I really appreciated this part of the extract: “At one point, a teacher from a local school came to visit the
Clubhouse, and she was shocked to see one of her students working on a 3-D animation
project. She said that he was always goofing off in the classroom. She’d never seen him
working so hard.” This shows how motivation and passion can convince anyone to work on something she/he really likes! As a teacher, I can see it happen when we find the right key!
I really appreciated this part of the extract: “At one point, a teacher from a local school came to visit the
I love when they talk about how your interests are the ones that push you to achieve great things and gain knowledge. And it’s something true. Most of the things I have learned come from a passion, because I spent hours try to get what I wanted. So it’s something I would love to work with kids, so they can find what they want to do and explore them the different ways they can work with that.
This is more than a quote to me, it is a life’s philosophy!
I’ve heard and used the phrase “low floor, high ceiling”, however adding the idea of “wide walls” was a real AHA moment. The graphic that came to mind was lightening and multiple strikes. The path for each strike is very apparent, but within each strike is an opportunity for the path to change direction despite the end goal staying the same. Additionally, there are an infinite number of strikes available with each set of parameter.
“Kids will work hard if they are are working on a project they really care about.”
This is so true. I remember as a child willing to work hard on figuring out or building something because I loved the idea. When I was very young, my parents had our home remodeled and the construction crew left behind small and large pieces of 2x4 boards laying around the yard. I swooped up all the extra pieces because I wanted to use them to build a maze for my toys. The passion to build walls, doors, windows and walkways with the boards contributed to my passion to be an architect. I worked very hard on picking up all the boards and moving them to a play area and then convincing my parents to let me keep the boards. I was so passionate about building with the odd shaped blocks!
Ok, what really provokes me is the metaphor of “low floor, high ceilings and wide walls”. I have been discussing with some of my co-workers and we are reflecting on the role of the teacher when we design lessons/ units/ courses this way… One of the critics was: “Is it really necessary for us to establish the ceiling and the floor? What if the student can go much beyond than what we planned for them? Of course, considering each individual abilities, passions, interests, necessities and background.” The person who said that is now doing a project with students where he is not grading them or establishing ‘ceilings’; and believe me, we are seeing such a huge development, engagement and commitment with all the students. It is a really amazing project. But for me, it is still difficult not to think about the floor and the ceiling…
When I saw the video with the idea of wide walls, it took me back to this discussion, and now I am even more intrigued with this… Thank you for bringing it back to my head and making me reflect over this once more. I believe this is a very important metaphor!
What do you think about this?
I’d like to pick two quotes to remember two persons that I miss.
I believe that both “diving in” and “stepping out” are equally important in reaching deeper understanding. […] People cannot learn from their experience as long as they are entirely immersed in it. There comes a time when they need to step back, and reconsider what has happened to them from a distance. They take on the role of an external observer, or critic, and they revisit their experience “as if” it was not theirs. They describe it to themselves and others, and in so doing, they make it tangible and shareable.
Once projected out and objectified, personal experience can be newly re-engaged. People can dive back into the situation of interest to them, get immersed at the cost of losing themselves one more time, until they eventually reemerge and, once more, look at things from a distance. It is this dance between diving-in and stepping-out that keeps us connected while, at the same time, able to grant the world with an existence that goes beyond momentarily relation with it.
Most of [Piaget] followers in education set out to hasten (or at least consolidate) the passage of the child beyond concrete operations. My strategy is to strengthen and perpetuate the typical concrete process even at my age. Rather than pushing children to think like adults, we might do better to remember that they are great learners and to try harder to be more like them.
As a Montessori teacher, the passage about flow struck me in particular, especially, “When people work on projects they’re passionate about, they’re eager to dive in and immerse themselves. They’re willing to work for hours, or longer, and hardly notice that time is passing.” I’ve seen this happen in myself, and in my students, and it is so rewarding to see, especially in 5-6-7 year olds
Yes…this speaks to me as well. When I’m wearing my teacher hat (especially around report card times) it is so hard not to think of the “success criteria” of a project in terms of what curriculum expectations do I want my students to check off along the route. If I changed my mindset, I am sure all of this learning would come about more organically, if presented in a more inquiry-based project model.
Letting go is a challenge…especially in the reality of our requirements to submit prescribed long-range plans and projects reflective of curriculum to our administrators…
Thanks for making me reflect!
I really like the idea of low floors, wide walls and high ceilings. Elementary kids need to build background knowledge so the low floor makes sense. This is where instruction would be the most teacher directed. My students a used to people giving them the answers and having someone give them the step by step instructions on how to complete a task. The wide walls would make the kids think more. They have to figure out their own way to meet the activity’s goal. The high ceiling sets high expectations and hopefully keeps the kids engaged in finding a solution.
“Finding the right balance between freedom and structure is the key to creating a fertile environment for creative learning.” (Lifelong Kindergarten, Tensions and trade-offs: structure; p.80)
This quote is meaningful to me since it succinctly expresses the challenges of incorporating a rich, open-ended tool like Scratch into the highly-structured setting of a typical US public elementary classroom. As both a classroom teacher and later as a school-based technology specialist, I found it challenging to provide students with sufficient time for the free exploration and experimentation necessary for learning how to build in Scratch. It proved to be more satisfying to offer Scratch as an after-school club or as a technology “special.”
Yesterday, I participated in a Maker Edcamp conference with other maker educators. We discussed the same challenges involving fitting open-ended maker project time into a highly-structured school environment. The educators asked each other for advice on how to fit projects into 45-minute blocks of time, how to allow for different rates of project completion, how to incorporate the specific content area objectives, and how to convince others that the act of making is valuable academically.
I do believe that it is possible to find this “right balance” and see that many determined educators are able to do it. However, teachers and students are most likely to be successful when the school culture and community place value on–and provide the conditions for–achieving this “fertile environment for creative learning.”
Like many others low floors and high ceilings along with wide walls struck me as meaningful. I take it a bit further and hope that the walls are moveable and permeable. Kids may come up with ideas that are well beyond the walls we have imagined and we need to be ready to take down the walls.
For me the idea of hard fun along with reflection will be a driving force in my classrooms. To encourage passion is foremost. I almost feel that when a person is engaged in hard fun it is like being in love. You immerse yourself in the activity, and cannot get enough. You will work out the glitches no matter what, and if you need a break, you’ll come back to the project when it is time
As many others (see above): I like the idea of the wide walls.
and especially this quote (by Mitch Resnick):
“If all the projects end up looking alike, we know that something went wrong: the walls weren’t wide enough!”
It’s very satisfying to see that children come up with original ideas and personal ways to tell their stories or share their creativity… and – as an animator/coach – be surprised and happy with these divers and unexpected results.
But it is difficult too: if 15 different children are working on 15 different projects, it asks for some experience by the educators to manage the workshop > experience on a technical level (eg: knowledge of possibilities in Scratch), but also on a pedagogical level (eg: how to engage the children to direct their own learning process)…
Especially since we train young people (15-21 years, from the same neighbourhoods as the children) to be the educators of the workshops. It often is their first time to work with a group of children, they feel they have to be ‘experts’ first.
Even if you tell them: “You don’t have to be an expert, you can ask the children questions instead of giving them answers. You can help them search for an answer” (and it’s not important if you know the answer already yourself, or not). The youngsters nod politely when you say this, but they do not feel it that way (yet).
[by the way: we work with 3 educators for a group of 15 children]
I keep thinking about the key concepts I (we) have heart in this course (4Ps; low floor-high ceiling-wide wall; hard fun; autonomy&mastery&purpose from Drive) , and how they are intertwined to the goal of meaningful learning. I think that “low floor, high ceiling, and wide wall” principle being practiced in learning environment would lead to students’ passion in projects which are to realise a their purpose , their autonomy in doing projects, their persistence and playful way in doing projects (hard fun), their keeping doing to have mastery, be their being happy to share their passion and skills with peers…
@benjiwheeler, I understand very well what you mean: working with Lego Mindstorms, I sometimes miss the liberty too, that children have (and feel) when the build and play with ordinary Lego. It becomes less creative and a bit more technical. To make an object move, you need some understanding of mechanics, otherwise it will block or not move well. They can work by prepared tutorials (with building instructions) but it’s not easy to invent your own working robots.
The way technical Lego-blocks are connected, is very different too from original Lego, which is more intuitive. In that sense, Lego WE DO is very nice, especially for younger children. But at some point you have to decide in which to invest (because it’s all quite expensive).
Emma, Thank you for mentioning flow. I think that it is an integral part of passion and hard fun–that you become so involved and immersed in what you are doing that you loose track of time. This is something I love about making artwork–that flow/meditative state. The challenge is that schools are so structured with scheduled events that is difficult to provide this kind of experience.
What resonated the most was the concept of “wide walls”. I have always thought of the value of “low floors and high ceiling” as the foundation of my teaching strategies, giving students “easy tasks” to get them to feel they can accomplish right from the beginning but as they go on in the process they must have challenging tasks that also gives them the feeling of accomplishment as they struggle but manage to succeed. What I find wonderful about “wide walls” is that students can follow different paths to follow in order to achieve their goals, following not only instructions but following their passion, working along with their peers, working on projects that allows them to play as they learn. This course is already giving me so much, I feel fortunate.
I love this quote from Lifelong Kindergarten: " The girls had easy access to a
wide variety of materials—some new, some familiar, some high-tech, some low-tech—to help
spark their imaginations. They had enough time to experiment and explore, to persist when they
ran into stubborn problems, to reflect and find new directions when things went wrong. They
were supported by a team of creative and caring mentors, who asked questions as often as they
provided answers. The mentors continually encouraged the girls to try out new ideas and to
share their ideas with one another."
This particularly resonated with me because to me, this is a perfect summary of perfect teaching, of being a facilitator rather than instructor. Kids who discover on their own are the ones truly learn, and it’s what I always aspire to do with my own students.
I love your description of the difference between “hard fun” and “easy fun!” It’s so true, and it is also becoming increasingly difficult to pull kids away from those easy choices, that while fun, do not hold any educational value!