The quotation I selected for purposes of our discussion inspired me to want to develop some sort of ice-breaker activity that might help students approach a new course with an open mind, a willingness to both self-reflect and learn more about their own learning preferences (with an awareness that this is often fluid), and, at the same time, a willingness to “reach outside their comfort zone”.
I had selected the following passage, and shared an interaction where student preferences for videos were noted:
“How can we develop technologies, activities, and courses that engage and support all different types of learners? At the same time, we should push learners to reach outside their comfort zone. For certain types of problems, planning has advantages over tinkering; for other types of problems, tinkering has advantages. Exploring patterns is particularly helpful in some situations; telling stories is particularly helpful in other situations. Even if an individual learner is more comfortable with one style over another, it’s useful to experiment with other styles and approaches.”
As I thought more about the students’ expressed desire for video content, I realized that while students can (and should feel free to) ask for videos if that is what they enjoy, I also want them to also ask themselves if that is how they learn best. The answer might be the same. But it also might be different. Similarly, I want them to develop their self-awareness of the benefits associated with taking a flexible, context-dependent approach to their own learning.
So, I was trying to think of a tinkering type exercise that might support this goal. (The students I am thinking of in this context are college-aged, EFL students studying business management at a female university in East Africa) I decided to work on some activities for a course designed to teach students how to start a new venture in East Africa.
My selected materials include: paper, toothpicks, tape, scissors, pipe-cleaners, straws
The exercise (still very rough and in note/outline format) might go something like the following:
Share the first thing that comes to mind when we use the word venture.
Use the provided materials to construct the physical place your venture will exist (or a structure related to your venture)
Once you have your initial structure constructed, think about what else it might need: supports, funding, partners, an address (for mail), a bank account (for financial transactions), etc., multiple buildings spread out over town, one single building where everyone can collaborate, what else? Generate questions
Examples: a coffee shop will look very different from an agri-business, from a tutoring initiative, from a tech initiative…
Goal - take the notion of a venture from the abstract to the concrete. A work in progress, with many moving parts. Tinker with the project. Plan ahead when can, expect to iterate. Also want to help students recognize that ventures can take innumerable forms.
A simultaneous goal - use the physical, concrete nature of the tinkering project to support and encourage more abstract thinking about the various types of ventures that might be possible
Thanks for reading this far. I realize this probably isn’t what you had in mind for this exercise, but I’ve found it useful and I appreciate the opportunity to think out loud in this community.