Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Tangible Learning

"If you want to learn to swim, jump into the water. On dry land, no frame of mind is ever going to help you." ~ Bruce Lee

We all learn in different ways and some things are best learned one way rather than another but for most things we learn best by being involved and doing something ...  you can only learn so much from listening, reading and watching.

If you think about the things you remember best they are probably the things in which you have been actively engaged in some way. Seymour Papert’s research convinced him that children (and for that matter adults) learn more efficiently if they could see a tangible result and that people are motivated and inspired to learn when they are using that learning to make something they care about.

People are more than just minds to be filled or programmed in front of a screen - people have bodies, feelings and emotions and live in a real world. When people try to do things and fail or succeed, emotions are triggered, and these have a significant effect on how we learn.

Learning is more than remembering content and know-what facts which are easily codified, transmitted and tested by the education system - learning is also about the "know-how" of doing things, making things and getting stuff done.

Tangible learning is at the very core of one of our greatest achievements - science. "The most important part of the scientific method is the experiment" - without observation and experiment in the real world science could simply be fiction.

Back in 1946 Edgar Dale developed the "Cone of Experience" as "a visual metaphor" to summarise his classification system for varied types of mediated learning experience - it's a useful intuitive and descriptive classification concept "not to be taken too seriously". Attaching numbers without tangible observation and experiment the "Cone of Experience" has been turned into the "Cone of Learning" and the Learning Pyramid" to satisfy those who are driven by data. science fiction. Without tangible observation and experiment in the real world education myths would never be debunked and exposed as the science fiction that many of them are.

Education is driven hard by political, business and management assumptions. There is a hard drive to technologise teaching and learning at all costs (and it is costly) without basis. Talk is cheap but its consequences can be costly. For example, there is an assumption that young people are more likely to read on some sort of screen and this has been used as the basis for education and library strategy and resource decisions. But young people do not have a uniform set of skills, and the contention that screens are preferred is not backed up by existing research or new research. Without tangible observation and experiment the idea that young people are more likely to read on some sort of screen is science fiction if not fantasy.

Repeated findings underscored an irony. Many of the world’s great scientists had been teaching with scant evidence to support their methods, something they’d never tolerate in their research.

If you experience the condition of the problem, you’ll remember the answer much better. Lectures have it backwards. They basically give you the answer, then you practice it.

It’s just not how the brain learns, It does not learn to do these things by watching someone write on a chalkboard or by listening to them talk.

It is really hard to believe the problem when you’ve been indoctrinated into a system, until you actually test it yourself.’

Using the traditional hour-long lecture to teach science, is like relying on medieval medicine while boxes of antibiotics abound. “It’s the pedagogical equivalent of bloodletting”

Tangible learning is also about tangible effects. A study the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that Active Learning Leads to Higher Grades and Fewer Failing Students

“The impact of these data should be like the Surgeon General’s report on “Smoking and Health” in 1964–they should put to rest any debate about whether active learning is more effective than lecturing.”

There is also a strong ethical component to explore active learning.

"There is a growing body of evidence showing that active learning differentially benefits students of color and/or students from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or women in male-dominated fields"

Tangible learning engages the whole person, not just the intellectual mind, it emphasises practical, active and activity learning and the value of doing and getting stuff done in the real world.

"Learning is experience. Everything else is just information." – Albert Einstein

InspireNshare are developing tangible learning experiences for education - to find out more visit

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