Sunday, October 26, 2014

just wow

If you're a teacher reading this blog, and if you both care about teaching and have some sympathy for the pedagogical drum I've been relentlessly beating—to wit, make your lessons task-oriented and student-centered—you owe it to yourself to watch this absolutely incredible TED presentation by John Hunter, a public-school teacher based in Virginia, who uses a device he calls "the World Peace Game" to teach third- and fourth-graders about a whole constellation of concepts, practices, and values.

I was almost moved to tears while watching this humble, intelligent man's talk, and I couldn't help but be amazed at the method he had devised to get his young charges engaged in the endeavor of solving the world's problems. Is the game realistic? Come on: even without watching the video, you already know the answer to that question, and that's not really the important question, anyway. For me, a more important question was, Does the game have pedagogical value? And it does. It surely does. Hunter's game is the quintessence of task-oriented and student-centered, and the videos he shows us are proof that his kids are excited, challenged, and engaged by the framework he's created.

Hunter's talk was a smashing vindication of the message I've been trying to put out there on my blog regarding good teaching: you show the students you have high expectations, you stand back and let them get their hands dirty, and then you watch them rise to the occasion. It's amazing what people can accomplish when you give them room to breathe.

SIDE NOTE: One popular TED speaker whom I've mentioned on this blog before, Sir Ken Robinson, gives engaging lectures on the state of education and the need to improve it through disruptive paradigms that emphasize creativity and individualized learning. I like Sir Ken's lectures, but I'm often frustrated that he always seems to stop short of actually providing any concrete solutions to the problems he isolates. His critiques of our current, stultifying system are spot-on, and I applaud his diagnosis. But just once, I'd like to see a TED talk in which Sir Ken goes into detail about practical measures that can be taken to improve our schools, without giving us more warnings about the need to avoid factory-style conformity, to escape a 1700s-era view of the mind, and so on. John Hunter strikes me as enacting the other side of what Sir Ken is preaching: Hunter has a specific, concrete solution, and in his talk, we can see his solution in action. Perhaps Hunter and Robinson should do a tandem TED presentation. I'd watch that.


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