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?