What if… those instructions aren’t so helpful?

My last post linked to a video showing Dr. Paulo Blikstein of Stanford University showcasing the research going on in his department regarding how making becomes learning.

The next question is what to do when faced with early research? Do we just wait until the research is done? Or maybe even validated with other studies?

I don’t believe this.

I want to know, “What if these early findings are true? Would it change my practice? What would it look like in my classroom or school?”

Let’s just take one of the research questions being asked – Do detailed instructions help or hinder student understanding? What is the difference between a learner who is given step-by-step instructions vs. being given time to explore a new technology? It is often assumed that the way to learn something new is to follow explicit directions for a couple of tries, and then eventually do it on your own.

The early research is showing, however, that students who are given explicit instructions do NOT move to not needing those instructions. They stay “stuck” in a habit of depending on  instructions.

Uh oh. As someone who works with teachers learning new technology, what should I do? Should I hide my handouts? Make them less explicit? I don’t know, but I’m sure thinking about it.

Maybe you are thinking about this with your students. Why not do a little experiment? If you give students detailed instructions “just to get them started” on early project work – why not see what happens if you skip the tutorials and hide the handouts? After some early confusion (where you will have to refrain from jumping in with the rescue) you may see new patterns emerging.

I know I’m not waiting around for the perfect research to happen. I want to find out the “what if…” sooner rather than later.

This post by Sylvia Martinez was originally published at http://sylviamartinez.com/what-if-those-helpful-instructions-arent-so-helpful/. It is republished here with permission of the author.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Sylvia is co-author of Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom, often called the "bible" of the maker movement in classrooms. Sylvia works in schools around the world to bring the power of authentic learning into classrooms, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects. Sylvia speaks, writes, and advocates for student-centered, project-based learning, gender equity in technology, computer programming, and life-long learning. For the past ten years, Sylvia was President of Generation YES, a non-profit with a mission of empowering young people to improve their schools and communities with modern technology. Previous to Generation YES, Sylvia was in charge of product development at several software publishers, designing and creating video games and educational software. Sylvia also had a career in aerospace engineering as a senior scientist on the GPS navigational satellite system research and development. She holds a masters in educational technology and a bachelors in electrical engineering. Along with Gary Stager, Sylvia facilitates the Constructing Modern Knowledge Institute every summer. Constructing Modern Knowledge, July 8-11, 2014, is a minds-on institute for educators committed to creativity, collaboration and computing. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in intensive computer-rich project development with peers and a world-class faculty. Inspirational guest speakers and social events round out the fantastic event. Pete Nelson, Edith Ackermann, Mitchel Resnick, and other expert visionaries (tba) are among this year’s guest speakers. Rather than spend days listening to a series of speakers, Constructing Modern Knowledge is about action. Attendees will work and interact with educational experts concerned with maximizing the potential of every learner. For more information, visit http://constructingmodernknowledge.com/.

Tagged with: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*