Thanks to a Twitter today, I saw an inspiring website article today in Edutopia.com by Mitchel Resnick, entitled, "Kindergarten Is the Model for Lifelong Learning."
I encourage you to read it at: http://bit.ly/KhLh6
Dr. Resnick directs the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT's Media Lab, from whence many other good ideas have emanated: Sherry Turkle's publications on the sociological implications of computer chat (subsuming the billions of text chats, I'm guessing ), plus Seymour Papert's seminal work 40 years ago with Logo’s Turtle computer software.
There's lots more from that MIT corps, but suffice it to say Resnick's conclusions are simple and worth our consideration:
"…kindergartners playfully create stories, castles, and paintings with one another, they develop and refine their abilities to think creatively and work collaboratively, precisely the abilities most needed to achieve success and satisfaction in the 21st century." - Edutopia
He talks too about a new computer program they developed for kindergartners, called "Scratch", a free download at: http://scratch.mit.edu/ and all the community interest and participation evoked by a Kg student whom he anonymously calls "BalaBethany", a malaprop name if there ever was one, made up by permuting the real-life name of Bela Banathy, one of the founders and forerunners of instructional systems thinking. So, it's clear Dr. Resnick still likes to play too.
As another reviewer noted, many of the sound points made remind the reader of Robert Fulgham's classic book some years ago, "All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten." It's all true of course: holding hands while crossing the street, say you're sorry, don't hit, flush, and the biggest word of all: Look! And that last one is, of course, what education is all about.
Why can't the powerful model of kindergarten be extended into the upper grades? That's a good question. And there are far too few "good" answers. Among the biggest obstacles is we group our learners by how old they are instead of what their needs are. Followed closely by the fact that there's little chance to play and learn in groups, talking is not tolerated, naps are not encouraged when your brain is tired (see my earlier blog on "Sleeping Students), there's no milk and cookies, and learning is way too often boring and no longer fun.
After kindergarten, labels get hung on learners like an albatross and too many of them give up and become negative self-fulfilling prophecies: "I didn't think I could do it, either." How sad!
What can we do? Bring some of the fun back to learning. Break some of the rules….especially the ones you think you can get away with: more collaborative group work, answer fewer questions but ask more, let them teach you, give them the tools to show what they know. Say, "Look!" more often., “Hey, everyone, look at this!”
When the lights start going back on in their eyes, you'll know it’s working.