The 12th key to learning.
is key in learning? This is the twelfth of a number of keys that are
meant to bring understanding about what learning is and how leaning can
be improved by understanding the message of those keys. This key is
about how we learn by doing. This key is about how 'hands on' creates
interest, makes meaningful, elaborates, and builds on other information
in the mind to make learning better and easier.
do we mean by hands on learning?
on is actively
examining the universe through trial and error, or through physically
testing theoretical hypotheses. In this sense, all human beings are
scientists exploring the universe. The first thing a child does in
learning is pick up and manipulate objects. It is both a means of
running experiments to assess theories, and also through iteration, is
the means by which children can find the limits within which theories
can function. Hands on is when we examine the universe personally. The
following appeared in 'Wired' from Will Wright the man behind the Sims
series of computer games:
watch a kid with a new video game. The last thing they do is read the
manual. Instead, they pick up the controller and start bashing the
buttons to see what happens. This isn't a random process; it's the
essence of scientific method... It's a rapid cycle of hypothesis,
experiment and analysis. And it's a fundamentally different take on
problem-solving than the linear, read-the-manual first approach of
as natural learning.
learning by doing, as
described above, is much more than a description of a specific type of
learning. It is a description of how normal or natural learning takes
place. This is how babies learn. Watch one and see. It is how young
children have always approached learning unless adults intervene and
insist that they consult books first. It is how people in primitive
tribes learn. And as Will Wright explains it is how a scientist must
learn. First a scientist forms an hypothesis, then he tests the
hypothesis by doing something, then he analyses what happens. If
expectation failure occurs then the scientist forms a new hypothesis
and the process begins again. This type of learning is not only the
most efficient, it is the most natural. Learning by reading books or
listening to lectures is not only less efficient, but also less
natural. Learning by doing embeds the thing learned in a matrix of
connections to all the other things that we know. The information is
elaborated and fused into our models of reality. Rather than just
adding to what we know, it causes a fundamental restructuring of what
we know. All this allows it to be recalled easily as opposed to
information heard, or read, or even viewed. Thus this type of learning
is far more efficient. This learning by doing is actually the learning
of a set of skills. These skills are both physical skills and mental
the other hand humanity has accumulated over
time a vast quantity of information (potential knowledge) which is our
heritage. If we had to learn everything by 'hands on' examining the
universe we would in fact end up learning very little of the vast
accumulated knowledge that is our heritage. This is because we
would be discovering everything all over again. It is often possible to
take much of this heritage into our minds whole. When we listen to a
lecture or read a book we are attempting to swallow this knowledge
whole, without testing it personally our selves. If the information
fits with what we already know we can simply assimilate the knowledge
into our minds. Or if it does not fit we accommodate it into our minds.
That is to say we change information already in our minds so the new
information will fit. This is why learning from books and lectures is
often so difficult. Often the information simply does not fit with what
we know, and we are being asked to restructure our minds without
testing that information in the real world. When this happens, we can
end up just remembering data for a short period of time, sometimes only
long enough to pass an exam, without having any understanding of its
application in the real world.
it is less efficient learning has to be accomplished mostly as part of
accommodating and assimilating our knowledge heritage. However, at the
same time the presentation of such knowledge tends to be very abstract,
especially as it is presented in the 'tell and test' form for learning
in schools. What students need is practical real world examples to
ground these abstractions. Just how much of this concreteness is needed
varies greatly with both age and learning experience. However, without
some 'hands on' practical concrete examples to give it some connection
with reality, knowledge can become completely obscure. It simply slips
out of touch with reality and thus becomes difficult to learn, to
understand, and to be almost impossible to recall. This is especially
so after a reasonable length of time, or after it has been tested in an
exam. When students exclaim with humor that, as they have passed their
exam they can forget all this stuff, it seems so true as not to be
funny at all.
The need for concrete invariants in young
When children are young, from when they are born
till they are about 18, they are highly motivated by one form of the
need to know. This is actually the need to build a model of reality or
draw a map of reality. This model, or map, reflects reality and allows
us to make the world predictable. This is what Karl Popper
refers to as the need for universal invariants. It is, what is, and
will always be, a mirror of a stable and orderly universe. It takes the
form of a web or a myriad of interlacing conjectures about reality.
The younger a child is, the more random and like
guesswork these conjectures are, and the more prone they are to being
wrong. Piaget and others have shown us the many misconceptions children
have about the world. Also they have shown how the younger a child is,
the more invalid these conjectures are. For instance children often use
words in a way that indicates they do not really understand the word's
meaning. For example, to an infant, a cow may mean any large animal.
Or infants cannot comprehend such ideas as conservation of matter and
will tend to think the amount of matter has changed if its shape has
The chaos of anomalies in a model of
Maria Montessori went on to show how children went
through a stage where they become extremely frustrated with their
inability to make the world predictable. She showed they have a
desperate need for their world to be consistent. She gives many
examples of what are clearly an inability to deal with common
conjectures that are invalid and which have been shown to be invalid by
events. For instance, children will often become panicked if the
favorite toy is not where they normally find it. This conjecture
appears to be common to all children and unfortunately incorrect. The
conjecture put simply is that everything has its place and will always
be found in that place.
It is actually a very logical conclusion, and one
which is seemingly correct for most objects in a child's world. Walls,
ceilings, furniture, cupboards, houses, roads, footpaths, trees etc.
are in fact always in the same place and will always be found there.
The child's understanding of reality is consistent when these things
are where they expect to find them, but seemingly inconsistent when
they are out of place. Of course all those objects could be moved but
normally are not. It matters not. It is logical from the point of view
of the child but it is nevertheless wrong.
What Maria Montessori noticed was that when
objects are moved or when they are not found where the child expects,
the child can panic be disturbed or even throw a tantrum. And no
wonder, for this important conjecture seems to be invalidated. This
means they can no longer predict or anticipate the world. Their map of
reality, much of which is linked together by this important conjecture
has been suddenly called into question and has seemed to be crushed.
This must be very frightening to the child. Maria also pointed out that
sometimes children will play games which tend to validate this
conjecture. Such a game is that of hide and seek where the children
will always be found in the same place.
point is that young children do not have sufficient connections in
their brains for new information to be just slotted into place. They
have to rely on 'hands on' doing in order to absorb and understand
knowledge. Later when they have become adults they normally do have
such large numbers of links in their brains which enable them to absorb
the ideas of others whole.
brings us back to the question of whether 'hands on' learning is
essential to learning and if so how much is needed and useful. This is
still one of the disputes about learning among academics. Should we be
doing things in order to learn, or should we be absorbing ready made
knowledge as held in media such as text books or lectures?
is simply not the right question to ask as there is no reason for this
to be an either or question. In fact research has shown consistently
that a small amount of discovery or doing included in other types of
learning provides that learning with concrete reference wich improves
both understanding and retention. This improvement in learning is not
proportional to the amount of doing involved but rather a very large
Hands on is best for the young child.
For young children the building of a model of
reality composed of
invariant theories is paramount in learning, and can only be
accomplished by hands on personal experimentation. Piaget and
Montessori and others understanding of children, makes this very clear.
It follows then, that the younger a child is, the more he or she is in
need of doing. For early learning must be about forming conjectures and
then having them confirmed or disconfirmed by subsequent events. An
important part of this is testing the conjectures which can only be
performed by doing (by acting on the environment and ascertaining the
results). The younger a child is the less formed his/her map of reality
will be, hence the greater the need for "doing" or hands on in
The transmission of our knowledge
However, one of the purposes of a fully formed map
of reality is to bypass the necessity of having to do everything in
order to form theories. We can, as our map or model of reality
approaches being fully formed, readily absorb the theories of others,
whole, only adjusting them a little to fit the rest of our individual
maps of reality. At some point we form a conjecture to the effect that
the body of theories in books and other media are likely to be valid if
held to be so by many others. Therefore these can be accepted into our
maps of reality whole without test. We start to accept them as being
true. So while learning by doing is very important for young children,
and more so the younger they are, it becomes increasingly less so as
they approach the stage of having a fully formed map of reality.
on benefits for learning.
are however, many good reasons to continue hands on learning long after
the absolute need for it has ceased. There are five clear main benefits
of continuing learning by doing:
doing helps create interest especially through usefulness.
doing supplies concrete examples that enable meaningfulness and thus
doing necessitates the use of many sensory channels while learning wich
doing necessitates building on what has gone before and linking new
information to the vast networks of links within our minds again
doing necessitates imitation of human behavior models acquiring skills
and learning in general.
Hands on usefulness and interest.
One of the things that makes information
interesting to children is the
immediate usefulness they see in it. In other words they perceive how
it could be used for something and may well wish to use it. However,
much of what children are taught in most schools is very abstract. This
abstractness when children are young, holds very little interest for
them, and so is difficult for them to learn. Even as children get older
and grow up into adults they still often need to see the usefulness of
something in order to find it interesting at least at first. Indeed the
practicality of something that is perceived as useful can and does
create interest in that thing and thus ensures that it is learnt.
hands on learning has the attractiveness of being generally more
interesting to to all people and is essential to the interest of young
children. While 'hands on' learning may seem to take a
long time because it entails many actions involved in doing something
such as an experiment or making detailed observations, the knowledge is
actually learnt quickly, easily and permanently compared with something
that is told to you. If we want people to learn quickly easily and
permanently, doing or hands on learning is the way to go. It activates
interest to make this both possible and likely.
With usefulness the 'doing' here has two
functions. We learn in order to do something that we perceive as
useful. The doing actually comes after the learning, so it is learning
in order to do. On the other hand we also learn to do the useful
something by doing it.
on and concrete examples.
children do not have sufficient abstract concepts to easily build on,
when trying to form new abstract concepts. They need instead, to build
abstract concepts up out of concrete examples. Even for adults
approaching a subject about which they have little knowledge requires
more concrete connections with reality to make it meaningful.
Concreteness is all about meaningfulness. It is all about reaching into
the minds of others and finding loops within their minds that knowledge
can be hooked onto.
Concreteness is about giving examples, but not
just any old examples. It is about giving examples that the learner is
already very familiar with, placing it in the world of the learner's
experience. The problem in learning is a matter of finding areas where
abstract concepts can be applied to something real and familiar, to all
those trying to learn them. Even though the educational establishment
is very aware of the need for this concreteness in western schools, it
is usually ignored. Teachers tend to just trot out abstract concepts
without making any effort to connect them to the real world. Hands on,
learning by doing, is completely concerned with concrete examples. Any
knowledge can with a little thought be converted into an example that
can be investigated in a process of hands on doing.
concrete examples are not required in learning every single thing. Only
a smatering of examples are necessary to make the initial connection
with reality. After initial contact with reality the learner will be
able to generalize and extrapolate those examples into others.
on and the use of many senses.
sciences of psychology and
neuroscience have given recently clear indication that learning is
improved in every way if in our experience of learning the data
involves more than one sense. Indeed, they show that the more sensory
channels we use in perceiving the information to be learned, the better
we will learn it. This means we will understand it better, we will
remember it longer and we will remember it more accurately. There are
many ways, of course, of using more senses when learning, but the
simplest way of using more senses is if we learn by doing or 'hands
on'. If you listen to a lecture you are using only the sense of hearing
to accumulate the information being learned. If you read a book you
using only the sense of sight and in a very limited way. Watching a
video presentation can involve both hearing and sight in the process of
learning. In his book "Brain Rules" john Medina has the following to
psychologist Richard Mayer probably has done more than anybody else to
explore the link between multimedia exposure and learning. ...His
experiments are ...smooth: Divide the room into three groups. One group
gets information delivered via one sense (say, hearing), another the
same information from another sense (say, sight), and the third group
the same information delivered as a combination of the first two senses.
groups in the multi sensory environments always do better than the
groups in the unisensory environments. They have more accurate recall.
Their recall has better resolution and lasts longer, evident even 20
years later. Problem solving improves. In one study, the group given
multisensory presentations generated more than 50 percent
more creative solutions on a problem solving test than students who saw
unisensory presentations. In another study, the improvement was more
than 75 percent.
benefits of multisensory inputs are physical as well. Our muscles react
more quickly, our threshold for detecting stimuli improves, and our
eyes react to to visual stimuli more quickly. It's not just
combinations of sight and sound. When touch is combined with visual
information, recognition learning leaps forward by by almost 30
percent, compared with touch alone. These improvements are greater than
what you'd predict by simply adding up the unisensory data. This is
sometimes called supra-additive integration. In other words, the
positive contributions of multisensory presentations are greater that
the sum of their parts.
on doing however, can and usually does, involve all the senses in the
process of learning. For a start hands on involves taking in
information through the sense of touch. It also involves sensory
information about how muscles feel as they are performing actions.
Obviously doing, also requires using vision to see what you are doing.
Indeed the visual information derived in the performance of an action
is far superior to that involved in reading a book or watching a slide
show. It is animated and much more elaborated. While doing does not
require the use of hearing, it is certainly possible that hearing could
be involved in the performance of an experiment or in perceiving the
results of an experiment. Likewise the senses of taste could also be
part of sensory feedback while doing. Almost all learning of a hands on
sort involves the sense of smell. The real world is full of smells and
any hands on activity will involve them. Smells are critically
important solidifying memory and provide links to emotional states that
further improve the length of life and accuracy of
on and iteration.
we learn by doing in what is
understood to be a 'hands on' way, we are often repeating or practicing
without the repetition being exact. These repetitive actions are better
described by the word iteration. Webster's dictionary informs
us that the word iteration can have the
following meaning: a procedure in which repetition of a
sequence of operations yields results successively
closer to a desired result. The desired result in this
case is learning more each time through the sequence of operations.
This kind of learning through the repetition (iteration) of a series of
operations, has been shown to be critical in
the learning processes of very young children.
In terms of brain activity this means that each
time through an activity some new neurons are activated along with the
old ones. In doing this each time we are connecting to more and more
parts of the brain. This means the same memory is being used but each
time in different ways. This in turn means the memory is becoming more
and more elaborated, which means memories that are more easily and
accurately recalled as well as lasting longer in memory. The nerve
impulse representing the memory can, not only travel faster and more
easily, but is accessible from more parts of the brain, and is thus
easier to access. Also, because the nerve fibers representing
the main part of the memory become wrapped in considerably more myelin
it is better protected and thus less likely to deteriorate. This also
explains the idea that the brain keeps what it uses and discards what
it is not using.
on and imitation.
course, imitating the actions of others
is not in itself learning by doing or 'hands on'. However, the manner
in which most 'hands on' teaching is done, is normally one in which the
teacher first demonstrates the actions to be performed, and then of the
students imitating the teachers actions in an effort to get similar
results. The fact is 'hands on' learning, to be effective, has to be
guided in some way. Clearly learners cannot be left completely to their
own devices to make discoveries that it has taken humanity thousands of
years to discover. Such guidance can of course be presented in a series
of illustrated diagrams in a book, or it can be demonstrated by a
person such as a teacher. Although demonstration is not the only way of
guiding learners in their 'hands on' learning, it is by far the
simplest and most effective.
order that learners learn by doing, rather than by imitating, the
copying of results should be avoided where ever possible.
Demonstrations by teachers, should be so structured, as to encourage
learners to conduct their own experiments, for the purpose of
discovering, such results as they manage to obtain themselves. This
would require that teaching demonstrations used to give direction to
learner experiments, be not concluded, or at least the results or
conclusions of the experimental demonstration should be hidden from the
learners. In this way students would be less likely to try and obtain
so called correct results, and instead, be prepared to learn what they
can from their own results. This kind of true 'hands on' learning is
likewise more effective learning.
learning by imitation or learning from those modeling activities, is
itself very conducive to fairly effective learning, learning by doing
is far better. Both encourage interest if performed in a way that seems
accessible and skillful. Both encourage general creativity. Both
provide full accurate memories, understanding and accurate recall over
long periods. However, using imitation as a stepping off place and a
guide to enable 'hands on' learners to discover their own findings,
further interests, induces to be creative, and produces even better
understanding, memory accuracy and recall over even longer periods.
Hands on as science.
Scientific research is of course formal 'hands on'
learning. While many
adults do not have to concern themselves with 'hands on' learning as
part of their vocation, scientists are completely concerned with it.
While those performing jobs like accountancy, driving, or mechanic do
not have to interrogate the universe to make new discoveries about it,
scientists of all sorts are all about making hands on discoveries.
Nearly all subjects that are learned at school could be said to be
sciences in this view. New discoveries can be made in history, geology,
mathematics, engineering and art to name a few. In order to progress,
all subjects require hands on speculation and testing, they require
learning by doing.
Hands on as preparation for scientific
It follows then that it may be a good idea, at any
age, to have
children doing 'hands on' work, not simply to make the learning
accurate, understandable, and memorable, but also as preparation for
the kind of work that requires research to be done. Research initiated
by children while they are young, would keep alive learning by doing
and also help encourage creation. Indeed as pointed out on our
learntolearn page knowing the proceedures the meta-knowledge of how
scientific research is conducted to produce highly probable findings
would greatly improve our cognitive toolkits. These necessary life
activities would be well served by letting the children keep their hand
in, so to speak, later in life.
hands on courses.
designing hands on courses schools, teachers and educacional
administrators should be aware that there are two very different
guiding principles, each of which lead to two very different sorts of
course curriculums. Hands on learning by its nature as
natural learning is ideal for courses that are designed to
to people's interests and so develops courses for student directed
learning. In this way student directed learning can provid
of smorgas board of choices for learners. On the other hand hands on
learning also provides an excelent way of preparing learners for their
eventual vocations. It can be a way of providing learners with the
skill they will need to perforn well in their chosen
Learner directed learning as a way of awakening a
love match with learning.
people might wonder why schools and universities would need to concern
themselves with Learner directed learning, and indeed most of them do
not. This does not mean that that such courses would not be a better
way of learning. The main benefit of this kind of learning is that it
is intensly pleasurable, adictive and awakens a life long love afair
with learning. The usefulness of a love afair with learning cannot be
over estimated. The desire to continue learning, will always
prepare us better, in the long run, for any circumstance that life may
throw at us. It prepares us much better than any specific skill or
knowledge we might have learned.
The virtual schools and universities.
on the world wide web has the potential, for the first time, to enable
truly learner directed learning. In his book "Making Minds Less Well
Educated Than Our Own" Roger Schank has a lot to say about this. He
are full of stories about how the idea of a virtual university did not
work, but it may be just a little early to to write the obituary for
the concept. Most univewrsities went into the online course building
business without attempting to understand why students attend
universities and what an online offering should look like. They
naturally assumed that the courses they offer were very valuable and
that students would flock to the online versions. But as we have seen,
students take courses in collrge because they are required to do so for
degreesor other certificationthat they seek. Left to their own devices,
students would rather not attend courses (and they often don't),
because courses all too often feature lecturers who drone on endlessly
about subjects that students know will never matter in their lives.
reason that students attend college is for the experience of being with
other students, including social events and intellectual discussions...
What universities offer is the posibility of exciting students to work
on projects that faculty are involved in. They also offer one-on-one
mentoring to help foster a student's ideas or projects. Or, they offer
lively discussions on complex issues, informed by faculty. These are
the things that must be put online. To do so, requires building online
experiences (not necessarily courses) that lead to degrees. This can be
done by allowing students to work in teams with mentors on projects
that are simulations of real life experiences and help prepare students
for the real world."
else is needed to acomplish this and does it need to involve degrees?
This depends on why people want to learn. While there can be no doubt
most people learn only to get degrees, this cannot and should not be
only reason to learn. The internet and the world wide web have given us
an oppertunity to educate the world as never before. It has given us an
opportunity to place learning at the fingertips of nearly every living
person on earth. All a person needs to use the net is a small device
and a power supply and these are available in increasingly remote and
poor places of the world.
If we want the internet to reach its potential to
as a means to universal learning we have to make online courses or
experiences interesting, fun and of course hands on. Learners
use the net to learn when they want to learn so it is always a matter
of making what is available to learn something people want to learn.
The most important thing about
hand on is that something must be physically required to be done not
just reading or copying notes but physical actions that through
iteration become learned skills. So online courses cannot be just
recorded lectures or information or information that is then tested. It
must be a series of tasks that involve real experiences, modeled
experiences, and or simulated experiences. Only in this way will it be
desirable and memorable to learn. How to make courses
interesting and fun structurally has been covered in the other in the
other keys to learning such as key 3, key 7 and key 8 and so will not
what makes courses interesing to a wide variety of learners is choice.
There should be a wide variety of courses on every imagionable subject
and also considerable choice in the number of ways each subject matter
is presented. Lectures and demonstrations should not be
especially those performed by presenters that are highly skilled and
enertaining. Although not for everybody and not very efective as a
learning method they may be just what some learners are looking for.
The beauty of online courses is they do not take up a lot of physical
space so nothing need be thown away thus anything should be available
for learners to find if they know what they are looking for.
Of course the
problem with too much choice comes when people do not know what they
are looking for. This is not a problem for the internet. The internet
can easily solve choosing problems
by having people write reviews of the courses and by keeping track of
how popular each course is. In this way people can make informed
choices where the choices of others guide them limiting the number of
viable choices in the process.
Learning in order to prepare to perform in a
In the end it may also be important to also
consider the idea that
learning "knowledge" is not sufficient in itself, and should be
supplemented by learning the skills of applying that knowledge out in
the world (doing). It is not only research that can suffer from this
lack of these practical skills. The learning of abstract ideas
accurately, understanding the information, and being able to recall it
accurately and fully is but a small part of any kind of work. It is
however the only part most schooling provides.
ways of getting work preparation.
part of what learning is, is preparing us for working out in the world,
we would be well advised to learn the skills needed to apply knowledge
in the work we will eventually do. The three ways of preparing
for work, by learning the necessary practical skills, are simulation of
the work situation in the classroom, simulation of the work environment
in a computer simulator, and work experience where the learner spends
some of his school time out in the real world of work. Idealy good
preperation should incluce all three.
Schools can and sometimes do provide a some sort of simulation of how
scientific work is prepared for, and undertaken in school labs. Other
ways schools could provide simulation is through various games and
other types of computer programs that simulate various kinds of work.
Other ways schools can simulate work is by allowing in school group
activities that somewat mirror the outside world of work. Politics can
be simulated by allowing students to take part in school government
making the rules and electing their own officers. A school newspaper
can mirror that world. A school play can help prepare for the world of
acting. Various sport s prepare students to become sportsmen. Clearly
this sort of preperation could be extended to other
simulation. Real work simulation generally does not take
place in schools, but rather as on the job training done by those who's
work is too dangerous to train for when it's real. The original, most
famous simulator of this sort is the flight simulator. Although its
essential feature is also a computer program that simulates flying it
is also as complete an environment to duplicate the inside of an
airplane as possible, including dials switches etc., all of which are
part of the simulation.
experience. Work experience is of course where part of the
school experience is actually going out into the world of work and
acting as an intern or some other kind of apprentice. This kind of
schooling is quite usual in several professions and hopefully will
include many more professions as time goes by. One such profession is
newspaper reporting. With the way reporting is set up on the web kids
can get a start in this at a very early age. The traditional model for
this kind of learning is the medical profession. All doctors go through
an on the job apprenticeship, as the last part of their medical
training. This is very effective learning, which has stood the test of
time, and can be traced back to the highly effective learning
environments created by the ancient
Simulation in schools.
schools are not for the most part set up to simulate the various types
of work out in the world with a little imagination and the use of
special curiculums they can easily be converted to doing just that. The
efficiency of this kind of learning is easily demonstrated in those
professions that still require apprenticeships such as doctors or
pilots who have to learn on a simulator. Dotors and pilots have the
lives of people in their hands so it is essential the are able to learn
without putting people at risk. On the other hand why should learners
go into any for of work less prepared than doctors and pilots? As
pointed out previously the only good other reason to learn is
prepare onesself for ones vocation.
There was a time when it was
thought that each person worked alone and should work alone like a cog
in an enormous machine. This idea did not describe what was really
going on which was workers cooperating in order to accomplish something
together with all the complex interactions that entails. If schools are
going to try and simulate vocations they need to simulate not only the
work itself but the complex interacions between the various workers.
Most types of work are at heart a cooperative efforts. Vocations are
where a group of people come together to make something. It might be a
plan for a building, or the construction of the building, the running
of a newspaper, or a hospital, a legal firm, a store, or even a
department for research and development. What ever the type of
employment it is it involves interactions with others. Even artists and
inventors who are typically thought to work alone have to deal with
gallery owners, buyers etc.
All this cooperative back and forth
interaction creates stories in which the workers are role players as in
a play. As these interactions work their magic over time the workers
will change their roles many times. Or they may take on aspects of
other's roles while they they continue in their main role. Thus they
need to be able to perform many roles to perform well in a vocation or
atleast understand what the people in those roles are doing. A good
course or curriculum should should provide students with a opportunity
to learn each of those roles by performing each of them. Think how
efficient it would be if the people applying for jobs could all
actually do the work involved because they had already learned it at
college or university.
A story centered Curriculum.
his book "Making Minds Less Well Educated Than Our Own" Roger Schank
story centered approach to designing courses and a curriculm. He
eplains what he means as follows:
idea behind the story centered curriculum (SCC) is that a good
curriculum should tell a story. The story should be one in which the
student plays one or more roles. Those roles should be roles that
normally come up in such a story. The curriculum is intended to teach
the student how to do something. The roles should be ones that the
graduate of such a program might actually do in real life work
environment or might actually need to know about (possibly because he
is likely to manage or work with someone who performs that role."
Schank goes on to provide an
outline of of some steps to take in order to build such a curriculum:
"Step 1 Determine the career goals of
the student for adult students or use goals that children have to
design situations that exploit those goals."
'Step 2 Determine the key
activities that comprise the life of a person who has achieved the goal
to which the studen aspires."
"Step 3 Determine what key events might
occur in the life of a person who has achieved such a goal."
"Step 4 Come up with a story that all
the above fit neatly within."
"Step 5 Determine what things a person
entering the curriculum would need to know that are not particularly
part of the story per se."
Even though it is
clear that 'hands on' learning is more important for children and the
younger they are the more imortant, clearly learning by doing
should never be done away
with for adults. While this site proposes that hands on learning is far
when a map of reality is fully formed,
it is nevertheless a highly beneficial and needed part of all learning.
Although not all learning can or should be discovery or hands on
learning such learning has been shown to be far more efficient than any
other kind of learning. Even a small amount of hands on learning added
to other types of learning has been shown to improve the understanding
and recall of that learning.
"In the end we retain from our studies
only that which we practically apply." Johann
Wolfgang Von Goethe
long, practical, learning.
is a process of
connecting the information inside a person to the information outside a
person. We know or understand something because we have connected and
made consonant the information we already knew with the new information
collected by our senses. This is a life long process for all living
things. But there is a difference between this every day experience of
learning and learning where we actively seek to enlarge our knowledge
base by seeking new information in books and other media after our
school education has been terminated.
on learning prepares us for this kind of life long learning by blurring
the experience of learning with the experience of work. Instead of
seeing work and learning as separate, we begin to experience learning
as work, and work as learning.
professionals such as doctors need to update their knowledge throughout
their working careers so they can continue to do their job at all. In
other professions such as accounting this may not be so obvious.
However, in a vocation like accounting there has been vast change also,
where the recording has moved from the world of paper to that of
computers and computer programs. Learning in any vocation has to be
continuous, if a person wishes to continually improve in that vocation.
Improvement means learning, and people who have learned through 'hands
on' learning are prepared for this.
world of work just fifty years ago was one where employees entered a
profession having learned most of what they would need to perform well
in that profession for the rest of their life. This is no longer the
case. For people now entering the workforce, it is likely their work
will be completely transformed while they are working there. It is now
likely they will have to learn many new ways of working and how to do
many new types of work just to stay employed. For those who welcome a
life of learning this is no problem and they will survive and thrive on
the changes. Those who are unable to continue to learn on the other
hand are likey to fall by the wayside.
would hope, of course, that people would also move beyond the world of
work and expand their life long learning into fields not directly
connected to their work. It seems possible that the more hands on
learning a child has experienced, the more his/her interests may be
expanded, and thus the more likely such a person will become a general
life long learner.