The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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First the work, and then the theory

I love this quote shared by Gary Stager via the Daily Papert.

“They first learn engineering, then from there they progress to learning the ideas behind it, and then they learn the mathematics. This would be inventing, it’s a little probe toward inventing a different kind of content. It’s not a different way of teaching; it’s not pedagogy. It’s different knowledge. It’s a good example of turning knowledge – turning learning – upside-down. Instead of starting with this abstract stuff we had from the nineteenth century, let’s start with stuff that’s really engaging for the children, out of which the deeper ideas can develop.” Seymour Papert, 2004

Instead of students learning a bunch of theory, and then being able to apply it to practice, they would engage in building and in creating, which would provide a need and a motivation for the knowledge behind the thing that they are building. One thing that is missing in great degrees from our school is motivation. Why do I need to learn this math when I can see no use for it?

It’s not to say that there aren’t fascinating ideas which are worth learning without something practical to support them, but this is not the general tendency of school. We do not usually teach (with obvious exceptions being good teachers) that which is interesting. We teach practical knowledge. We tend to say, "Oh, we’d like kids to be able to be doctors. Well, what do they need to know? Let’s teach them that." with the result that students do not see the connection between what we teach, and what they can do with it.