Curiosity comes first

I love the three rules that Ramsey Musallam has come up with to ensure that the kids he teaches are actually learning.

  1. Curiosity comes first – Questions can be window to great instruction, but not the other way around.
  2. Embrace the mess – Trial and error can still be a part of what we do every single day.
  3. Practice reflection – What we do is important, it deserves our care, but it also deserves our revision.

I’m not a teacher, but I loved this talked. This seems to be similar to what we’ve been trying to do with our son. Between Joanne and me, we often say that we want to do our best to follow his interests, rather than forcing our interests and expectations on him.

He asks questions, and in response we do crafts or go on adventures or do science experiments. They’re decidedly messy since we often come up with them to answer an question he’s asked. They don’t always work. We often have to backtrack and start all over again. Our attempts to make a simple generator failed twice before we actually got it to work.

When I first listened to the talk wasn’t sure about whether or not we were practicing reflection, but I realised that Joanne and I discuss this between ourselves a fair bit. We try to figure out if what we’re doing is working. The one change I’d like to make is to involve him more in these discussions.

There was also this:

If we place technologies before student inquiry, we could be robbing ourselves of our greatest too as teachers: our student’s questions.

I worked for an educational software company for a number of years. We let our son play games (both educational and otherwise) on the iPhone. But I’d much rather he try to work out a problem in the real world. I’m not anti-iPhone, but I think that a lot of educational software is very limited.

When working on a problem in the real world, my son is fantastic at thinking outside the box. Often, he’s better at this than either of his parents. I remember once Joanne and I were discussing how to clean the straws in some of his covered cups. We were saying we’d need to get a thin snake brush like the one that came with my Camelback cleaning kit, but a bit smaller. He listened to the whole thing. The next day he brought Joanne a pipe cleaner from his craft supplies and asked her if that would work for cleaning the straws. We still use the pipe cleaners to this day.

And that’s my problem with most of the educational software I’ve seen: it’s too constrained. It’s impossible for kids to think outside the box because there’s nothing other than the box. (This is also one of my issues with standardized testing.) The pipe cleaner solution wouldn’t have been an option.