Today I have three articles that address the joy of learning, and the things that take that joy away. The first article looks at the cognitive benefits of play for young kids. The second explores better ways of tracking reading than chore-like reading logs. The third piece laments the stress that many American high school kids experience, and proposes a more playful, kindergarten-like atmosphere. All three articles are worth your time.
Alison Gopnik: "Just as we should give children the resources and space to play, and do so without insisting that play will have immediate payoffs, we should do the same for scientists and artists and all the others who explore human possibilities.
There is good reason to think that play helps us learn. But another part of the evolutionary story is that play is a satisfying good in itself—a source of joy for parents as well as children. Caring for children is hard work, getting the chance to play again is one compensation. If it had no other rationale, the sheer pleasure of play would be justification enough."
Me: This piece offers a strong defense of play, looking at both the science behind the cognitive benefits and the lighter side, too. I've been pleased to see this article getting a lot of exposure, and I hope it influences parents and teachers everywhere. Pieces like this give me hope that the pendulum is starting to swing back in the direction of play.
Jaclyn Karabinas: "(On parent-signed reading logs:Was a signature really the most authentic way for students to share their reading life with me? Did it provide me with the information I needed to help them grow as readers? No! In fact, it sent one message and one message only: I can only be sure you are reading if you write it down and someone signs it. I conveyed that message of distrust in the name of “efficiency.”
...I was able to build an accurate picture of what my students felt was truly valuable for tracking their reading lives. And you know what? They wanted the same things I wanted: to celebrate a growing list of titles, make recommendations to peers, respond in writing to share their thinking, and look for patterns on the types of books they devoured or detested."
Me: The quote in the previous paragraph exactly mirrors my own thoughts on tracking reading (especially for my daughter). We want to keep track of what titles we've read, and it can be fun to look at how many titles that's been, or to see if there are patterns. But any tracking that crosses the line from "this is fun" to "this is a chore" runs the risk of turning reading itself into a chore. And that is a travesty.
My daughter is just starting first grade, and I am waiting to see what sort of reading log her teacher uses. I am prepared to push back if necessary. My primary job in this area, as far as I'm concerned, is to maintain my daughter's love of reading. Full stop.
Ashley Lamb-Sinclair: "Lauri Jarvilehto is a former employee of Rovio (of Angry Birds fame) who has created a company called Lighneer, which is focused on educational games. Lauri believes—and I agree—that “education is important, but learning matters more.”
Too often, I see high-school students break down in tears over grades or pile on advanced and AP classes because “that’s what colleges want to see.” ...
How can America’s students feel hope for the future when they are so stressed from trying to achieve future success that they break down in tears?"
Me: This piece includes a concise summary of various survey results that capture the academic stress facing American high schoolers today, with comparisons to the situation in Finland (a much of #JoyOfLearning focused country). With my own daughter starting first grade, I worry already about how I can possibly keep the pressure cooker that is high school in the US (and especially in Silicon Valley - see this piece) from crushing her joy of learning. Articles like this one do give me some hope...