Footprints of Emergence: Nov 18-29, 2013

Natural Learning?

Natural Learning?

by Kathleen Zarubin -
Number of replies: 17

Hi I am not sure this is completley related but I think some aspects are 'interesting' ..  (re-posted from a convo I am having in Linked In) ... 

LLN - 'Learning to Read'  (related more to children - but interesting?)

with all our focus and discussions on 'LLN' in Vet (adults)  I still thought it was interesting to stumble across this post (& the discussions) and then re-consider the early years ... 

one of my take outs is the idea of IF there is INTEREST  and a desire and the right environment -  reading happens ...  

but then other times even if there is 'no interest'  sometimes a process based approach has to be 'enforced' (?)  because being able to read is a vital skill .... 

Maybe even with adults sometimes it has to be said -  Yup this might be boring BUT 'repeat after me ....  '  - I don't know, this goes against every fibre of my being ....

I think I do come from the school of thought that says create the right environment and the learning will happen ...  but maybe not always and not for everyone ... 

On the other hand how do we avoid turning people OFF learning because we make them 'start here'  when they have already gone past that ????  

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201311/the-reading-wars-why-natural-learning-fails-in-classrooms

(sorry if you think this is 'irrelevant' - feel free to delete :) )

 

In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Re: 19 November Webinar "Natural Learning" ?

by Jenny Mackness -

Hi Kathleen - no this is not irrelevant - quite the opposite - because you have highlighted so clearly the relationship between the environment and emergent learning - which is what our research is all about.

You have also provided a very clear example of circumstances in which emergent learning might not happen and have raised the question of whether some learning requires a prescribed approach.

The question of early years reading is such a good example of all this. Years ago I was an early years teacher and have been through the 'should we let reading emerge through a real books approach to reading?' i.e. just let children handle and browse through books they like and learn to read because they love books - or should we teach them to read through a structured introduction to phonics and a decoding approach?

The link you provide as to why natural learning fails in classrooms definitely fits with my experience. Many, but not all, children simply did not learn to read 'in school' with the 'real' books approach and needed something more structured - although I so wanted them to learn through the 'real' books approach.

This relates to our thinking about getting the balance between prescription and emergent learning right for purpose.

Thanks so much for this great example Kathleen. Can you tell us more abut your experience with this?

In reply to Jenny Mackness

Re: 19 November Webinar "Natural Learning" ?

by Kathleen Zarubin -

So pleased re own thread etc ...

Can you tell us more abut your experience with this? ... (attention re-captured rather than 'expereince' LOL - although I began my 'educator' journey as primary school teacher many many moons ago :)  

In Australia we are all very (re)focused on "LLN" in the workplace / for adults. - so much so, we have 'scholarships' / 101 courses & qauilifications 1001+ newspaper articles (the rankings are dropping the rankings are dropping - ie: The sky is falling - chicken little style) ...

.... Debates & arguements & blame game .. -  Higher Ed sector says - it is high schools fault - High school  say - it is primary school fault - & then it is family's fault ...

Our Federal Minister for Education wants "More Back to Basics" - the 3 R - & we will TEST our teachers  (that will fix it!)  ....   and while we are it BRING BACK ROTE LEARNING!  ...... and maybe even the cane - ..... (I am not sure why physical punishment seems to get chucked in when we talk about literacy ...  but it always seems to pop its head up ....  deep sigh)  ....

 

Anyway ---  I am even getting caught up in it: as in I am exploring doing a Qualification with a focus on LLN re "Adults" ....   

 

I too loved your comment ".... although I so wanted them to learn through the 'real' books approach."  

 

I am so sceptical of tests and results and % and scores ...  even though I AM now a full time 'Assessor'  but from the recognition of prior learning - 'mapped' to standards / benchmarks in a competency based framework - most of the time ... 

 

I don't know.  I *think*  a lot of my 'thinking' on and around this is still at the edge of chaos  re a 'footprint'  :) 

 

I do know this ....   any and all 'literacy'  HAS to be grounded in meaning & context & most likely some kind of 'need or desire' .... 

 

2 examples: 

a) The sentence ....   "A cat sat on the mat."  -  Could you 'teach / train' any one to 'decode' those shapes into leters then into words & then say it out loud .... ? 

Yes you can ....  BUT if you have never seen 'a cat'  have no idea of what 'a mat' is and have no comprehension of the act of  'sitting' ... 

Is it even possible for you to understand what you have read?   I don't think so ....

 

b) My adult son - LOVES 'maths'  - he has a prue maths uni degree - complete with imaginary negative numbers etc etc etc ... 

He LOVES  talking to me all about it.  I understand maybe 95% of his words ...  maybe 50 - 65% of the 'concepts'  ... about 5% of his formuals & calculations  - and probably even less than that of his 'fascination & passion'  LOL ... 

I know, because he tells me and I believe him - that his  imaginary ... (or are they called unreal ... see how much I don't remember :) )  negative numbers 'help build bridges'  (yaahhh ...)   .... but as for any comprehension of the how or why ... zero! - even though he has spent HOURS  trying to explain it to me in 101 ways ...

 

In fact he will say to me 'Mum your eyes are doing it again' - by which he means my eyes just glaze over ...  It is not that he is boring- far from it!  He is an excited great natural born 'teacher' actually & as his Mum I LOVE hearing and seeing his passion  ...   I just 'don't get it'  and more the pont I think is I have no need to make myself (?)  really understand it all

(I know enough - sort of  - to be to talk with him about his passion - but you know what I mean ) ...

So I think a need / drive / benfit must be there - and maybe it is these different levels of 'benfit' that impacts of the type of learning.  

 

Learning as an outgrowth of interest   is so very different to 'learning' to ONLY pass the test - get the tick ...  and then move on ...  :)  

 

 

 

 

 

In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Natural Learning?

by Kathleen Zarubin -

as a side note - one of the things that did really capture me is the concept of the perfect formula which is found in so many things we find 'beautiful'  .. 

I still do not really undersntad the formula - but the fact  it is  'found' in so many things really intrigued me.  -  technically knowing this thing / theroy exisits has no real (assessable anyway :) ) value to me ... I just 'like' the idea (lol)

just 2 just found refs if anyone else is interested ... :)

http://www.goldennumber.net/ 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio

 

 

(Edited by Sylvia Currie - original submission Thursday, 21 November 2013, 1:27 PM - changed subject heading)

In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Re: Natural Learning?

by Roy Williams -

Kathleen, I have been working in the Mathematics Dept. for some years (as an elearing and e-assessment designer, and my Head of Dept's inaugural lecture was on "the unreasonable beauty of mathematics" - I can understand the beauty, but (also) not always the formulae.  

But I have dabbled in programming (via LOGO) and do know what an 'elegant' solution to a programming problem looks like, and it does bring satisfaction and joy to the learner (me in this case). 

In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Re: Natural Learning?

by Sylvia Currie -

Kathleen, I pulled your last post out of a different thread to give it one of its own. I hope you don't mind. You raise such excellent points, and as Jenny mentioned, examples of where emergent learning might not happen. 

Your words "I don't know, this goes against every fibre of my being" emphasized for me how often in life we're nested together expecting to accomplish something, expecting to learn, but we all come at it with different passions and beliefs. 

In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Re: Natural Learning?

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

My daughter is severely dyslexic/dysgraphic with an above average IQ. The schools imposed reading requirement was a nightmare of humiliation. For example in Grade 7, the class was reading the Hobbit and the teacher wanted to remove her because she "couldn't read it". I knew she would love the story, so I finally convinced the teacher to let her access it thru books on tape. She loved the book.

I pulled her out of school that year and home schooled her until Grade Eleven and she blossomed. She learned to make movies and would arrange performances with the neighbourhood kids, she learned to thoroughly research what interested her and developed a love of science.

Today as a young adult she has a successful photography business and reads regularly even if she is still slower than the norm.

I never doubted that she would be a reader because she grew up surrounded by books and was a story teller from a young age. She taught me to question the purpose of curriculum and our assumptions about learning.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Natural Learning?

by Jenny Mackness -

Absolutely Deidre. I can completely relate to this. My eldest son was very very slow to read - He struggled right through school - but now at the age of 36 he is an avid reader. For him school, just like for your daughter, but for different reasons, was not the right environment. I never thought of schooling him at home, probably because I had a full time job.

I think these experiences speak volumes about what we mean by learning environment and the influence that the environment has on learning.

I wonder if you would be able to draw a footprint of your home schooling learning environment. That would be fascinating.

In reply to Jenny Mackness

Re: Natural Learning?

by DR. ILA ALLEN -

Jenny,

My GF daughter struggled with reading and it drove her up the wall and her daughter felt the tension.  I told her she needs to be patient and find something that she likes to do and then find a book for it.  Now, I do not have children but I know that if something is hard one needs to ease that person into it.  So many children take time to develop in areas that others excel  (girls faster than boys). Also, the learning space such as school is not always the right place for other kids are cruel (teasing, bullying) and the teacher may not want to take the time when there are a zillion other kids in the classroom.

In reply to Jenny Mackness

Re: Natural Learning?

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -

I was working full time as a teacher when I homeschooled my daughter.

In the evening we would go over what she was going to work on and what resources she would use, then I left her to it. One time I came home and she had wired the house with a rudimentry alarm system because she was interested in learning about electricity, another time she did an exstensive pictoral representation about the history of rascism. Sometimes she was just mundanely working on a computerized math course. She wrote and directed two Fringe plays, created a video that won national awards and worked as a stage manager for a professional company during this time something she would not have done otherwise.

I didn't monitor her closely because I was more interested in her pursuing what interested her so she could regain the love of learning I saw her loosing in the reqular school. Luckily she is a deeply curious person so I didn't worry about lack of initiative. I just worried about getting the resources she needed.

In reply to Deirdre Bonnycastle

Re: Natural Learning?

by Jenny Mackness -

Goodness Deidre - homeschooling and working full time - that's quite something! I can see why the school system didn't work for your daughter. She must have been far too much of her own person for them to cope with - but paradoxically this is what we want from education, isn't it?

In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Re: Natural Learning?

by DR. ILA ALLEN -

Kathleen,

I find that interesting with regards to reading.  I know people who literally hate to read and I'm never without my iPad with all of my books.  I have 4 nephews from the age of 7 (twins), 11, and 22 they all love to read.  We all read to them as they were growing up for that is what my mother did we me and my siblings.  So the "right" environment may need to start at home as a foundation and then the child/adult will have that base to go from. Natural learning I think stems from curiosity you know lke the kid who always ask why all the time, tinker with stuff, etc.  Anytime you "force" someone the outcome is not good and it creates a negative experience, hence leading into a negative space. 

In reply to DR. ILA ALLEN

Re: Natural Learning?

by Roy Williams -

Ila, agreed.  The best advice we ever got about "what should we read to our children / give them to read? (from an owner of a bookseller), was simple: something that will make them love reading.  

In reply to Roy Williams

Re: Natural Learning?

by Jenny Mackness -

This is a fascinating discussion and what comes out of it for me is something to do with readiness for learning.

I think that comes through in Roy's description of how little children learn to read and write. The problem is that here in the UK little children are often 'forced' into reading and writing far too early when they are not ready. The number of times as an early years teacher I had to say to parents ' do you really think that at the age of xx your child is not going to be able to read' - in other words - what's the rush - but they wanted fluent readers by the age of 4 or younger - and as we know many countries do not start formal reading classes until after the age of 7.

So is there a relationship between learning readiness and emergent learning - both for adults and children?

In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Re: Natural Learning?

by Roy Williams -

Hi Kathleen, as Jenny says, below, its very relevant.  

Much of what I learnt about emergence comes from Montessori preschools.  The approach starts a little differently, in my experience.  It assumes children want to explore writing first, and in an embodied way - so ... they get to isolate a few letters (the f of food - see Sesame Street) is a favourite of mine, and food is such an interesting thing for young children, who love to explore what 'is' food and what 'isn't'. 

Then they can explore sandpaper letters, and the practice of writing one letter at a time, then put them together, and so on - reading comes much later, as it is not - in the same way - based on the development of agency in the child, and it is someone else's text. (Reading aligns with agency later on, sure, but not at the beginning).  

Our eldest daughter was going through this process at the time her sister Alice was born, and the next step for her was to write "Alice", and then to repeat that - almost without pause, for 3 days - she did little else during this time, except to write Alice, Alice, Alice .... until she decided she had 'got' it.  Then she left that behind, and went on to other things. 

Point is, the process was driven by the availability of 'intentional' learning objects and learning practices, which she could choose from, and pursue until she had decided she had got it / mastered it, and then never had to return to it, or be 'assessed' in doing it.

Internal motivation, linked into 'intentionallly designed' learning objects - (see the discussion elsewhere in these forums on 'intention', and what we might call the dance between the intention of the open learning environment / structure and the emerging intention of the learner) - if sustained, can go a long way (all the way? I dont know - it depends on whether the designer is astute enough to recognise the emergent intentionality of the learner, and translate/transcribe that into intentionally designed learning objects / learning practices - its a big ask for anyone, and we're not all designers - certainly not at that level. 

More problematic is base 10, which Napoleon imposed on us to the exclusion of all other counting systems (although some survive, like our base 60/12/24 for time). There is nothing intuitive about base 10 - I for one much prefer 12 (or 5 if you must), but Montessori (who was firstly a mathematician) managed to design intentional learning objects for that too - like the wonderful 'pink tower'. 

There's also a whole trajectory of 'embodied' learning to consider, and its role in emergence and 'natural' learning - not only at preschool level - but that's another story.

In reply to Roy Williams

Re: Natural Learning?

by Kathleen Zarubin -

Hi all - so pleased the concept is seen as 'relevant' .  Roy I love the fact you brought up writing.  Yes while 'being read to' can occur from birth (or earlier :) )  -  I have always thought writing comes slightly 'first'  - but the action of (almost pretend) writing ....

 

A favourite game for all the little toddlers (18 months + ) in my life has been 'love letters' - especailly when a few people are gathered.   A pile of 'post it notes' (or any bit of paper),  a few pencils .....  The little ones write 'a letter'  and then deleiver it to a big person ... who is delighted to get it and asks ... "What does my letter say?' 

 

Almost always at first it 'I love you'   :)  

 

There is no presure here - it is fun.  Some times I might 're-write' what it says underneath ... 

 

Over time (sometimes just the course of a couple of evenings)  the 'writing' goes from just scribble to real  'up and down - joined lines'  with a break and then more 'up/down line'  - visually it looks like the concept of writing ...

 

Then in the / family gathering the older kids get in on it often playing along / sometimes trying to take over (with younger ones around 2-3 loudly complaining I want to do my own writing etc etc ...  )

 

One of my favourite memories was with my friend's son - about 4 ... as the love letters are flying - he comes to me with a picture of a truck  and before I can say anything - he says to me ...  "Kath this one doesn't say anything - It is a truck and trucks don't talk .... "  (or words to that effect ..) 

 

THEN out of the blue - we all ended up (adults and kids included) having this great convo on the 'concept' of hieroglyphics - phones and tablets at the ready - finding examples,  discussing how you need to know the 'code' - kids making thier own 'picture writing letters ...'  (it was crazy and went on for ages) 

 

Then at kindy a couple of days later - one of the kids told the 'story' of picture writing at kindy ... and on it goes ... 

 

I do not know exactly what is big take out message in the above except I *think* we all (or almost all) have a drive to communicate.  Talking is one way (with all the associated 'things')  -  visual representation  (words / pictures etc) is another .. (& ofcourse others as well ) 

 

But it is the drive to communicate -

capture a thought - pass it on - have it able to be recieved - add / or substract or change something(?)  -   return to sender - & then repeat ...

that is the basic drive we are all tapping into ....   always (??)  ....

 

What do you think?

 

In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Re: Natural Learning?

by Roy Williams -

Kathleen, OK, I'll give it a try, to unpack the basic drive (health warning, I love semiotics - see here, for example - it's an analysis of two pictures of "The Pope sat on the chair") ... 

I would say

  • we all want to be in touch with each other (figuratively and literally) 
  • so, we use touch, glances, movement .. 
  • we move on to sounds, to language
  • all of which leave impressions - on the mind, the imagination, the subconscious ...
  • then on to physical inscriptions - in the air (dance, music), on the ground (sandcastles, castles, highways), on the body (ours and the bodies of others)  
  • and in the process we become part of communities ...(like this online one) 
In reply to Kathleen Zarubin

Re: Natural Learning?

by Scott Johnson -

Kathleen,

What I noticed right away was the gathering of people in a group activity. Together we can imitate each other and be in the presence of supportive cues flying all over the place. I'd prefer to call this bonding over a case of learning.

School removes the simple human desire for belonging and emphasizes the individual. Not to mention presenting a value system held dear by people you don't know--and normally wouldn't associate with. School plunges kids into a system of interaction where the purpose is not to show mutual support or being of the group, but to perfom in an "acceptable" manner.

Somewhere it was decided the best model of the world to display at school is neutral and de-personalized. The equivilant of life's journey designed by the Greyhound Bus interior design department.

This caught my attention for no reason in particular while looking through the I Ching for advice on emergence: #25 Wu Wang / Innocence (The Unexpected). We can let Roy work on the meaning:-)