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November 12, 2006 » 9:43 am

Curriculum on Thinking and Learning

I’ve done a lot of volunteer teaching, and back in 1998, I had become fed up with the classes that I was helping with. In particular, I had spent six horrible weeks volunteering at a class to teach kids computers, which turned out to be a glorified typing class.    (LJ2)

Afterwards, I asked the volunteer coordinator if I could come up with my own curriculum, and she agreed. Most of my exercises did not require any interaction with an actual computer. The first exercise was to have kids write down instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which I then followed literally. Another exercise converted the kids into a computer and demonstrated how complex problems could be solved by breaking them down into simple operations. The tour de force was when I had the kids rip apart musical greeting cards to show that computers came in other forms besides desktop and laptop machines.    (LJ3)

That experience was far more rewarding, but also made me realize that I didn’t really want to teach kids about computers. I wanted to help them become better thinkers. So on August 24, 1998, I wrote down three principles that represented my philosophy for what a proper curriculum should achieve. On April 8, 2002, I added a fourth principle. Looking back, that fourth principle reveals how much my mindset had shifted towards the importance of collaboration. Not coincidentally, I happened to be knee deep in the planning stages of Blue Oxen Associates at that point.    (LJ4)

I just put the curriculum up on my Wiki at Learning Curriculum. In the spirit of Mark Oehlert‘s recent challenge, here is the curriculum boiled down into six words:    (LJ5)

Reward questions, stories, lateral thinking, collaboration.    (LJ6)

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