Systems learning

by Paul Maharg on 17/04/2011

Before the conference started John Garvey took Karen Barton and me to a school in Tribeca where his daughter taught, and to a class where the grade one kids (ages of around 6) were learning about library cards.  It was a wonderful class.  

E. and her co-teacher had already taught the children about the system.  Up on the white board was a calendar month for April, which was used to discuss the upcoming spring break, and prompt discussion about bringing library books back before the hols.  Around it was arranged a list of Library Study words — renew, library card, librarian, check out, barcode, circulation; and key topics to be dealt with.  

John's son, T., was also there, so his sister took him to the front of the class and explained to the children that he didn't have a library card — what did he need to do to get one?  Hands go up, and the explanations come thick & fast.  He played his part well — what was scanning about, he asked.  Lots of explanations, including this one: 'he or she has to scan the book, a librarian scans the book' — word for word, I was so astonished I had to get that one down.  Teachers helped the children to help each other to respond, remember, recall and articulate information.  

T. asked a great question — 'what happens if I spill something like milk on my book?'  Pause as the children took this in, then amazing systems thinking from a number of the kids including this one: 'it's scanned and taken out of the system'.  Teacher: what happens to the book then?  Child: it goes to a repair bin.  

Superb example of how sophisticated good teaching can be, and what great results it can have.  I wanted to have law teachers in there with me — we have so much to learn from kindergarten and primary school teachers, and learning by doing.  Here's another great example, this time of a 7th grade student's work.  Wendy Drexler (Stephen Downes' website originally directed me to this) was the teacher involved in this:


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