Learning Conversations

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Month: April 2010

Learning Through Play

My youngest one is starting Kindergarten this Fall and on Friday, we attended a PALS (Parents As Learning Supporters) session at his new school. I love that the school is bringing in parents/guardians to see what kids will be doing in their classrooms and talking about the approach to learning that we shouldn’t expect a highly academic focus, that children this age learn best by learning through play!

There will be four session in the PALS series this first one was focused around the alphabet. We used stamps to make name tags, then stamp whatever words the children wanted. We made letters out of playdough. We played a matching game of upper case to lower case letters. And then we used fishing rods (with magnets at the end) to pick up fish (letters/pictures with paper clips on them). My son loved it all!

Then the children were ushered off to the community kitchen while the adults got a short lesson on preparing children for Kindergarten and the importance of reading. The speaker told us about making a point of talking about the parts of a book, of pointing out the title page, and of showing that we read left to right, starting on the left page. We heard about the importance of letting kids see us reading and having books in the house, so that they know that its a valued activity in our lives. And that, no matter what the language at home, just keep reading aloud to our children so that they are exposed to the rhythms, vocabulary and ideas that come from a variety of books. All wonderful stuff!

And then the speaker started talking about the importance of limiting screen time for our children that good old fashioned books are critical for children.

I bit my tongue didn’t want to be that parent on the first day, I guess!

But as I reflected on the mornings experience, I put together some feedback via email to the Principal of the school (who I know quite well). I thought about learning through play and the role of technology in a primary classroom.

I completely agree with the importance of reading and also believe there needs to be a balance of appropriate screen time. But a recent post from Will Richardson (http://weblogg-ed.com/2010/no-actually-youre-out-of-balance/) got me thinking about what balance really means particularly that balance isn’t about excluding technology.

It made me thing about the fact that, to this generation, play includes technology and it should, because it is an important part of being a literate citizen. My children are not literate if they do not know how to read, write, communicate AND search for/assess the validity of information. That means that comfort with technology is just as important as comfort with writing instruments or any number of other tools that we equip our kids to use.

My point, to make a long story short, is that I believe its important to start shifting our attitudes to include technology as a part of play and learning, right from the beginning. Penny Lindballe tells the story of lingering societal prejudices against technology well in this post (http://web20parents.blogspot.com/2009/11/real-digital-divide.html) its worth a read too!

There’s a reason we don’t wait until middle school to introduce a pencil, isn’t there? Time to treat technology the same way.

Shared leadership vs the voice in my head

Ive started working on a new project recently and I’m darned excited about it too!

We’ve got a fairly major technology change to deal with and we want to minimize the stress of such a change by putting ease of use and high value at the center of all we do. But we’ve also got a core group of leaders that understand the possibilities inherent in disruption

I feel like we have an opportunity here to create solutions that support a breadth and depth of benefits including community engagement, including parents in learning, empowering students, supporting relationships, creating shared learning, making learning visible, supporting leadership, etc

And the project team is on board to model all that we believe open and transparent communication, shared leadership, collaborative problem solving, listening without judgment, seeking positive exemplars, etc

You can see why I’m excited, right?

So this is where all of the conversations I have on Twitter (and with anyone who will engage with me on a day to day basis!!) hit the reality of having to DO what we’ve talked about. The values I believe in are lofty and probably more than a little idealistic.

I sat in a meeting yesterday, talking about approaches and next steps. There is no clear leadership hierarchy. We have many strong personalities involved. The project sponsor has purposefully brought us all together as thought leaders in different ways. This is growing into a great team

Yet I caught myself falling into old paradigms. I started noticing the voice in my head

Listening and looking around the room, I thought Ok, I thought I was the project manager on this why are there all these conversations that have been going on that I haven’t been included in? Deep breath I had to talk myself through it. This isn’t a big deal people have to feel free to collaborate without limitation no ones trying to exclude you

That made me think Ive struggled a bit during the team-forming phase of this project trying to figure out what role I’m supposed to be in and whats expected of me. Ive sat back at times, unsure whether I’m supposed to be speaking up (to the frustration of the sponsor!!)

And it finally drilled home today this is the discomfort of doing things differently than I have before. In previous projects, Ive wanted to know it all, to have a handle on everything that’s going on (read control) not in a malicious way, but because that was the way Id always been successful before.

It was a great big ah-ha moment! This is what shared leadership looks like! No ones in charge here, were making decisions together, we have to rely on each other, we have to learn to trust each other, were allowing each other not to know it all. In order to allow each person to bring their individual strengths and perspectives to the table, I also have to acknowledge that I cant do everything and therefore I shouldn’t control everything either!

Wow! Its incredibly freeing and incredibly frightening, all at the same time!

I like this journey

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