Geeking Out: A Beginner’s Guide

Reading the section “Geeking Out” from the Living and Learning with New Media triggered my curiosity whether or not MY own students can get a taste of what geeking out is all about – albeit in a structured way. Mind you, I teach lower elementary students. The idea of just letting them loose on the world wide web to find a group or network to interact with is ludicrous. But being that this week’s objective is classroom application and building our PLNs, here are my initial thoughts:

Teacher constructs a performance task using RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Task): You are a composer for an advertising company. Your job is compose a short jingle, a melody, for a tv commercial about children’s toys. Write a melody, perform it on an instrument and video record it for the company’s approval. Good luck!

Naturally, prior to assigning this task, my students and I would have worked on building essential musical elements such as rhythm, pitch, notation, etc. When the students finally receive the task and are on their way to composing and performing, the geeking out phase begins. In the article, “geeking out requires time, space, and resources to experiment and follow interests in a self-directed way.” It also requires “access to specialised communities of expertise.” My PLNs enter the scene. A music teacher in another school has the same performance task. They, too, have been working on building their essential musical elements. And so we combine our powers. Our students are now connected in this semi-controlled network. The students are collaborating by sharing melodies, giving and providing feedback, and experimenting with new and learned techniques. Our students are now engaged in a “mode of learning that is peer-driven [and…] gaining knowledge and expertise in specific areas of interest.”

Although the idea is in its infancy, I feel that it has potential. Connecting our students in this specialised community (through music composition) will allow the students to “hone their craft within groups of like-minded and expert peers.” They gain more than just thinking, communication, and social skills; in addition, they have embodied the very traits of the IB Learner Profile, specifically, inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk takers, open-minded and reflective students. And of course, they got a taste of what geeking out is all about.

By design, this performance task can be transferred to us as adults. Andragogy, conceived by Malcolm Knowles, is an attempt to develop a theory for adult learning. For example,

  1. As adults, there is a need to explain why specific things are taught (for students who ask why we are learning and for what purpose).
  2. The instruction should be task-oriented instead of memorisation (which should be the case with young learners).
  3. Instruction should take into account the wide range of different backgrounds (hence differentiation in our classrooms).
  4. Since adults are self-directed, instruction should allow learners to discover things for themselves, providing guidance and help when mistakes are made (although it will take time and practice to become independent learners, the same should apply to our students).

Nowadays, I feel that there is a likeness to young and adult learners. Gone are the days of lectured learning and rote memorisation. I know some would argue that some facts should be memorised (i.e. math facts), but the time has come where those facts can take a back seat to practical application and problem solving skills. Besides, that’s what Google is for, right?

What are YOUR thoughts on this method of concept-based instruction for students young and old?

 

2 Replies to “Geeking Out: A Beginner’s Guide”

  1. Hi Kehri,

    Many thanks for the blog post, it was a really great read. Your example of linking students up over a common learning goal is a brilliant one, it is always a special moment when a task like this unravels positively and where the children learn so much more than just the strict learning objective!

    I too have been thinking a lot about how far we have to move from the ‘classic’ old fashioned, teacher at the front of the class, model. So much focus was inevitably on the teacher’s delivery and on how they ‘revealed’ the exciting aspects of the learning at hand. Sometimes this is effective, but technology opens up so many more possibilities.

    It is very much time for the children to do this for themselves and for us to be there to coach them and help them with learning skills. Perhaps we could even learn something ourselves!

    I found the following video really inspiring, and I think it matches up with the child-oriented approach that you speak of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fMC-z7K0r4&t=501s.

    As for adults, the best INSET that I ever attended was all about Maths Mastery (https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/our-work/projects/mathematics-mastery). The trainer set out his session by explaining that the day would give us time to reflect, to share, and predominantly to play with different concrete resources. We were to adopt the mindset of a student as much as possible, rather than a teacher. Says it all, doesn’t it!

    Thanks again,
    Rory.

  2. “Connecting our students in this specialised community (through music composition) will allow the students to “hone their craft within groups of like-minded and expert peers.” They gain more than just thinking, communication, and social skills; in addition, they have embodied the very traits of the IB Learner Profile, specifically, inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk takers, open-minded and reflective students.”

    Kehri –
    You are also modeling these traits for them in making the connections to enhance how you design your learning experiences and a risk-taker in trying something new! By using RAFT and engaging with a class in a different school, you’ve created an authentic and meaningful experience for your students. And as they are engaged in their work, they might be more motivated to build the skills they need to create their musical piece. There is a time to focus on the skill building but if we wait until they are all proficient, their motivation to continue could be dampened. However, if they are given an authentic task with an authentic audience, that can be the spark some of them need to see the value in the skills they are learning.

    Also, the connection you make between child and adult learners is significant since we often talk about the differences between them. However, a lot of adult learning has been based on the the traditional lecture and ‘sit and get’ so it makes sense to consider our approaches to adult learning in the same way and to take into account how we make learning engaging and relevant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *