I don’t think we treat learning as the wonder it is enough. More often than not, in my experience, the “end” of the learning process of a specific topic or unit is marked with a test. I think this is tradition, how learning and school have been traditionally approached, but I don’t think it should be so. Learning should be celebrated, ideas should be shared, discussions should be had and we should remember that learning is a lifelong process. We can consistently improve our knowledge and skills, so to mark an end seems ridiculous to me. As if to say you’ve learned all there is to learn about this or at least all you need to know to be successful. Where is the wonder? Where is the celebration of the fantastic beauty of learning?
Ben Johnson wrote in his article, A Celebration of Learning, the realization he had about the way he taught and how he decided that rather than focusing on students mistakes and what they had yet to learn he would celebrate what they had already learned. He talks about bringing the celebration of learning into the classroom even in seemingly small ways: exit tickets, student work posted on the walls, and having students share with their peers next to them.
If you haven’t watched Rita Pierson’s TEDtalks video yet, I suggest you do. It’s only seven minutes and it will get you in a wonderful mind frame for teaching in a way that celebrates your students’ learning. One of the most powerful examples she gives is the way she marks assignments. On a test out of twenty a student answered two questions correct and eighteen incorrect. Rather than putting a -18 on that students paper, she wrote a +2 and a smiley face 🙂 She says that a -18 will suck everything out of that student, but a +2 will remind them that they didn’t get everything wrong and they’re “not all bad”. What students have learned is therefore celebrated and they can build up from their. It’s a better place to build from.
Additionally, in Leigh Weaver’s article: Learning Celebrations: Everyone benefits when students share their work with guests, Leigh gives the example of hosting open houses to give students the opportunity to celebrate and share what they’ve been learning. I like this example as well as the advice she gives to make sure the students are benefiting from the celebration. Something that encouraged my own love of learning was being able to go home and share everything I learned with my parents. I think having class parties like this is a step in the right direction for celebrating learning.
I also think learning can be celebrated more continuously throughout the process and in many different ways with the added benefit of current technology. Students can be encouraged to blog updates about their learning, have discussions about the things they’re learning, and share things they’re proud of. Students can tweet things they’ve learned and get in touch with people who can expand their learning further. Students can use presentation tools, like Prezi, to share and celebrate their learning with their peers (and everyone on the internet if they choose). Youtube and other video sharing platforms can be used to share a video blog or performance of what a student has learned. Students can also use technology to seek out experts in the area of study they’re learning about using many platforms including, skype and google hangouts.
The celebration of learning should be incorporated into the classroom in big and small ways, in the day to day and in larger events (such as the open house). I believe that learning can be connected to student passions and that students should be able to share what they’ve learned in their own ways. I also believe that allowing students to represent their understanding and their knowledge is more beneficial than only taking tests. Sharing student learning in these ways goes along with celebrating learning, which is something I think we should strive for. Learning is too exciting to be turned into a punishment and not to be celebrated. Technology can help students see the connections of their learning to the real world, expand their understanding, and encourage enthusiasm.
What do you think of this approach to teaching? Would you use technology to allow students to celebrate their learning? What ways could these ideas be improved?