Five fellow educators from the Cranbrook Institute of Science and I had the opportunity to attend the Institute of Inquiry at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. A series of posts will document our thoughts as we progressed through the week-long workshops.
Many of us had been hoping to attend this professional development opportunity for some time, so to touch down in California and look forward to a week of not only learning but a chance to reflect and discuss out work with each other arrive was certainly exciting. Yet we also shared uncertainty about what each of us will take away from it: How it will connect to the different types of work we do? What we can transfer this knowledge to the educators and students we serve? I think the first day put some of those concerns to rest, even as the complete picture on inquiry was not yet revealed.
We joined about twenty-five other teachers, principals, professors, and informal educators in a conference room around 9 in the morning. Some worked at the Exploratorium, others worked elsewhere in the state, but they were in the minority. Most had travelled from elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada, and a few had traveled as far as from Japan, Hong Kong, and Spain. This would allow for rich conversations with the various perspectives and experiences in the room, which is often just as valuable as the content being presented.
I’ve come to realize that play has a critical role in developing new algorithms, or as I explored in the previous posts on modelling, problem solving in general. Early in this project, I would find sorting algorithms described rigidly in mathematical terms. What was hidden from me was the process by which these algorithms were developed. Like any math problem, tweaking the knobs to see what results is an important part of problem solving, especially if the problem appears intractable at the beginning.
Programmers are increasingly finding ways to play not just with the end result of an algorithm, but with the implementation. Code provides another material for play. As I touched on when exploring abstraction, Stanford has been holding code poetry slams for the past two years. The idea of using code to make creative expressions demonstrates the joy in pushing the limitations of languages intended for a specific use. As with many materials, the users quickly find ways to subvert the intended use and use it on other creative ways. Some code poetry is simply meant to be read, yet it still must compile, and in some cases, actually perform some task. Others, such as the ChucKu, add the additional restrictions of a haiku format, but require the poem to output a sound. These are ideal examples of how multiple modes (visual, audio, logical) can be used together when playing.
As a follow up to my previous pictures of a mystery object, here’s a picture of the object in exploded form:
Which makes it even easier to tell that this is indeed a joystick, which can be seen in non-exploded form at Sparkfun. Thanks to all who guessed! It would appear I should have made it more difficult to decipher, but the joystick ball (or clown nose, as some noted) was a giveaway.
The science of learning is used by teachers day-in, day-out to determine how to best reach a diverse set of learners, but often we do not take the time to reflect on up-to-date understandings on the nature of how we all learn. I tackled this topic in an essay on learning and its implications for teaching in an essay that can be found right here. I found that many of the strategies suggested by our readings was not being used within my own teachings and in many of my fellow educators, so I hope this will be the first step in changing how I teach to address the needs of my students, in particular the metacognitive skills and preexisting knowledge that may require modification.