Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Food for Thought

So here we were, thinking about knowledge as part of one of the course strands for the Mind Lab course, Week 1: Thought Leadership and Epistemology.  Not an easy task I must say, when you are struggling at the end of a long day to keep thinking, well aware that your brain is crying out for some rest and nutrition!

We explore knowledge; is it, as our ancestors believed, a belief based on believing it is what we know? (Work that one out.)  Or is it empirical and experiential: I see and do it therefore I know it.
Kent Lofgren helps us out, and I admit I've had to look at this again.

So what do we think knowledge is? The members of our table all look at each other and because we are teachers and we are familiar with the tools and process, we each grab a felt pen and start our brainstorm.  It's a rich discussion and everyone participates. No wall flowers here!

The playdoh comes out. Can we make a physical representation?  Someone starts to roll worms and we start interconnecting the worms in a squiggly maze of spaghetti which we think is much like a brain.

Now a group task.  You have, people, thirty minutes to plan, execute and upload a video representation of what you think knowledge is.

A moment of stunned silence then we're off again. The elements of our chart are recited as worm after worm mounds in the centre of our drawing: facts, cultural input, sensory input... Hey, this is pretty good.  Let's repeat it and see if we can film it in one take.  Maybe two, after Lynley asks us a question in the middle of our film.  Whoops.

It's a bit noisy, and at 2.42 minutes, not the carefully crafted and edited minute that we had envisaged. I've got the ipad and struggle with the realisation that I haven't actually used imovie and start to panic.  We decide to upload it to Youtube and to the moodle site as is.

Interesting.  We put students in this sort of stress all the time.  Group dynamics, resources and skill levels are tested.

But is it wrong?  Should we have had more carefully scaffolded or supportive instructions? Maybe, but maybe not.  We need students who can recognise problems and come up with solutions themselves.

I test this at school this week.  A group of students want to make and sell jelly cups as a fundraiser.  It becomes obvious that they haven't planned it out.  Do I help or do I just ask questions to help them reflect? They look to me several times to "save" them.  I resist.  I listen. I watch.  I've done the right thing.  They learn far more by having to think and reflect for themselves.

Later I see Ella.  She is helping to organise a game on the field this lunch time, but is walking around the eating area.  "I decided I better advertise Mrs Hyde," she says. "I found out from the jelly cups experience that I need to let people know what is going on."

Food for thought.