Could I have my sandbox back, please?
Picking up on a great thread on self-regulation, #collective learning and “developing as independent learners” in Jeffrey Keefer’s post for #change11, I am having a ‘wait a minute’, inner-voice, gut-reaction moment here…aren’t all learners self-directed or self-regulated to some degree already?
I’m picturing how pre-schoolers learn in a sandbox. They choose whether to engage with others, to play side by side (but not really interact) or to explore independently. They will determine which toys to use if they want to build a structure and, in doing so, they learn the differences between the function and effectiveness of tools as diverse as a bucket, shovel, sieve, shoe or bare hands. They might experiment with dry sand versus wet sand and see what that produces. They might observe another child’s actions and consider them successful, worth replicating, or not. They might ask an adult or another child for help, or not.
There is no set objective in the sandbox, no pre-determined standard for achievement (other than the adult on site having a moment’s rest while the kids play, perhaps.) It’s totally self-directed: build a sandcastle or don’t. Sit in the sand and look at the sky. Dig a hole. Eat a snack. Eat some sand. Bury your own hand. Observe the bugs crawling around the edge. It’s all possible, even likely, and it’s all part of learning how so many things work (sand, sandboxes, tools, relationships, construction, demolition, authority and so on).
These ‘learners’ might find the experience fun and engaging, for a period of time well beyond the expected attention span for their age. They could just as easily find it boring and irrelevant and off they go to the water table instead. They might explore what happens when you throw sand – are there consequences? reactions? motivation to continue or abandon the task? All of this is learning ‘on the job’ in the sandbox.
One of the things I like best about moocs is that I feel some inner part of me as a learner has been reawakened and nurtured after 19 years of formal schooling and a dozen more years in the work place. Self-regulation within informal, social or networked learning is what comes naturally to me, perhaps to all learners. I have freedom to choose! I’m also starting to see how formal learning institutions silence that instinct of self-regulation because of how obvious it is, whether stated or not, that someone else is supposedly in control.
I wonder if our mooc experience will give us opportunities to influence the formal systems to let the self-regulation and explorer spirit flourish among all learners again? Could there be a sandbox inside every classroom? Better yet, could every classroom become a sandbox?
From → Smarter worker