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Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Happens When You Give Students the Control? Part 2

I wanted to follow up on one of the stories I told in the last post. When I gave a group of 4th graders the freedom to learn about anything they wanted, they chose to purse the answer to the question: What is it about the human brain which causes it to make the decisions that it does? This question continues to floor me that it came out of the mouth’s of ten year old children. When they realized that they couldn’t google the answer, they looked for more sources. They then came up with the idea to ask a “super smart scientist.” They sought out scientists who study the brain. I emailed them, and Dr. David Wingate from MIT graciously agreed to spend 30 min with these amazing fourth graders.

I was very proud of our kids for both their questions for Dr. Wingate, and for the way they interacted with him. Below is a few excerpts of our skype conversation with him this past Monday.

As I ponder how these students both formulated their question, and how they went about trying to find the answer, I am struck with two things:

  • This was their problem. They wanted to know the answer to this question. When we give students the power to decide what they want to learn, they will go above and beyond the “classroom.”

  • Passion Driven Learning is more a mirror of how we all learn now. When I want to learn about something, I just go and learn it. I don’t usually take a class, I simply go out on the web, or find people to help me, and hunker down and learn. This is exactly what these students did (and are still doing).

1 comment:

  1. THanks for sharing the video and the experience of this elementary class. I thInk that passion driven learning has great potential, however I think that we are going to need to do some work to restore the passion for learning in the upper grades.

    I did what I call the "FedEx project" with my high school students. It's a projecet that allows the to research something they are interested in. I have always been surprised that the most difficult part of the project is choosing what to research. It's almost as if high school students have become to used to being told who to do that they have lost their curiosity.

    I'm glad you are starting this type of project with younger students. They need regular exposure to this type of learning to keep the fire alive!

    Here is the link to the details of my FedEx project for those who are interested: Bit.ly/hEM8ab

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