Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Slow learning

A volcano—

An ash cloud—

Fast paced global traveling in Europe came to a halt--

And then the stories not only of frustration but also of folks talking, and moving slowly—

Ewan McIntosh’s [#ashcloud] Keep moving in the right direction and talk to people thinks on the latter and then draws a terrific parallel to learning:

“But imagine if learning could learn to slow down a little. Fewer (or no) tests we have to meet (like unpredictable timetables and trains to new, uncharted destinations), and more talking to strangers who might be interesting, useful (or might not, and necessitate some diplomatic manoeuvrings onto the next conversation).”

There’s faster movement now with the return of some air travel—

In that increased speed, I hope we don’t let go of that notion of slow learning—

In A Dangerous but Powerful Idea - Counter Acceleration and Speed with Slowness and Wholeness, Geetha Narayanan (Founder and Director of Srishti, School of Art Design and Technology and the Mallya Aditi International School) describes slow learning—

“Slowness as a pedagogy allows students to learn not at the metronome of the school day or the school bell, but at the metronome of nature, giving them time to absorb, to introspect, to contemplate, to argue and rebut and to enjoy.”

And she continues:

“The learning opportunities which foster slowness are created in such a way that they operate on three levels which are not discrete, linear or sequential. Taken together they enable experiences which foster genuine and sophisticated understanding. The layers are:

1. looking and listening

2. exploring and thinking

3. making and being.

The goal of our slowness pedagogy is to generate the more creative, more lyrical and the playful aspects of learning and represent it in the many languages of children - the language of movement or music; the languages of colour or shape; the language of images and of forms; the language of sounds and of feelings and many more.

In order to do this we arrange learning differently, because we are not-school. The learning arrangements that we find foster and promote slowness are:

1. the circle which represents symbolically the spirit of unity and equality within the learning community

2. grouping learners in collaborative, vertical heterogeneous teams

3. using large blocks of time

4. themes or topics for study are not prescribed but are emergent. The topics are selected from student talk, through dialogue with the community or based on the individual experiences of a family or the interests of a child. It is not static and a given but is the constant subject of negotiation.

5. the learning is organised into projects - some seem to go on for as long as a term and others last just a few weeks. The facilitators at the centres help the learners frame their learning plan, research the topic and make decisions on the representational medium that will demonstrate and showcase their learning.

6. the learning materials are made using local content, in ways that allow them to be used and re-used and to be produced within the community at low cost

7. all learning is the result of direct first person conscious experience. This method or tool focuses on the transformation of the self and the awakening of the mind rather than on the transfer of knowledge and the acquisition of skills.

The new digital technologies are tools that allow for learners to develop their imaginations, to be able to play and to have fun, to be able to tell stories in different and exciting ways. But in order to generate value they need to be integrated into new forms and structures in an invisible and contextual manner, so that they work slowly and with great finesse to create an unquiet and critical pedagogy - one where new media arts can sustain social change.”

In an interview Geetha shares:

Deceleration--- “an unquiet and critical pedagogy” in which technology is integrated so it “works slowly and with great finesse”-- Just imagine the possibilities for learning--

Photo credit

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