FAIL!

Anyone in this education 2.0 world knows the theories that gaming brings out a whole different approach to learning. My kids recently watched a TED talk (I think by Jane McGonigal) about gaming not actually being a waste of time. 🙂

IMG_1953Here’s a screenshot from a popular game my kids play. I don’t even know what it’s called, but I do see them trying over and over and OVER again to get past certain levels. While failure at school means a bad grade and the implied NO COLLEGE FOR YOU, failure at these games means pick yourself up and try, try again.

My daughter worked for six weeks to get past one level. She just kept trying different strategies and approaches. Talk about scientific method. Try one way, if it doesn’t work, try another until you get it to work. Was she frustrated? Sure. Did she give up – nope. She kept coming back until she figured it out.

I admit it cracked me up to see that FAIL! screen come up over and over again. It just so strongly flies in the face of the traditional approach to education. This tenacity of trying over and over again is never rewarded at school. I know the practical reasons, but I don’t like the outcome and what that teaches kids.

iPad Music

My daughter, a soon-to-graduate senior in high school, is taking a well-deserved change this last trimester. We purposefully encouraged her to cut back formal high school learning (which she eagerly accepted) and instead, to set up a trimester learning about things she wants to in ways that work for her. (Perhaps I will blog more on this plan in the future.) Less homework and less structured activities has not, as I feared, led to a rampant increase in Netflix.

One of her goals was to increase time at the piano. She’s no longer taking formal lessons, but loves to play on her own and work through piano and vocal pieces.  She’s been playing over an hour a day – which never would have been possible with a super busy high school schedule. This is good not only for her as a musician, but good for her mind and soul. It’s good for creativity. It feeds an area of her that is not met in formal school

pianoipadI heard her playing something this morning that I didn’t recognize. As I walked into the living room, I see her with her iPad on the piano. She found an app that had guitar chords and the lyrics for hundreds (probably thousands) of songs. She was taking this info and playing them on the piano. She was having to refresh her music theory skills to remember all the chords, figure out the melodic line and then make the songs more complex by changing the chords.

Definitely a worthy learning experience, and a lovely accompaniment on a Sunday morning!

Rising Testing Opt-Out Movement

The Opt-Out or Refusal movement is gaining traction. According to this article by Laura McKenna in The Atlantic, nearly 5% of students in some districts are refusing to take the tests.

She relates a personal story about students becoming part of the movement. Of course kids are going to ask parents to let them miss the test. This is excellent — as long as students know why they are refusing the test. It’s not to have a morning off. It’s to let decision makers (which usually is not at the district level. It’s at a state and national level) know that students want education that does not fit into a standardized test.

Students AND parents need to be part of the conversation about testing. It is not up to the companies that profit from it, and who do you think has better access the legislators?

These protests should also serve as a reminder for decision-makers that parents and students are stakeholders in education policy and that community outreach must be part of any reform.

Then, too, they must justify WHY we need the tests. What do they prove? What benefit do students gain from them?

Legislators should not be the ones making the decision alone — or with the testing companies.