Monday, February 9, 2009

I Guess They Aren't Just Messing Around

I guess I owe my kids an apology for continually giving them a hard time about wasting time on the computer. After reading the "Messing Around" section (pages 20-28) of the MacArthur Foundation Report - Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project, I was amazed by all of the learning that goes on while kids are apparently "messing around". I never really thought about kids learning the ins and outs of manipulating new technology and new media through free, self paced, interest driven exploration and/or experimentation, although it makes perfect sense. As I read the article I was presented with another justification for social networks. While "messing around" kids use online as well as face-to-face social networks to learn about new technology and media manipulation from each other. I was particularly interested in the passage that states: "The most important factors (when messing around) are the availability of technical resources and a context that allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for self-directed learning and exploration. In contrast to learning that is oriented toward a set, predefined goal, messing around is largely self-directed, and the outcomes of the activity emerge through exploration." (MacArthur Foundation Report - Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project top of page 22) That passage leads me to believe that kids are naturally learning about technology and media through self-directed Inquiry. They are answering the questions that they have by exploring, taking chances, and working together. So now the question is how can I create opportunities that allow my students to explore, experiment, collaborate, and take chances with developmentally appropriate technology tools. According to the report, messing around "involves experimentation and exploration with relatively low investment, where there are few consequences to trial, error, and even failure." To me that sounds like a good place to be right now. My previous post was unintentionally a ramble about my messing around earlier today. So, now from my own personal experience with messing around I can say that I learned a lot today exploring and experimenting with various technology tools and most importantly that messing around isn't just wasting time on the web, it is an excellent learning tool!

1 comment:

  1. Yes! I totally agree that kids are learning through natural and self-directed inquiry. Given that inquiry is such a huge focus in education, it's interesting that we actually don't allow for a lot of "messing around" time in school.

    The idea that failure is OK (and sometimes expected) is something we struggle with a lot in schools, but I think it's actually quite a good thing. We should never be afraid to try new things!