Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Authenticity through Playful Purpose

Yesterday myself and a friend & colleague called AC introduced magnetism as part of our Invisible World inquiry. We initially thought about teaching how to make electro-magentic nails. While we both really liked this idea, it became apparent to both of us that the obvious question that could be rightfully asked by our learners was, "ok... so what?..."

If we were going to establish learner engagement throughout both the active learning tasks and written exercises it had to have a clear value to our learners. The task had to become authentic.

 What does this mean? #edchatnz  recently discussed this very topic. Many of us edchatters agreed that when referring to learning authenticity means that the learning is seen by the learner as of real value. So I assumed the learning would be clearly valuable for the learner by either or all of the following;

  • chosen career path, 
  • personal interests 
  • cultural identity
  • community. 

Initially I couldn't think about how to make this context authentic for our learners. Then we decided to set authenticity through creating the purpose ourselves. We decided to set the purpose for learning about magnetism towards designing magnetically powered drag racing cars.

I wasn't sure if this purpose was going to result in the authenticity we required. The aim of this workshop was for learners to practice using observations and researched information to direct their investigations. The lesson plan was a mix of collaborative exploration (or play), note taking, researching terms and hypothesis development. Both AC and I realised this was a complex plan that required our learners to transition through several different tasks. The value of learner engagement towards behaviour management was going to be tested today.

What we found was a high level of participation in all stages of our lesson. The learning was explorative and intentional, it was fun and perhaps most importantly it was purposeful. In my opinion authenticity is essential. Students shouldn't need to ask why? What I learned through this lesson was how authenticity can be established through something as simple as purposeful play.

Morgan Ngata

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