Shakespeare Studies and Anatomy teachers. Both of these classes were electives, but I worked hard in them because I loved what we were learning. The classes were exciting, the teachers engaging, and the subject matter relevant to my life. This semester I’m taking General Psychology, and my understanding of Anatomy has given me a good foundation of biology to apply to the class. Thus, I’m actually learning long-term, rather than simply for a test. I use Shakespeare to know when to interact with an audience, how to give a presentation, or to have the confidence to use words that may not exist yet.
It’s interesting that in a highly competitive school environment where a GPA below 4.0 meant you were one of the Dumb Kids and AP classes were outfitted in (complicated and glitchy) SmartBoards, the classes most full of life were those with just discussion and notes, not power points or eCart quizzes. For this reason, many of the ideas of Learning in 2025 are strange to me. The emphasis of technology over reality and individual projects rather than teamwork seem counterintuitive to the highly collaborative world we are moving towards. These practices are already used (as described in Take Another Look Around You) even in the best of schools, so why is this being marketed as innovative?
The idea in Learning in 2025 of students using pharmaceutical and digital augmentations in order to perform immediately left an uneasiness in my stomach. How was this any different from popping some unprescribed Adderall before a test? But as noted in Game Of School, many parents are willing to pay $100 an hour for a private tutor for the SAT. All of these favor the affluent and can easily be seen as unfair, which leads us to the question- is school fair? Certainly the traditional brick-and-mortar schools favor traditional learners, though very few people are traditional learners anymore. We all could benefit by having individualized learning programs and options. Some could thrive in independent study, using Learning Agents as guides to keep them in a path they want to take their lives on. Under the current system, many bright students are left in the dust because of core requirements and classes, with students unable to graduate because though they love history and can tell you everything about the Civil War, they don’t know hydroxide from hydronium. Aspects such as this are already in use in Montessori primary schools and alternative schools, though public schools stagnate. The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that though we all agree that the world has changed and education needs to catch up, nobody can agree on the best methods due to the individual nature of learning.
Tolisano, Silvia R. “Take Another Look Around You.” Langwitches.org. N.p., 24 May 2013. Web. 8 Sept. 2014.