Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Free-Choice Learning

Belinda @ Kids Matter

Can you imagine a world where the only things we ever learned were what we were taught in school? Never having been a history buff, the year 1492 is now just the memory of a rhyme about something Columbus did. Yes, that something was very important to America but nonetheless, it was 521 years ago and didn’t encourage my desire to learn about history in the least. What inspires you to learn? Do you have a compelling urge to learn, seek fulfillment, or explore? What drives you to quench that thirst for new information?
Personally, I can’t imagine living a life knowing only what I know at this very moment. Life is about living, learning, and aspiring to fulfill one’s self. Learning is exciting, adventurous, and yes, even scary at times. Albert Einstein said it best, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” It is wisdom that feeds are minds and fulfills us. In order to acquire wisdom a person must be receptive to learning. To learn we must recognize that we have formal learning in a school setting and informal learning in the world around us. Given that a mere portion of our lives, roughly 10-20%, is spent in a school setting it is only reasonable to conclude that the opportunities of the world are our greatest teachers in life.
Working off a theory based on the elements of choice, control, and personal identity promoting learning in an informal setting, Dr. Shawn Rowe and Mark Farley from Oregon State University developed a study named after a term they defined as, “Free-choice learning”. This term is defined as all the learning we do that takes place out in the world, not in a school setting. Through the aid of a grant from the National Science Foundation they built a lab to monitor and record how people choose to learn. This can be compared to a learning museum; a hands on facility where instead of just looking at a picture or statue you interact with the exhibits.
A most inspiring way to promote family time would be partake in free-choice learning as a family unit. Many of us have done this for years and weren’t even aware that this is what we were doing. How about that family vacation where you took the kids spelunking? (Spelunking is cave exploration.) You got out as a family and learned about the world around you. Instead of your child sitting in a classroom viewing pictures of stalactites in a science book, you introduced them to the real life thing and had a phenomenal time doing it. I’m not saying learning in a school setting is not important because it very much is and is the basis for which we begin our education. I’m just saying that if I had been on the ship with Columbus in 1492 it would have been a much more exciting, educational, and memorable event for me. Kick it up a notch… add some spice to your learning by injecting life experiences. Start with a book on caves then visit one. Bring learning to life and allow the report card to be the smile on your child’s face.

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