Children learn because they want to

About a year ago I read a really good post by Carl Anderson from his Techno Constructivist Blog called “Kay on Motivation, Papert on how schools discriminate against learners, and Dede on social learning” In it was a clip from the 1995 Congressional Hearing On Technology In Education, which I would very strongly urge you to watch.

The clip had Alan Kay and Seymour Papert talking about how children really learn and what was wrong with a set curriculum. I commented on the post saying the following:

I watched both of the video clips that you posted but found this one the most significant. The thing that makes you think is that this was 1995 and in 15 years how much have we moved on? Seymour Papert’s words are profound about the fact that the education system discriminates against many children’s thinking and interests and yet we are more rigid now and testing them to death on things they do not see the point of!
I wrote yesterday about Van Meter schools where they are trying to lead change in the 21st century, but as John Carver says in the video that I used in my post, there needs to be a changed emphasis on what constitutes assessment… i.e. an electronic portfolio representing children’s skills as shown from research that relates to their interests.. I am sure that Papert would applaud this.

Carl replied:

Of the 8 clips from this hearing that I have posted so far I also find this one to be the most significant. I have long felt about schools what Papert brings to light here. I think it fell on deaf ears. I also think it would fall on deaf ears if that testimony were given today. I also found the testimony regarding curriculum vs teaching learning skills relevant []. Taken together these clips nearly summarize the bulk of the problem with our system of educating children in this and other countries. It also makes me nervous about our current push for national standards. After all, aren’t standards just another name for curriculum?

Carl has just come up with another excellent post on the subject of the curriculum his  “Open Letter To Diane Ravitch”

I can only applaud what he says because it resonates so much in my own experience. I know that I can jump around and plan a lesson full of fun and excitement (as I see it) but unless the pupil wants to learn what I have to tell him then it is to no avail. Sometime soon I shall be doing a post on a man who is largely forgotten in education and yet has had a profound influence on many people, Caleb Gattegno.

Briefly, Gattegno wrote about “awareness” which is to say, the point at which the child’s learning capacity was “switched on” and where learning became a natural process, as against the ideas that we have, had in 1995 and many are still trying to promote today…that we must have a set curriculum, where children will learn because we want them to.

No, they won’t….. they learn because they want to… just look at how quickly they pick up the workings of what is to me, somewhat complicated and convoluted games.

This post is just an attempt to bring some more people’s attention to some great posts by Carl Anderson in the hope that it might mean that in another 15 years time we won’t still be bemoaning the fact that we have not moved on in understanding how children really learn.




One thought on “Children learn because they want to

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