Friday, November 12, 2010

Thoughts on Re-creating the Wheel

I have heard many say over the years something to the tune of "There is no need to recreate the wheel".

For the most part, in many instances, I would agree.

However, I would like to say that part of me delights in recreating wheels - especially in the online environment.

I know there is so much out there in terms of resources and I think most would agree that you could spend way too much time checking them all out. I know that I can become easily consumed by the fun of screening all the videos in order to pick the right one.

BUT - in a digital time when we are striving to have students become producers rather than consumers I think we often spend way too much time going along for the ride on the wheels of somebody else.

I think it is time to have students figuring out how to build their own wheels that others can ride on. Develop the skills and mindset that it takes to design, produce, and share.

Generally, if I can do it myself, I try to make my own wheels. Video files, audio files, tip sheets, rubrics, lessons, learning objects - using the tools of the trade. If I can't do it myself - I find ways to inch closer to that capability. Learning, building, growing, developing.

Kinda like the saying goes "Give a man some fish and you can feed him for a day - Teach him to fish and you can feed him for a lifetime."

How might this compare with giving students resources vs teaching them to make their own?

What might learning look like if students were all making their own wheels? I want my students, my children to know how to make their own stuff - to critically think - analyze - evaluate - compare - improve.

I think there is something to be said for the ability to recreate a wheel even though we may not always do it. I remember being one of those kids that wanted to take things apart to see how they work. Today I still like to learn how technology works - I take apart computers and put them back together and I examine code to see why websites look the way they do.

So even though I found a great video about density one day - I think I will still make my own. It might be more work but it is also more satisfaction, it is more challenging but more rewarding, it is perhaps more primitive looking but more fun - it is learning.

I think re-creating a wheel once in a while is a very valuable experience.

Then I might have students find a density video, evaluate the effectiveness of it to inform, make suggestions for improvement, then have them make their own wheels...

Are you teaching students to re-create the wheel or just giving them a ride?