Sunday, October 24, 2010

University Students Get Unschooled.

I had a super time speaking about unschooling/open source learning to a classroom full of engineering in society students (third year university). These McMaster students were the perfect students -honestly. They were completely engaged, interested and asked a pile of questions.

There was a lot of concern around motivation-many of the students wondered about what happens if kids don't get forced to do things they don't necessarily want to do, then how will they ever learn the skill of perseverance? What happens when they grow up and don't feel like going to work?

One student came up during the break and told me that he was tired and didn't want to come in today but he forced himself and "Now I feel fine. I'm awake." To which I replied in jest, "What's wrong with sleeping? You probably needed it."
But seriously, do you need that much practice to prepare to do something you're not keen on doing that is decades down the road?

The presentation about 2 hours long consisted of me, introducing unschooling by reading a chapter from Skellig (by David Almond) where ironically it's school that is put into question for a change. Mina is an unschooled girl who meets a school boy Michael.

In the chapter, Michael who is taking a break from school because of family problems, is doing his school work and Mina is curious. Leafing through pages of questions that have blank after blank spaces to fill in she asks in mockery,"Is this really the kind of thing you do all day?"

When she flicks through the book that Michael and his class are reading she asks about the red sticker.
"It's for confident readers," Michael says. "It's to do with reading age."

"And what if other readers want to read it? And where would William Blake fit in?" asks Mina. "Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/In the forests of the night." Is that for the best reader of the worst readers? Does that need a good reading age?"..."and if it were for the worst readers would the best readers not bother with it because it would be too stupid for them?"

Following this I presented the basic premises of unschooling/open source learning and then took questions and answers. We then watched these short videos on youtube.

Kate Cayley-grown unschooler

John Taylor Gatto-State Controlled Consciousness

Al Gore Flunked out of college

A favourite with the students was Sir ken Robinson-changing educational paradigms

There was some discussion about the possibility of using unschooling ideas into the classroom situation that I found interesting-especially the idea of working collaboratively and in-depth on a topic that a group of students were motivated by.
Of course the catch to me is that the group of students/learners are doing this thing because they actually and authentically want to do it!


Anonymous said...

Hmm. Funny that these "engaged and interested students" were schooled. So your post defeats the purpose.

Idzie said...

That sounds like such a wonderful experience! Glad you could share the idea of unschooling with such a receptive sounding audience. :-)

Also, what is it with these negative anonymous comments? I don't respect anyone who trashes someones ideas without even being willing to do so openly/with a name...

rfs said...

@Idzie-thanks for the note. It really was a pile of fun. As to Anonymous-don't be shy. We won't bite!
Also, i rather think the students were "engaged and interested" because of the subject matter. It is intriguing after all, isn't it?

Kim said...

Awesome! Were you invited by a prof?

I think it's funny when people talk about learning to do things you don't like to do. Isn't there plenty of that in life without practicing for decades? No thanks!!

And my hubby, schooled from the start, still hates getting up in the morning for work. All the practice in the world does not help him haul his butt out of bed!

rfs said...

@Kim-Yes. Actually my friend invited me (sheis a prof) last year and I guess the topic was "a hit" to quote her. So they invited me back this year.

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