Sunday, February 20, 2011

Curiosity and Questioning

Much of what November and Warlick talk about relate to both what and how we teach our students. As several people have noted in their posts, student questioning and ownership of their own learning are vital to creating learners who are curious and use their skills outside the classroom. The real question is how to we motivate students to want to question and develop / maintain a sense of curiosity. Young students have this naturally, and it doesn't disappear as they grow older but instead often goes underground during school hours because it isn't what is expected in school. When teachers feel pushed to teach for test performance, the questioning student can be more of a distraction than a welcome addition to the class. How can we meet the requirements put on us and still develop these all important 21st century skills, building on students' natural curiosity?

Several people provided examples of simulations that they are using in their classrooms that allow students to develop questions, test out hypotheses, fail, and learn new concepts. These are definitely a step in the right direction. Others mentioned projects where students were allowed to follow personal interests. How do we build time in the curriculum to allow students to fumble around as they search for questions of interest to them? How do we help them explore and then focus their research? Consider that the school librarian is someone who can help as you do this with your students.

Finally, look at the work done with immersive environments, simulations and gaming in education. The Games, Learning and Society program at UW-Madison is a leader in this area and has been doing some exciting work. Eica and Rick Halverson, Constance Steinkuehler, Kurt Squire, Elisabeth Hayes (Arizona) and James Gee (Arizona) are faculty members associated with this program. Check for the GLS Conference, generally in June at UW-Madison.

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