• Janelle Safford

A Sad Day


Encouraging students to explore questions that arise naturally and orchestrating the learning environment so that students need to ask questions and use inquiry often are both ways that we can mirror what true learning looks like in the world.  We also must allow students to explore and discover the answers to relevant questions in a meaningful way.  With this in mind, I am saddened to write about something that happened with a student this week.

I took a group of elementary students on a field trip to our Region Education Service Center. They were hosting an event where students from different school districts were given the opportunity to explore and learn by using some of the technology tools that are typically not available on their home campuses. The all day event is called TAFY (Technology Adventures For Youth).  The students rotate through stations where they hear a brief demonstration/lesson and then are allowed to explore and play with the tools for the remainder of the time.  The students learned about circuits in the Makey Makey station, programming and coding in the Sphero/Tickle App station, coding and design in the Ozobot station, they created amazing music in the Chrome Music Experiment station and learned how to make a video using the pictures from our day using the Quick app on iPads.  


So I bet you are wondering,

a) What does this have to do with the video and reading assignment for this week?

b) How could this day possibly have a sad ending?   


The day was full of discovery and learning, questions and exploration, problem solving and creation AND we even had pizza for lunch.  However on the way home, Lily, an extremely curious third grader sat beside me on the bus. We were talking about the day and I ask her about what her favorite thing was that she learned. I immediately noticed the look of confusion on her face and ask her what he problem was. “I don’t understand” she said.  I said “Understand what?” She went on to explain, “You ask me what my favorite thing that I learned, but we didn’t learn today, this wasn’t educational, it was just for fun.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  This eight year old child didn’t recognize that what she had experienced that day could even be classified as learning. I told you it was sad and 100% true.


So as I read the book, The New Culture of Learning, this week and watched the Douglas Thomas video, Lily’s statement kept replaying in my head and I felt compelled to write about it.  Imagination + Rules = Play. This idea was a major theme in the video.  Play combines passion, imagination and constraint which are the fundamental ingredients of how people learn in the real world.  The fact that Lily didn’t recognize that play could ever be an important part of the learning process is a true testament to the message our education system is sending our students.  How can we expect them to be prepared for the inquiry based, creative learning that will be needed in their futures if we aren’t willing to change how we teach them and what we as educators consider learning?


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Winnsboro, Texas