First, disclaimer. I think my local schools are great and the vast majority of teachers that I’ve worked with have been wonderful.
But this emphasis on getting children to learn “creatively” is not always more fun and a better way to teach.
Not for me. Not for my kids.
For the past week, my son has been tasked with taking digital photos of different geometric shapes.
The above flowers are supposed to be an example of symmetry.
And I am at a complete loss as to how this helps my son learn geometry better than, say, giving him a written test on symmetry, angles, hexagons, and pentagons.
I realize this is supposed to make them aware of geometric shapes in the world around us. But think of the work what went into this. First, the school had to make sure that kids with no digital cameras or computers were supplied with school cameras and time to upload photos there. And even if you take them at home, each kid has to upload fifteen photos and caption them to the school computers.
I can only image the time it’s going to take the teachers to correct all of these projects.
Wouldn’t it be more efficient to use the technology for something else, something it’s more suited for, when it seems a written test could do for simply recognizing geometric shapes? Or maybe you could have a test with real world photos and present a slide show as a test.
I realize that some kids are visual learners and this plays to their strengths. But time after time, I’ve seen my children struggle with these visual projects. The theory seems to be that they’ll learn plotting and writing technique better if they create a poster with pockets in which to place plot elements and main characters. They’ll learn to absorb stories better if they create a diorama of their favorite scene for their book report.
No doubt some kids do and these are a godsend to them. But, meanwhile, there are also kids–including mine–struggling so hard with making a pretty diorama or a lovely poster that they completely lose track of the lesson, which is to learn how to analyze books. Then, of course, the kids are judged on how well they did their art project, not how well they absorbed the lessons. And the kids who get a bad grade are frustrated because the grade is low not because they didn’t learn the lesson but because they’re not good at art.
I’m not sure what this geometry project is teaching my kid other than how to take photos with a digital camera and upload the photos, something he already knew how to do. It is teaching him that his mother gets very cranky when her work computer, the only one set up to upload photos, gets taken over for several hours for a school project.
It would be very good if schools and teachers would not only consider the kids who learn best visually or “creatively” but also the kids who learn better through the written word and start giving kids the choice about which to do.
And, I, for one, could stop investing in countless quantities of poster board, stop saving various sizes of cardboard boxes, and stop trying to figure out how to staff a diorama with other than stick figures.
And I could get my computer back.