Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Flow, Learning and Dyslexia


Recently I have become aware of the concept of flow.  

“In positive psychology, flow, also known as zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”  (Wikipedia)

In my own life, I can think about past times that I have experienced flow.  I just hadn’t realized that flow was the name of the vehicle that released creative ability and learning.  When I was a younger mum, I used to write music.  The songs would just pop into my head and I would be working on a piece during cooking tea and bathing the children.  It was a passion, and I could never explain how the music would come but now I recognize I experienced flow. 

Recently, as I have become aware of the concept of flow, I find that I could use it to help me in my post grad study.  Again I am passionate about what I am studying and find flow helps me to get to a place where I am at my creative best and able to apply the study to my work and in creating new information. Sometimes, the flow is over several days which contain must do’s in life such as parenting and work.  

Today I celebrated with my son as he too experienced flow at school.  He was completing a ‘flow’ project on one of his recent topics - coding.  He was able to plan his own learning around coding.  He is 15 years old and wants to be a software developer.

Josiah spent 9 hours completing his first coding course during school last week. This was a free course via the internet. There was other learning that needed to be done, but he felt comfortable to keep going with his coding as he was obviously experiencing flow. 

At many schools, learning is broken into subjects like Maths, English, Computer science.  The day is ordered in a very routine way.  One hour for Maths and one hour for English etc. This is not conducive to creative thinking or to developing continuity of learning – flow.  

How wonderful that Josiah is able to experience flow in his own learning at school.  Sometimes, you just want to keep going, to keep learning and to finish.  Because he is able to plan his own learning he is able to prioritize completing the course as being important in his day.  

I saw Josiah at school today he was sitting on the sofa and he showed me how he had started to code.  He was putting his knew found knowledge into action.

By this evening he had completed his first page on his portfolio.  That is right, he is coding his own portfolio.  He hasn't worked out how to get a web address yet, but he is on the way and one day it will go live.

The most impressive and encouraging thing about all of this is that Josiah is a student with the challenge of dyslexia.  He finds reading and writing very difficult. But he loves learning.  I asked him how he could manage to understand coding when he couldn't read.  He said that he understood the logic of coding really well and it was easier than writing and reading because it had one letter that stood for an instruction.  He could ask for help from a teacher aide for the inserting of the words, or he could use his computer for that.   At the moment at home, he is asking his younger sisters how to spell words and they tell him gladly.  He continues to work on creating a portfolio at home, sending me updates to see how it works on my computer.  Sharing problems he is working on “I’m trying to figure out how to make the images smaller.”

Learning for Josiah is experienced in the context of real life, both at school and at home. The way school is timetabled allows learning to become timeless.  Technology allows for it to be seamless.  School doesn’t define learning, instead it becomes part of the learning.  Being able to read and write doesn’t define learning. Learning is about using flow to create in and to experiment in.  Flow is a vehicle for discovery.  

I am so happy for Josiah, relieved that he is making progress in the area that he really loves and that he can experience success with learning.  How wonderful that he goes to a school that believes in future focused learning and in allowing students to self manage and to achieve flow in their own learning.

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