MAS.714J | Fall 2009 | Graduate

Technologies for Creative Learning


Reading responses for Week #8: Supporting Communities of Learners

Reflection and Questions

Posted by JL, KG, RW and DG

It’s interesting that John Dewey wrote Experience and Education in the 1930s, and yet many of his observations feel crisply relevant today. His writing may not employ all of today’s educational terminology, but he’s writing about some of the same things we’ve been discussing in class - learning that is grounded in authentic experience and applicable to real-world problem setting and solving. We’ve outlined the entire 91 pages, to help you out a bit, and I’ve included a link to a helpful 500-word summary I found on the web. Those will follow in a moment, but first I’ll post the questions we’d like you to address on the blog:

Question 1: Visit the link below, and take a quick look at any one of the frameworks for any subject matter for any grade level.

Pick any one (or more, if you like) concept/s that students in that grade in Massachusetts schools are required to learn. Now imagine that you are a teacher in an ordinary school with a usual mix of students and typically limited resources. Describe a project or activity that you are going to ask your students to do to ensure that they master the required concept you’ve selected. Keep Dewey’s ideas about progressive education in mind, and try to incorporate some of the best practices we’ve been talking about in past weeks. Try to design your activity to include some of them: situated cognition, intrinsic motivation, authentic learning, transferable knowledge, student group collaboration and communication, etc. Describe your activity, how long it takes, what’s involved, etc. Give as much detail as you like. So, what’s your plan, teacher?

Question 2: Dewey has shown us that it is not enough to propose a new system by rejecting the “aims and methods” of the one we want to supplant. Since we have already critiqued traditional schooling systems, we ask you to do the same sort of critique of “progressive education” schooling systems. Specifically, what are the main dangers of these newer educational systems? Have you studied in a “progressive education” setting, or do you have friends that have? Tell us about those experiences, good or bad, if you like.

Our Outline for Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and Education.

Chapter 1: Traditional vs. Progressive Education

  • The history of educational theory is marked by disagreement about whether education is about the development (of natural abilities) from within or the formation (of disciplined habits of mind over natural inclinations) from without.

  • Traditional education imposes on children adult standards, subject matter and methods that are beyond the capacities and experience of children. The gap is so wide, it prevents much active participation by young pupils in what is taught.

  • The differences between traditional education and progressive education are: 

    1. imposition from above vs. expression and cultivation of individuality
    2. external discipline vs. free activity
    3. learning from texts and teachers vs. learning through experience
    4. learning isolated skills and techniques by drill vs. learning for meaningful ends
    5. preparation for a remote future vs. seizing present opportunities
    6. static aims and materials vs. embracing a changing world.
  • The philosophy of progressive education is based on a relationship between education and experience. A challenge for progressive education is the place and meaning of subject matter and organization within experience.

  • Progressive education shouldn’t reject the principle of organization (in education). It should be a positive philosophy, not just a negative rejection of traditional education. When external authority and control (of pupils by schools) are rejected, there is a need to search for a more effective source of authority and control.

  • Basing education on personal experience may mean more contact and guidance between the mature (teachers/mentors) and the immature (students), not less. New-style schools that eschew organized subject matter, proceed as if any form of direction and guidance by adults were an invasion of individual freedom, and as if education should be concerned with the present and future only, not the past, are simply reacting negatively to traditional schools and may be as dogmatic in their own way.

Chapter 2: The Need of a Theory of Empiricism

  • The new philosophy of education is committed to an empirical and experimental philosophy.
  • The belief that all genuine education comes about through experience does not mean that all experiences are genuinely or equally educative. In fact some experiences can be mis-educative if they have the effect of arresting further experience, or engendering callousness or a lack of sensitivity to different experiences. Experiences can be so disconnected, that even when enjoyable, they don’t add up to learning, and do little to foster self-discipline.
  • Traditional schools offer many mis-educative experiences, and have rendered many students callous to ideas, unable to transfer skills learned by rote, likely to associate learning with boredom, and unable to apply what they learn in school to life outside of school.
  • Education based on experience depends on the quality of the experience. The quality has two aspects: whether or not it is pleasant, and its influence on later experiences. Every experience lives on in further experiences. The central problem of an education based upon experiences is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and creatively in subsequent experiences. There is a principle of the continuity of experience or the “experiential continuum”.
  • Just because traditional education was a matter of routine in which the plans and programs were handed down from the past, it does not follow that progressive education is a matter of planless improvisation. Revolt against the kind of organization characteristic of the traditional school requires a (new) kind of organization based upon ideas.
  • Progressive education demands a philosophy of education based upon a philosophy of experience. A coherent theory of experience, affording positive direction to selection and organization of appropriate methods and materials, is required to give new direction to schools.
  • It is a more difficult to work out the kinds of materials, methods and social relationships that are appropriate to the new education than is the case with traditional education.
  • Failure to develop a conception of organization upon the empirical and experimental basis in progressive schools gives educational reactionaries a too easy victory.

Chapter 3: Criteria of Experience

In this chapter Dewey refers to experience as the relation between two complementary principles: continuity and interaction.

  • Continuity: Experiences are connected to each other. Therefore present experiences result from experiences which have gone before, and affect experiences which come after.
  • Interaction: Experiences result from the transaction between internal and external conditions. The internal refers to the individual needs, desires and purposes. The external refers to the physical and social environments.

Chapter 4: Social Control

  • When education is based upon experiences and educative experience, it becomes a social process.
  • Schools should be structured with social control, where all individuals have an opportunity to contribute and to which all feel a responsibility.
  • The teacher losses the position of external boss and instead becomes a leader of group activities.
  • However, teachers now have a greater responsibility in planning in advance and being aware of the capabilities and needs of the students.
  • Planning must be flexible enough to permit free play for individuality of experience and yet firm enough to give direction towards continuous development of power.

Chapter 5: The Nature of Freedom

  • The main freedom of importance is “freedom of intelligence” and “freedom of observation and judgment”
  • The commonest mistake about freedom is to identify it with freedom of movement (external/physical activity)
  • But physical freedom cannot be separated from the internal side of activity of thought, desire, and purpose
  • “Thinking is thus a postponement of immediate action, while it effects internal control of impulse through a union of observation and memory, this union being the heart of reflection”

Chapter 6: The Meaning of Purpose

  • Big idea: “Student need self-motivated purpose”
  • Formation of purpose:
    1. observation of surrounding conditions
    2. knowledge of what has happened in similar situations in the past
    3. judgement which puts together what is observed and what is recalled to see what they signify
  • Desire + impulse = the force to plan and act
  • Teachers need to exercise the pupils’ intelligence by making suggestions to what they should do

Chapter 7: Progressive Organization of Subject-matter

  • Anything which can be called a study, whether arithmetic, history, geography, or one of the natural sciences, must be derived from materials which at the outset fall within the scope of ordinary life-experience.
  • The achievements of the past provide the only means at command for understanding the present.
  • The educator cannot start with knowledge already organized and proceed to ladle it out in doses.
  • It is critical that educators view teaching and learning as a continuous process of reconstruction of experience.

Here’s the link to the helpful online summary:

  • Neill, James. “500 Word Summary of Dewey’s “Experience & Education”.” October 1, 2005.

Happy reading of this classic work of educational theory!

DG, JL, KG, and RW

Student Reading Responses

In the following postings, quoted excerpts from the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks are courtesy of the Massachusetts Department of Education.

Posted by JC

Question 1

The topic I chose was Science and Technology/Engineering. I would ideally want a group of high school students who have taken a basic programming concepts class; they would likely be at least juniors before getting into a programming concepts class. I expect this to be targeted towards seniors.

  1. Throughout the course of the semester long class, we would investigate the current state of automobile transportation. Students are all familiar with cars; this would give them a common starting point and familiar topic to discuss.
  2. Start by investigating how vehicles are becoming smarter in order to better serve the driver. Students could chose to look at any aspect of the vehicle they would be interested in: internal user comfort, automatic pilot, back-up safety devices, hands-free entertainment, etc.
  3. Group the kids by area of interest. Throughout the semester, they will experience individual tasking, small group work, and large group work.
  4. Divide the class into general steps. Incorporate aspects of the recommended and necessary engineering design principles. Note that the phases will overlap; and there will be continuous learning spirals: imagine, create, share, play, reflect.
    1. Research the brainstormed areas of interest; determine how they are addressed today (eg. hands free voice commands for music)
    2. Imagine ways to expand these areas of interest in intelligent ways (how to make the car work for you); e.g. change window tinting based on level of sunshine
    3. Investigate any research/other work today that may influence how the brainstormed advancements may be implemented
    4. Quickly make a scoped plan of attack to try creating towards the decided advancement
    5. Each group collaborates; share with the other groups periodically
    6. Their areas of interest would likely require them to make use of knowledge obtained in other classes (math, physics, programming); and likely to learn new concepts
    7. Play with the implementation
    8. Figure out what worked, what didn’t, and what to try out next
    9. Go to step 4 and repeat; it is expected the students will hunt for inspiration and ideas throughout the course of the create-share-play-reflect cycle. They will also need to communicate with their groups on a frequent basis; and the large group on a period basis.
    10. Invite professionals, former students, college students, parents, etc. to come in and work with the groups from time to time (offer advice, guidance, bounce ideas off of, help with technical problems, etc.)
    11. Prepare a final set of products (e.g. paper, poster, demo, etc.); bring in parents/others for a show and tell day at the end
  5. This type of class/long workshop would employ such concepts as: intrinsic motivation, authentic learning, transferable knowledge, student group collaboration and communication.
  6. The teacher becomes a project lead at this point and full supporter of the class/team. This is a concept Dewey had discussed.
  7. Note I am glazing over some serious detail and logistical challenges (eg. time to organize this, disposable funding to quickly purchase materials to support the groups’ implementations, etc.)

Question 2

I didn’t grow up in a “progressive education” environment (or at least I don’t think I have). As an adult, I have participated in informal and formal environments that implemented progressive education methods. However, here are my critiques regarding progressive education:

  1. I personally need some structure/direction/etc. when I’m learning something new. So perhaps a blend of traditional methods and progressive works for me.
  2. The logistics of implementing a progressive class (like the one I outlined above) would be resource (time and money) intensive.
    • Dewey mentioned teachers becoming knowledge workers (and project leaders) and being paid accordingly in order to support them in running progressive classes. I completely agree with this. And have no idea how our current tax based income flow for schools can support this.
  3. Progressive education is not going to be cheap, easy, and who knows how reproducible. There’s a reason people gravitate towards standards - networking standards, radio communication standards, etc. People know what to develop towards: they know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. Once the standard is set, it is cheaper to implement.
    • Assembly lines and standards make efficient use of time and resources; products are predictable and pumped out on a predictable basis. People are unfortunately not cookie-cutter products.
  4. Dewey brought up the issue that a whole new approach to evaluating whether progressive education methods are making any impact. We can barely justify structured, traditional methods in a reasonable manner; we’d need to start over with a fresh perspective on the evolving progressive methods.

I think I have typed far too much……Go Packers :)

Posted by FG

I love how thoroughly you have thought through your proposed activities - contrary to myself:).. This activity is in fact ‘ready to go’, with its various steps already all laid out. Just one thing - I personally would not have been interested in the state of the automobile industry. I have zero knowledge of cars, compared to most people, in the sense that we never had a car in my parents’ home. So perhaps it’s a little hasty to assume that most students’ families would have a car and/or would be familiar or interested in automobiles. I would also assume that the topic would attract most boys’ attention, but that this wouldn’t be the case for most girls. Such an outdated, gender-based division of interests might be regrettable, but it is the reality I think.

I guess finding a topic that is likely to interest everyone, across gender, class, culture, etc. is a challenge too.

I have to say that I applaud your mentioning of parents and inviting them, together with other adults, in the students’ activities. For anyone who has read through my initial diatribe on the need to engage parents in their children’s education, even if the latter is now supported by a host of cool communities and high-tech tools and service. Parental nurturance and feedback are irreplaceable in my opinion. As I wrote, they seem to have received so little attention in our talks in class and posts here, that this was a nice surprise.

So on the whole I would think that your proposed activities to teach this scientific/engineering topic would be very successful in productively engaging participants, once the hurdle of a topic that may not interest everyone has been overcome.

As for your critique of the progressive systems of education, I appreciate very much your taking into account economic considerations such as costs, which are often overlooked in the waves of positivism about the new systems. Here, on Dewey’s proposal to pay educators and ‘knowledge workers’ according to their input - this reminds me of a recently proposed regulation that would pay teachers according to their student’s grades reports and the ‘results’ of their teachings - which can of course be very vague and subjective. As far as I know, the proposed measure was very unpopular among the teachers’ communities nationwide.

In any case, I agree that such economic, pragmatic considerations should be taken into account in any new progressive educational system.

And I think that developing standards and principles for this new system is also important. We cannot do without values.

Posted by JC

FG, thank you for the feedback on the proposed activity. I agree that it may be a little gender biased; I honestly have no proof either way. I just picked a topic I would be interested in. Ideally, there would be room for discussion when deciding the topic.

Posted by DG

The topic I chose was the 6th Grade section on Europe. The framework contains the following:


Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Channel Islands (U.K.), Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar (U.K.), Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican City, Yugoslavia


On a map of the world, locate the continent of Europe. On a map of Europe, locate the Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Norwegian Sea, and Barents Sea. Locate the Volga, Danube, Ural, Rhine, Elbe, Seine, Po, and Thames Rivers. Locate the Alps, Pyrenees, and Balkan Mountains. Locate the countries in the northern, southern, central, eastern, and western regions of Europe.


Use a map key to locate countries and major cities in Europe. (G)


Explain how the following five factors have influenced settlement and the economies of major European countries (G, E)

  1. absolute and relative locations
  2. climate
  3. major physical characteristics
  4. major natural resources
  5. population size

Optional Topics for Study

  • Describe the general level of education in selected countries in Europe and its relationship to the economy. (G, H, E)
  • Describe the political and social status of women in selected countries in Europe. (G, H, E)
  • Describe major ethnic and religious groups in various countries in Europe. (G, H, E)
  • Explain why Europe has a highly developed network of highways, waterways, railroads, and airline linkages. (G, H, E)
  • Describe the purposes and achievements of the European Union. (H, E)
  • Identify the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union in the Baltic area, Central Asia, Southern Russia, and the Caucasus, and compare the population and size of the former Soviet Union with that of present day Russia. (H, G)
  • Explain the sources and effects of the massive pollution of air, water, and land in the former satellite nations of Eastern Europe, in the countries once part of the Soviet Union, and in Russia. (H, G)”

I think that using a computer based trading based game would be the best way to teach these topics. Allow the players to start off in different cities, and the properties of the cities are based on the political, ethnic, and religious groups in those countries. Through playing the game and a desire to get better at it, the students understand when to use highways, railways, waterways to ship goods from one point to another, and to understand the needs and natural resources found in the various countries.

Through either temporal progression or events, certain facts and dynamics can be explored. If we want students to learn the locations of certain key locations, we can refer to them frequently. I also think that vague descriptions that require underlying knowledge encourages the students to learn more. For instance, one could say in the next 3 rounds countries/cities primarily focused on agriculture will be more productive.

I think that a system like this allows the students to dive into areas that they find most interesting, and allows them to determine their level of involvement. I’m against making students create deliverables that have little to no bearing on the tasks at hand. For instance making posters, writing reports, etc on what they have learned is a great way to drain any enthusiasm that may have been built up. Instead, I think a better approach would be for the game to be changed and become team based where each team develops a guide/poster to share their strategies/knowledge with new team members. The team has 1 hour before the game starts to review their strategies and be briefed on each others ideas. In this way there is a reason for them to write clearly and succinctly - they must convey their knowledge to their teammates.

My thoughts on progressive education, are that it seems like a good idea - I didn’t really experience it. In general though it seems like it might be extremely expensive, and I think that we already spend too much on education as a country. I think that the best way to learn is to jump right in and struggle to survive, the teacher is the lifeguard - they’ll help you out when you really need it. Progressive education seems like a great idea, and is definitely better than traditional education. However, there are some drawbacks that need to be weighed against it.

Posted by JC

I like how you have designed an activity intending to learn about areas of Europe through the use of a game. In my humble opinion, this would be far more interesting that memorizing statistics and reiterating them on paper tests. This would definitely allow the student to explore avenues of interest as he/she happens to come across them. I agree that allowing the student to explore their interests will lead to more permanent learning.

On a side note, I had an art history course (many actually) in my undergrad days. The prof wanted us to ultimately know the names, locations, artists, etc. for pieces of artwork in Europe. The task was to plan a “vacation” around 20+ pieces (any we wanted). This was obviously a paper-based task, but was engaging in that I got to daydream an art history type vacation. I ended up learning about various cities and countries as a side effect. I still have that vacation plan today, waiting to be executed.

Posted by JL

I really like your suggestion in creating a game to learn about Europe. I will admit that i had no idea where the countries were in Europe. It wasn’t until i studied abroad in Europe that I learned exactly which country was where. Children need some sort of experience and context to gain knowledge. Too bad we can’t send all of them to Europe for a month or two…

Posted by VC

Question 1: Designing a project or curriculum

I chose Nutrition from the Comprehensive Health strand:

“Grade 5: Identify the connection between food served in the home with regional food production.”

I would like to create a project where kids visit a local farm and see what kind of produce is being grown at a given time and then develop a 2 or 3-course meal around those types of produce. Recipes can come from home, or they can research them themselves.

Here’s how I would think about it:

  1. Contact a local farm and see what kind of produce/other animal products are being grown.
  2. Split kids up into groups (~5 kids/group) and have them pick their ingredient.
  3. Have kids research about that ingredient-what kind of nutrients does this provide? how is it grown? What kind of recipes is this used for? If everyone has some sort of plant, maybe have them try growing that plant themselves.
  4. Bring kids to the farm and have them either see for themselves how it’s grown. I would specifically ask that the kids see how the plant is being harvested or how the cow is being milked, so they understand the labor that goes into it. Perhaps we could get the school to help us buy some of the produce for the final activity.
  5. Have kids cook 3 different recipes using the item they chose, encouraging them to think about the health benefits of the food and also about making different types of foods (not all dessert, please!). Kids should cook enough to share with the class and be prepared to share what they’ve learned!

*Note: this is probably something that would work better at a fairly well-funded school where there are lots of parent volunteers, but I don’t think it’s totally impossible under other conditions.

Question 2: A criticism

I did my undergraduate work at Brown University, which I would say follows the progressive education model fairly closely. At Brown, we had an open curriculum, which means we had no distribution requirements. To graduate with a Brown degree, you have to finish all the requirements for a concentration (that’s usually about 10-11 courses) and pass 30 classes. If you take 4 classes per semester, you’ll take 32 classes, which means they even give you the option of failing 2. The atmosphere at Brown was very self-driven-no one was making you take anything, so there the idea that you should use your freedom wisely and learn what intrigues you prevailed. I think everyone I knew there truly believed that the experience of education was highly valuable.

I absolutely loved my time at Brown and would not have traded that experience for any other college experience, but I recognize that there were many shortcomings to giving people that much freedom. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t thoughtful in planning their college experience there, but I think giving people the option to not take any classes in one or another subject area meant that people received very lopsided educations. I heard rumors of one girl who was part of the PLME program (which admits you to Brown Med at the time you’re admitted as an undergrad) who took all her med school prerequisites pass/fail and only took dance classes outside those requirements. I have friends who would freeze up every time they saw numbers because they actively avoided math and friends who couldn’t write grammatically correct sentences because they eschewed writing-intensive classes. One of my friends dated a girl who attended some NY prep school with a Brown-style open curriculum before attending Brown. He claims that she was brilliant and exceptionally knowledgeable about literature, but actually couldn’t multiply numbers.

It’s possible that these problems were actually problems with guidance, but I think the advising program was fine, at least within concentrations, and we were encouraged to take our freedom seriously. As I said before, I wouldn’t trade my time at Brown for anything, but I am also glad that my awesome college experience was preceded by a more traditional K-12 approach because it’s allowed me to be a higher-functioning member of society than the girl who couldn’t multiply.

Posted by JC

I concur with EL [posting removed due to copyright restrictions] by loving the nutrition/cooking class. There is a gap in appreciation of where your food actually comes from. I would have loved to take this class; probably would today. The logistics of making this class happen would be challenging, of course.

I also agree with your discussion of too much freedom in learning. People are going to be drawn to what is comfortable or familiar; unless they have an over-riding drive for learning. Not everyone has this drive of course. I would like to think this freedom should be permissible at the undergraduate level, but perhaps even that is too soon (as you pointed out).

Posted by MN

I think a combination of visiting a farm, cooking, and sharing meals are great activities for education about nutrition. Not only is it experiential but it also combines different concepts from biology, sociology, teamwork, and community. In order to make sure these concepts and knowledge get across in an impactful way, I think it would be the teachers job to make sure there is enough preview and reflections before and after the exciting events.

Posted by SL

I’d like to start this post by complaining that both the blog this week and the reading had too many words. Uncle uncle uncle! I am overwhelmed by the number of words. I am intimidated and discouraged by the number of words. I don’t want to read all of these words. And in the case of Dewey, the language is outdated and difficult to slog through. (That being said, when you do finally reach his points, his words are very relevant.) ok, that’s the end of my rant. I’m over it. Just consider me clew-less. This week’s reading did not match my learning style, but I did learn in a traditional kind of tortured way.

Q1: I’ve chosen Engineering Design for Grades 6-8 for my concept module.

“Engineering design is an iterative process that involves modeling and optimizing to develop technological solutions to problems within given constraints.”

Form small teams of 3 or 4 students who choose a project that they want to design and prototype-engaging to them personally or relevant to a community challenge that they want to undertake. Create the fiction that the project will need to be presented to the “client” in the form of a portfolio and sales pitch- the class represents the client who needs to understand the technical and financial challenges of the project before approving it.

“2.1 Identify and explain the steps of engineering design process”

Students identify a project that they are engaged with, something that they want to make for themselves or for the community. Have them research the problem together online and, time permitting, through other resources (like library, professionals, etc.). Have each student come up with a solution, and have the team discuss each possible solution and assess the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. Prototype the solution, using the tools and materials at hand, and as a group iterate prototypes. The teacher will have to provide guidance and some design specificaions/constraints that the project needs to meet.

“2.2. Demonstrate methods of representing solutions to a design problem”

Have the team come up with different methods of representing their design after exposing them to professional standards of representation with concrete examples. This will become part of their presentation portfolio.

“2.3 Describe and explain the purpose of a given prototype”

Communication about the project and the prototype become part of the proposal presentation.

“2.4 Identify appropriate materials, tools and machines needed to construct a prototype of a given engineering design.”

Based on internet research, have the team come up with a list of potential materials and costs, and a plan for fabricating their prototype. If time permits, have the team prototype in a few different materials. Or have them test a small set of different materials, on the machines to see what different physical properties each material manifests.. This information becomes part of the presentation portfolio.

“2.5 Explain how such design features as size, shape, weight, function and cost limitations would affect the construction of a given prototype.”

See notes on 2.4 above.

“2.6 Identify the five elements of a universal systems model: goal, inputs, processes, outputs, and feedback.”

In group discussion have each team describe their process, and guide the class to the five elements of a univerisal systems model.

I think this module would incorporate many of the issues and practices we’ve been discussing, and those that DG, JL, KG, and RW mention above: situated cognition, intrinsic motivation, authentic learning, transferable knowledge, student group collaboration and communication, etc.

Q2: I have no experience with progressive education, but my instincts lead me to a model that combines elements of both traditional and progressive methods. Dewey definitely sobered my ideas about experience-based learning a bit. I worry that too much is expected of teachers in too progressive an environment, and that too much freedom and too little direction and guidance will lead to student boredom, lack of challenge, lack of discipline (in manners and in learning), and lack of knowledge. It could also affect how students learn later in life, as Dewey suggests, in how they pursue knowledge and seek to learn more.

P.S. Apologies for all these words!

Posted by FG

Question 1:

After checking the link here below, I could identify a couple of core competencies taught in school that interest me, but I am not sure I can say that I am able to develop a whole new, pioneering activity around them, especially as the proposed methods and activities of the Massachusetts Dept of Elementary and Secondary School are not bad in themselves and already cover a lot of ground. Rather, I can provide some thoughts of where I would take them, and suggest some types of activities, but I would rather leave the door open for modifications.

I have selected reading [and perhaps one could say by extension writing and reading comprehension/analytical skills dependent on language learning] at the Kindergarten level. Kindergarten experiences interest me most since I myself never went to Kindergarten due to a parental choice, and started school only at 6. I believe social and emotional health and especially family life also come into play in my proposal for an improved method of learning these skills, so I include them here.

My interest in these competencies and how they are being taught and are now under scrutiny for possible reform springs from an observation I just made regarding our readings and discussions of them on the Blog and in class so far. To take this week’s readings, John Dewey’s Experience and Education and K. Sawyer’s The Schools of the Future: here are two more texts by scholars who seem to seek to engage a whole series of people in designing and implementing the new system of education they propose: teachers, tutors, educators, monitors, ’learning scientists,’ ’educational psychologists,’ education contractors, software designers and other technologists, among others, but seem to leave parents out of the picture. Sawyer mentions “collaboration with families” and just once the word ‘parents’ in the conclusion - “Parents, politicians and schoolboards must be convinced that change is necessary,” but he doesn’t go on to specifying how parents could become involved in their children’s education.

Likewise, I find that our own conversations in class, although ultimately rich in new ideas, have somewhat disregarded ways for parental involvement in curriculum design and learning techniques in general. We have stressed the importance in a new reformed model of learning of community, friends, classmates and fellow learners, peers neighbors and other people in one’s close-by communities - entire categories of people who are not necessarily directly related to or familiar with the child/teenager/student/learner, while leaving those who know him/her best out. I might be drawing an extreme picture and this may not have been so so strictly speaking, but by and large, this is how I feel.

It seems we are ready to entrust our children’s education to all and sundry as long as they have a cool-sounding name or qualification, such as the “learning scientist” and “educational psychologists” used by this week’s authors, and of course as long as new technological devices are being used. It seems to me that by the time a child reaches the age of entering kindergarten, and thus the educational system, parents drop our of the picture. With the slew of extracurricular activities, sports, workshops, summer camps and numerous other leisure-time occupations children are encouraged to engage in when not in school, the time they spend with their parents has dwindled to a ridiculous amount, let alone quality, discussion and learning time.

I find this rather surprising since our parents are our very first teachers, and successful ones at that, since they teach us essential skills such as walking, speaking, emotional processing, exploring one’s immediate environment, etc. in a most natural, seamless manner, embedding this knowledge acquisition into the child’s daily life at home. In short, it doesn’t feel like learning. Perhaps educators and the educational systems could take a page out of parents’ book for seamless, instant learning and try to replicate those processes for the skills and subjects they want to teach in a school setting or its new, reformed equivalent.

Now that parents are grappling with new technologies, trying to catch up as well as monitor their children’s activities on the Net, now might be a good time to finally involve them in their children’s new forms of Internet-enhanced/computer-aided learning in schools and extracurricular workshops and activities.

So this is my proposal for a kindergarten activity or new approach to teaching basic skills such as reading and writing to young children: develop it in a way that engages the parents. Physical limits should not be applied to the task, so that it can be conducted at home in the form of homework in which parents are required to contribute to and given specific tasks, as well as in class/in the workshop. Parents, or if not available due to working schedules, another caring adult/family member could also be invited to the school so as to engage in the child’s classroom activities.

In fact, one activity started in class should be pursued at home and vice versa, in such a way that it becomes an ongoing, boundless experience. Perhaps a task can even be performed on the way to school. The idea is to make the assignment and learning experience in general a seamless activity between home and school.

I chose reading skills because this is actually the way I myself learned reading, before entering the school system at age 6. When I entered my first year of primary school, I knew how to read, contrary to many pupils who had attended kindergarten. The formula was simple: as soon as we were big enough, my mother would teach my brother and I how to read signs on posters, in shops’ windows, street signs and other urban displays and surfaces on each of our outings, be it on foot or by car, teaching us to recognize and pronounce the different letters. Most of the time this turned into a little game. There were also plenty of games with letters, words and later, expressions during our daily mundane activities such as getting dressed or helping her with cooking and other domestic tasks. We had to look for synonyms, antonyms, guess a word, etc. We learned new words, increased our vocabulary, and in the end performed the same kind of language skills exercises that one finds in the GRE test for verbal competency. This was a fun and natural process, which is why I would recommend engaging in this type of activity with young children both at home and in more formal learning settings such as school or whatever shape the learning environment of the future will take, and involving all adults in the process.

It goes without saying that reading to children is also essential, and my mother used to read to us bedtime stories. Here too, this activity could be made more flexible, perhaps with children reading to each other, or telling in class about what their parents read to them and vice versa.

This may all sound too simple, but I would indeed simply advocate a more integrated, seamless teaching approach that involves all people and all places in the process, and last but not least, which seeks to add the use of Web services and technological devices in the process, so that everyone is on the same page, parents [or a child’s primary care provider] included.

Question 2: Criticisms

I and my friends have studied in the traditional system, so here are just a few criticisms of the progressive system, at the top of my head:

  • The progressive system and its learning activities seem to instill a belief that everything in life is ‘fun’, while clearly it isn’t. Also, it doesn’t really teach how to deal with difficult, unpleasant leaning situations or negative elements that may come in the way, preferring to focus on the pleasant and positive moments. Thus, John Dewey’s idea of focusing on pleasant experiences is sure to yield great results in children’s and adults’ learning of new skills, but is not very reflective or real life. Learning in a “humane, democratic” cocoon, as Dewey calls for, is not going to prepare children to navigate the real world, which can be harsh and autocratic. But I do not argue that Dewey’s model is what we should strive for.

Also, embedding the ‘real life’ experience at the core of the pedagogy, rather than the theory of the traditional system, fails to take into account that not every experience is a good one. People may have a difficult family/personal/professional background and would rather forget the bad moments. If one has such bad ‘real life’ experiences, it will not be productive to use the learner’s personal experiences in the learning activity.

  • By extension, basing the study of a skill, subject or whole filed on one real-life experience or concrete case study only may be reductionist, as the learning will apply only to this situation and the learner may not know how to apply his new skill to other areas.
  • It presumes that there will always be a nearby, accessible community of co-learners, or people to fall back on for support, feedback and positive energy or simply interested in the learning experience and its result - while again, this is not always the case in real life. People may find themselves having to learn something new alone for all sorts of reasons. They must be able to do so, and without the support and feedback from others. In real life, these are not a given.
  • Dewey argues that certain tasks taught in the traditional systems are so out of touch with reality and such complex concepts that they are ‘beyond children’s capacities’ for learning them. I do not agree with this: nothing is beyond children, they are in essence sponges and readily absorb any kind of knowledge or practices offered to them. An extreme negative example if how children in some developing nations are being taught how to kill [as when involved in wars], or are indoctrinated with a certain sets of beliefs as in some Islamic societies. It’s really up to us what we teach them. But it’s my belief that taught at the appropriate level for their age, nothing is ‘beyond’ or too difficult for them.
  • Dewey argues that traditional education rigidly relies on organized systems and institutionalized habits, but the new communities of learners who advocate a reformed system of learning have also developed their own sets of rules and practices and codes of behavior and do’s and don’ts. They are different, for sure, but they do exist.
  • Dewey argues against the focused study of fixed knowledge, especially of past, existing body of works by established, classic authors in any field. But how can you innovate in a given area if you don’t know what came before, if you are not aware of the advances that were made in your field? If we are going to engage in new, concrete real life experiences, shouldn’t we know about the experiences of those who came before us? In fact, these concrete real life experiences of the past soon become ‘fixed knowledge’ themselves!
  • Traditional education is the great equalizer: no matter how bad/unpleasant/unproductive your personal/academic/professional/real life experiences may be, in the traditional school environment, everyone start from scratch, on the same footing - since those experiences do not come into play. They are disconnected from the material taught and everyone is being given ’new’, disconnected material that stands on its own by being detached from each learner’s personal experiences. In that sense, the traditional system seems as if it treats everyone more equally.

Of course this might be in appearance only, and it may not necessarily be a good thing. In any case, it does not seem to exclude those with negative experiences or poor background, as Dewey suggest should be done on pages 56-57. There, he suggests that one doesn’t spend too much time on children with difficult backgrounds or social delays and learning difficulties, as these represent exceptions, he writes. Perhaps this was the case in his time, but I don’t think it is still true today.

Thus, the traditional system teaches skills and subjects to everyone equally, regardless of past experiences (their quality, quantity, etc.), it gives a chance to everyone and does not depend on real life experiences or anything else. It functions by itself. Again, the merits of this are highly debatable.

  • Finally, the argument for a new participatory and reformed system as our authors support are based on a whole set of broad assumptions, such as that participants will automatically enjoy the group-based activities, the sharing, constant communicating, etc. It fails to take into account various individual traits, personalities and learning styles and preferences, such as being introvert, an autodidact, a self-starter, etc.

Posted by DL

Science and Technology/Engineering Framework

Bigger projects such as a unit or semester final project tend to give teachers more flexibility to apply concepts of differentiating instruction in an mixed-ability classroom. It is also easier given that teachers have already covered many basic concepts and tools, and it is just a matter of having students apply those skills in their projects. with this example, one can easily imagine a teacher creating a list of maybe 4-6 different options for a final project that draws upon different student personal interests and experiences, but are able to assess their learning equally (the last option being that they may design a final project that is completely original or a combination of the other options-but must have approval of the teacher). What is most important is to present students with a clear grading rubric before they even start on the project so that a fair assessment can be made.

However, I think it’s much harder to be thinking of ways to design activities when students are just learning the basic concepts of science. I imagine that there will be more (time and budget) constraints placed on the teacher as to how “far-out” these small daily activities can be. I guess, if I was being really practical, I would just take an activity that public high schools usually have and budget for, and just add one extra dimension to it to make it more “progressive”/differentiated.

Let’s take the forensics (DNA fingerprinting/electrophoresis) lab, where students usually learn how to make gels, run DNA samples, and analyze the gels to solve a crime. Rather than just having all the students do the same thing and have them solve a crime, I would give students the option of either solving the crime or creating the crime. For students who want to “create the crime” they will have to come up with the story first, then translate that into a digest pattern that works with their story, and then mix the DNA/enzyme samples so that it works.

I guess what I’m saying is that, given all the things we ask public teachers to do, I don’t think the onus should be completely on the teacher to come up with ways to make learning progressive while structured. I think the difficulty is that teachers simply don’t have the time (they are pulled in too many directions doing things that they don’t need to be doing) to apply their creativity, especially when schools are practically telling them to just teach to the test. Given this situation, the best you can ask for are teachers that try to adapt activities that they already have and have budgeted for. Change really needs to come from the top. Instead of directing our activities at teachers and scratching our heads at why we have made so little progessive, these activities may be better directed at policy makers and universities (teacher education programs) to illustrate how change can be made.

Posted by SK

Question 1

I have so much more appreciation and sympathy for K-12 teachers after browsing through these “learning frameworks.” Not because the standards are particularly onerous or restrictive, but because they are written in such dry, matter-of-fact language that brings to mind Dewey’s comments about “traditional education” experiences leading students to associate learning with boredom. If we’re expecting teachers to inspire and motivate students, these documents are rather demoralizing and work directly against that goal.

Here is a “learning scenario” from the Arts framework about “playing in ensembles”:

“Members of a high school band develop a repertoire of classical, jazz, popular, folk, and contemporary works. Under the direction of their teacher/conductor and advanced musicians, players practice individually and in small instrumental groups, and rehearse in a large group. In rehearsals, the conductor elicits individual and group feedback about how to improve the level of accuracy and the quality of expression.

Student instrumental players are assessed according to their individual ability to read and play music accurately and expressively, their ability to improve their playing through rehearsal and reflection, and their ability to play as a member of an ensemble.”

Being in a band was perhaps the coolest thing I could think of doing when I was a teenager. This scenario makes being in a band sound like a formulaic activity centered around an authoritative conductor who is present primarily for the purpose of constantly assessing you.

The funny thing is, I thought that the premise of the arts frameworks was actually quite good:

“In dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts, people express ideas and emotions that they cannot express in language alone. In order to understand the range and depth of the human imagination, one must have knowledge of the arts.”

From this perspective, I would ask my students to re-express these expressed-in-boring-language standards using the arts. Of course, we wouldn’t start out by reading these documents - we would begin by brainstorming ideas about why we feel the arts are important, what function they play in our society, and what techniques are required to make art. We would discuss examples relevant to the students lives which I would expect to be primarily contemporary pop culture works. From these examples and with the guidance of the teacher, I think a class would come up with nearly all the concepts listed in this document. From there, I would ask students to choose a topic and create work about it, either by themselves or in groups. The role of the teacher would be to provide historical context (as Dewey emphasizes is important for even progressive education), provide technical instruction when needed, suggest works by practicing artists to study, and facilitate collaboration between groups as much as possible. The students projects could span the entire length of the course (and hopefully longer!) with interim and final performances. Evaluation and assessment would be done primarily amongst peers which I believe is a far more authentic experience in the arts. I would then document the students’ work, categorize loosely according to the state framework, and republish it so that no art teacher would ever have to navigate the sections and subsections of Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework again. Instead, they would get to watch videos of student music ensembles rocking out with alternatively monophonic and polyphonic texture.

Question 2

One of the big concerns I have with Dewey’s formulation of “progressive education” is that he makes it seem necessary for all teachers to be constantly mindful of the progressive philosophy he attempts to outline in this long text. He glibly states “I think that only slight acquaintance with the history of education is needed to prove that educational reformers and innovators alone have felt the need for a philosophy of education” (29). All others, he argues, continue to provide the same old experiences as before. His solution seems to be that all teachers should be far more intentional with their methods to provide the “correct” experiences. This would be nice, but unfortunately I don’t believe the nature of those who enter the teaching profession is going to change overnight. Instead of merely defining what a progressive education looks like or even providing examples of how to implement it, I would prefer to see suggestions for embedding these ideals within the school system such that even teachers blindly following precedent wind up providing good experiences. He says that “A philosophy of education, like any theory, has to be stated in words” (28) and I thoroughly disagree - I believe interactive artifacts like the Scratch programming environment embed philosophies of education within their structure by design. The danger I see in Dewey’s method is that it might create only small, local impacts. Leading students to experiences within a classroom is one thing, but designing a system to encourage those experiences is potentially more powerful.

Posted by JC

SK, I enjoyed reading your discussion about the approach to arts/music. I like how you incorporating students owning the direction of the course and being responsible for the evaluations. The teacher definitely becomes more of a project leader, as Dewey recommended, rather than a dictator.

Posted by SL

SK, I had the same reaction when the frameworks page loaded in my browser. “Ugh! This is a miserable document!” I love your idea of taking progressive steps in the classroom and then having student-created content feed back to the upper level, strategic frameworks. This is the kind of feedback and reflection that should be a part of the educational process. Dewey didn’t exactly deal with this in the reading, but this kind of reflection and re-framing is critical to the continued growth and relevance of curricula in general.

I also support your approach to assessment, encouraging students to participate in the evaluation of performances of understanding. These performances, based on authentic, personally-motivated activities are far more meaningful assessment methods than standardized testing as they truly demonstrate proficiency, understanding, and include peer review and reflection- all relevant to professional communities in general.

Posted by JP

SK, I have also the same opinion. I heard that teachers in public schools generally had additional works other than simply teaching. To be promoted in current school system, teachers need to work for tremendous school managements, educational material, professional qualifications and finally the frame work material like teaching tutorials. I guess that it is critical to provide a teaching environment where teachers can focus only in teaching.

[Posting about homeschooling and arts curricula removed due to copyright and privacy restrictions]

Posted by SL

It seems that homeschooling in many ways is a terrific instantiation of progressive education. There is so much care and attention paid to the personalization of your children’s education. This is the kind of guidance that Dewey pointed to in his description of the teacher’s role in progressive environments. But this must take an enormous amount of time and energy on your part, and you only have two children to educate. What happens when we extend the same personalization approach to a classroom of 10, 20, 30 students? I think it isn’t a reasonable, scalable approach. So does this mean that progressive schooling for public schools isn’t possible? If traditional schooling is a failure and progressive schooling isn’t scalable, we are presented with a rather discouraging prospect for education if you look at it from a black & white perspective. A hybrid approach, combing elements of both progressive and traditional methods, as promoted by several others in this week’s blog may be the only reasonable way to improve education.

The assessment issue you raise in homeschooling is a very good one. There is an excellent educational program called the International Baccalaureate, which might serve as partial model for assessment in a progressive environment. The program uses a combination of:

  • paper-based tests (limited multiple choice tests) that map to international standards and test understanding and applicability
  • externally assessed essays on the Theory of Knowledge, extended essays and world literature assignments
  • teacher assessments related to a student’s “oral work in languages, fieldwork in geography, laboratory work in the sciences, investigations in mathematics, and artistic performances.”

See their Diploma Programme assessment methods page.

The combination of external and internal examiners, combined with oral, written, and practice-based assessment is a rigorous and strong approach worthy of consideration in progressive learning environments.

Posted by DL

I don’t know much about the details of what goes into homeschooling, besides the basic concept, but I have always been drawn to the idea; it seems like a great step towards progressive learning. However, I’ve always wondered about the inconsistent outcomes with homeschooling across different people/families; am I correct to assume that the quality of homeschooling is solely based on how “capable” (however you want to define it) the parent is? How is this issue resolved in the home-school community? Or is it even a problem?

Posted by DG

I’ve seen home schooling work well and not so well. One of my best friends growing up was home schooled.

I think the outcome of all education is heavily parent dependent. In the case of home schooling, of course, it is even more so since the student has less access to outside instructors.

I think the most disastrously successful version of home schooling would be John Stuart Mill.

Posted by ZH

From the Arts Curriculum Framework:

“Arts Curriculum Framework: Visual Arts Grade 12

1.9 Demonstrate the ability to create 2D and 3D works that show knowledge of unique characteristics of particular media, materials, and tools

1.10 Use electronic technology for reference and for creating original work

1.11 Explore a single subject through a series of works, varying the medium or technique

2.10 For shape, form, and pattern, use and be able to identify an expanding and increasingly sophisticated array of shapes and forms, such as organic, geometric, positive and negative, or varieties of symmetry. Create complex patterns, for example, reversed shapes and tesselation

2.11 For space and composition, create unified 2D and 3D compositions that demonstrate an understanding of balance, repetition, rhythm, scale, proportion, unity, harmony, and emphasis. Create 2D compositions that give the illusion of 3D space and volume”

The activity what I will set is that I will ask student to go to the park to sketch some plants first. Based on these 2d drawings, they will simply them, remain the key character. From those simplified organic shape, students will divide into groups to use different materials to build it. I think ideal materials could be folding paper, clay, foam and all kinds of things. Once they have their unit models, the big challenge for them is how they will aggregate them considering the space order. I think this activity will last for half semester.

Actually each step requires different skills and ability to finish it, for example, collaboration in a team, sharing, observation, analysis, experimenting and so on. Actually this process is also used in professional design area: designers always need to have inspiration from the nature and then get the elite part of it (authentic knowledge).

I think the problem of the progressive learning is that, it still very hard to develop knowledge systematically. Dewey mentioned the continuity of the experience, but I still think it is extremely hard to structure our knowledge systematically. It is true that we will learn something easily through activities. However, the problem is that what we learned is also limited to the activity itself. Furthermore, it is hard for people to imagine a big map of the entire problem.

in addition, since the activity experience people will gain is highly based on their previous experience. So it is hard to design a perfect activity to an entire class and the requirement for the teacher as a leader of the activity is too high.

In my experience, before studying architecture design at MIT, I had an extremely traditional education. Here, the design studio is the core class for architecture curriculum. It requires you tons of time to develop your own project. In terms of the design ability, I learn most from it. However, since it is highly self developed, although the professor will criticize your work very often, what I learned is somehow up to what kind of things i decide to design. For example, last semester, some students decide to use computation scripting to generate the form, thus what they learn more is about scripting skills. But actually last project is about designing a library. From their computation view, they lose a lot of chances to learn more about the other important issues, for example, how to introduce the day light into the library.

Posted by JP

Question 1

I picked a Foreign Languages subject yet I looked the material in a way that I could teach programming language in the perspective of a foreign language teaching. I found this core concept in the Massachusetts Foreign Languages Curriculum Framework and liked it so much.

“Language learning is never just about words. Language is the medium in which human beings think and by which they express what they have thought. The study of language - any language - is therefore the study of everything that pertains to human nature, as humans understand it.”

I slightly manipulated in this way:

“(Programming) Language is never just about syntax. (Programming) Language is the medium in which computers behave and by which they can communicate with human beings. The study of (Programming) language - any language - is therefore the study of everything that pertains to computation nature, as computers understand it.”

One main goal is developing a way to teach programming concept without computer. In one hand, there are many schools to provide computer equipped class rooms, on the other hand, most of common programming concepts, such as variables, conditions, loops and recursive, can be taught without computers and may be effective without computers. I imagine a computational drawing class in which students read short codes and draw repetitive patterns described in that codes. In that class, students write some short codes with which they stack wood blocks following the codes they made or other children made. This method may match with the during state 1 in which students “use selected words, phrases, and expressions with no major repeated patterns of error.”

The Foreign Language Frameworks cover classical languages, heritage languages, modern languages, target language and target culture. I loved the idea of differentiating foreign languages and using them in teaching appropriately. I would use the same concept in teaching programming languages. I may start with introduction of Assembly and C. I switched to C++ and Java. I do not really intend to teach those languages, rather introduce them in form of comparative studies.

Question 2

I guessed that I had a similar one after I graduated from college, yet I don’t have any experience with the progressive education during my childhood. I discussed an issue whether children were self-disciplined or self-motivated learner or not during the last week’s class. I always wanted to see children as self-oriented beings. However I had the opposite experience. When I was in elementary school, I had a nature to say “No” to every single thing my parents said without any thinking. I remembered that my parents had a tough time to teach me swimming, playing tennis and piano. They never allowed for me to stop learning for several years and finally let me finish when I entered a middle school. Quite long time later, I became enjoyed swimming and playing tennis, but I never became fluent at playing piano.

After grown up, I regretted that I did not learn play piano hard. It became so difficult to make time to learn piano and my learning speed was not as fast as when I learned in early age. It was long time later that I knew that learning piano could become a strong foundation in music and could accelerate learning other instruments.

As an educator, I wished to see children as self-directed beings. However as a father in the near future, I will see my children who are not capable of doing by themselves and will force them to learn something until they prove themselves as self-motivated, self-controlled beings.

[Posting on the elementary school framework for History and Social Science removed due to copyright and privacy restrictions.]

Posted by JC

I like your approach to the history and social science areas. I was not a fan of those classes as a child do to the mundane fact memorization; and I won’t list what I’ve forgotten. Honestly, moving out to the Boston area has spurred my interest in American History because I’m now living around it. I wish there was a way to have gotten engaged in history as a child.

I hadn’t thought of the relocation issue when discussing progressive learning. Current education standards theoretically allow schools to be interoperable. This would have to be considered during evolving progressive education settings. I can’t think of any way to address this at the moment.

Posted by SK

I think that history is perhaps one of the fields where “experience” is most underrepresented in schools. The nature of the subject is the stories of peoples’ experiences from the past, yet the emphasis is somehow on “knowing” what happened. Where you might be able to “know” a topic in math and experience simply helps make this knowledge more relevant, the nature of history seems to be more one of understanding. Understanding only comes from experience.

I think the activities you’ve proposed would give students experiences that put them along the road to better understanding the meaning of the Oregon Trail, not just “what happened.” That’s the way I wish I had learned history!

To add to your list of activities, I remember the first time I rode my bike from Boston to Concord. Somewhere along the way is a historical marker at the spot Paul Revere was thought to be captured. Traveling the distance of this historic ride suddenly put it in so much more perspective and captured my interest unlike reading any book on the topic could.

Posted by VC

In 3rd grade, we did a similar activity to your Oregon Trail game, except we were pretending to colonize the US. I don’t exactly remember how the game worked, but there was a gridded map of the 13 colonies on the bulletin board and somehow we had to figure out how to populate the colonies. There was some sort of mechanism to simulate different events-things like natural disasters or bountiful harvests. I’m not exactly sure what specific knowledge I gained from these activities, but I do remember getting really excited every day for the activity. I think games and simulations are a great way to get kids invested in the narrative (and really, what is history but a narrative anyway?)

I think the relocation question is a good one. When I was doing work in Providence, relocation was a huge problem we had to deal with. I can’t find the graph that illustrates this, but basically, only a disastrously low number of students stayed in the same school system for all years of K-12 schooling, and there was this constant moving in and moving out. Apparently this changeover is a real, consistent problem in low-income urban communities and the experts attribute it to job instability (and how it affects the ability to pay rent, etc). How can you ensure that students can get any sort of education in schools if they’re always behind in some way?

Posted by JP

SK, I have also the same opinion. I heard that teachers in public schools generally had additional works other than simply teaching. To be promoted in current school system, teachers need to work for tremendous school managements, educational material, professional qualifications and finally the frame work material like teaching tutorials. I guess that it is critical to provide a teaching environment where teachers can focus only in teaching.

Posted by MN

Question 1:

Subject: Math/ Number Sense and Operations Strand

Grade level: 3rd grade

Concept: Locate on the number line and compare fractions (between 0 and 1 with denominators 2, 3, or 4, e.g., 2?3).

Activity: Divide the class in teams of six. Provide each team with large single sheet of paper that will be laid on the floor. One person is the captain who is in charge of folding the paper in two or three, according to the instructor, at each round. The goal of the remaining five will be stand on the paper and make sure that no one falls out as the paper gets folded each round and the area for them to step on shrinks. The last surviving team win.

Analysis: Now, the team will take the folded paper and mark the folded lines with colored pencils. How many times did the paper get folded? Taking the horizontal side, how much has each folding resulted in the length to shrink? Learn 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, etc. through analyzing the fold.

Connection to reading: This is, in a way, an example of progressive education in that the students learn through experiential group collaboration, the game brings intrinsic motivation of the students, and the teacher becomes a “leader” who exerts “social control” instead of taking up the traditional role as a “boss” or an authentic figure.

Question 2:

I think I experienced, as most of us probably have, some mixture of both traditional and progressive education. I agree with the importance and effectiveness of the experiential learning as Dewey suggests- although it is impossible to build a successful curriculum entirely based on the empirical and experimental philosophy, I do think that much of the condense theorical teaching should incorporate more intuitive and experiential excercises. Nonetheless, as we discussed in the class last week, it very often depends on the brilliance of the teacher. Some have the ability to bring the driest concepts into life without avoiding the authoritarian status and wasting time coming up with activities whose effectiveness is difficult to grasp.

Posted by KA


I designed an activity for English Language for the 3rd Grade students. Please assume that this activity is for your native language. For example, if it is in MA it is for English class, but if you are a student in Japan you are supposed to do this activity in Japanese.

Activity title: “Discovery Journal”

By writing “Discovery Journal”, students will discover that the daily-world where he/she lives is full of wonders, and will discover themselves as well!

What? Write short journals everyday about what you discovered. Students choose what they want to write and tell readers. It would help students to recognize what are their intrinsic motivations. (E.g., Flowers were bloomed in your yard, a dead butterfly on the way to school, mixing color of red and blue makes color of purple, the balance of water in a glass was reduced 1 inch within 3days, why is the sky white today, not blue? etc.)

How? Their own blog, or hand writing then scanning to upload to free Web site such as Google sites. (Transferable knowledge to others, and also him/herself in the future)

When? Ideally everyday to at least 3 times per week. Continuous writing experience gives students awaking about how they write differently compare to the first day. Self-awaking could be one of the best confidence and motivation for students.

Who involved? Teacher, parents or classmates give 1 line comment on each journal in order to motivate students’ continuous writing. With getting comments, students can learn how readers see his/her perception.


My “progressive education” experience was KUMON.

“The heart of the Kumon learning system is a curriculum of more than twenty clearly defined skill levels and hundreds of short assignments spanning material from preschool all the way up to college. With each assignment, your child advances in small, manageable increments.”

KUMON helped me to learn Math & Reading at my own pace. I started KUMON when I was 5 years old from the very beginning like drawing lines, writing numbers correctly. When I became 4th grade at school, at KUMON I almost finished 9th grade Math and Reading. KUMON was not rough studying time for me. I just enjoyed learning new things at my own pace, with someone’s recognitions at my progress such as from my parents and the teacher at KUMON.

It worked very well for me. Only thing I, as a 4th grade student, had to take care of was that I needed to pretend not knowing advanced knowledge in front of teachers at school. I already noticed that most of them doesn’t like that students show advanced knowledge BEFORE they teach students. I think it is somehow more obvious in Japan. I guess it is because of teachers’ pride.

Posted by JL

I also did KUMON (or should I say my parents forced me to go), but I did not have such a positive experience. I took KUMON for math, and I disliked all the worksheet that were involved. Yeah there were only 5 problems per page but the worksheets came in a bundle! It was like a booklet of problems. I did not enjoy doing them, but I have to admit that it was the reason why I excelled in math.

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Problem Sets with Solutions
Projects with Examples
Activity Assignments with Examples