An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field. ~Niels BohrOn Gaming and Errors
Yesterday while driving in the car my son explained that he is improving at writing code:
My husband, Rob, quickly added that this is a gaming mentality.
When I first started last summer I would get about 800 error messages and I got that down to 60 by the end of summer. The other day I got it down to 5 error messages.
Invention. (Reilly, 2008)
Ask any gamer and he'll tell you that you learn through trial and error.This struck me as significant. Each week, either Rob or I have to sign a paper acknowledging each quiz and test grade my son received/earned during that week. Next to each number, one of us signs his or her name. Some weeks Rob does this, other weeks I do it. But it never stops or changes. The numbers are final and we must acknowledge with ink, each performance and each "counts" towards a final marking period grade. Tests count x percentage points and quiz grades and homework count as well.
It's all quite logical and explained at back to school night. Yet, it seems to me as if the logic is really faulty if the outcome is learning. For there are no second chances or even the understanding of how any one performance may be viewed in light of any other performance.
Eggs in a carton. Each separate, never mixed for fear of cracking.
There is no learning along the way. There are starts and stops and even these don't seem to be connected.
|from this website|
But what did it actually mean? How was it received? What did my son learn about his potential as a mathematician? This is a child who at 21 months took the condiments from the refrigerator and organized them into two groups in an attempt to balance the lot. 11 years later he would confide to me that he just isn't' good in math, as in the class. This is what he has learned at school. He has confused mathematics know-how with mathematics performance at school.
I never hear my son say, I am not a good gamer. 800 error messages and he sees these as an indicator of what he will learn, not as an indicator of how 'smart' he is. School is something quite different. In September, a friend told me about a virtual Java course at Stanford and I mentioned it to my son. At first he seemed interested in attending. Yesterday he announced he had decided against this.
It's school. I'd rather figure out Java like I do everything else. On line and figuring it out with friends and YouTtube.Occupy Your Classroom
|Circa 1967 (M.A. Reilly, 2009)|
How is it that in a gaming culture, error is a way of learning and yet at schools, error is a form of damnation? How many children sit in classrooms where they are terrorized by failing? How many hear their teachers say to them or someone else in the class that if you fail you will be left back? How many parents use their children's performances via grades at school as bragging rights, as bumper stickers? What is a way out of this mindless entrapment?
Karl Fisch (@karlfisch), Jose Vilson (@TheJLV) and Chad Sansing (@chadsansing) recently blogged about educators occupying their own classrooms.
Jose offered five ways for educators to occupy their classrooms. He closed by writing:
We ought to rebel. Our best rebellion must come in the form of assuring our students do as well as possible. Outside politics have deteriorated, not elevated, the classroom experience for far too long. Before we can truly have a revolution of any nature, we must first shore up the parts of our job we can immediately control. It starts with the 30 / 60 / 90 / 150 students we have under our care.Shore up the parts of the job we have immediate control over.
In a post dated October 7, 2011, Karl wrote:
That instead of blaming “the system,” we should realize that we are the system, and we should advocate for our students when we see things that we don’t believe are in their best interests. And that we, just like the protesters in the middle east, and just like the #occupywallstreet folks, have access to tools that Clay Shirky has shown us make it much easier to not only organize, but to actually effect change. That, really, this thing we call school doesn’t happen without us.Be responsible as we are the system.
Chad closed his post by suggesting five proactive actions. The last one, Build communities instead of reinforcing expectations, seems to be at the heart of what I am attempting to convey here.
Want to occupy your classroom?
Begin by asking yourself: Do the practices I espouse help to build a culture where to err is not only human, but necessary? As James Joyce penned in Ulysses, "A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery"
What portals will you afford your students?