Jun 18, 2011

Are you teaching turkeys or crows?

I have been following the Eide Neuro Learning blog with much interest. Drs Fernette and Brock Eide are medical doctors who specialize in treating children with learning challenges. 

While our girls don't strictly fit into this general area, they are rather unusual in their learning speed and there are issues that come along with that speed. I am currently reading "Smart but Scattered" for some ideas in improving their executive functioning, but am a bit frustrated with the cognitive skills emphasis - I am looking for more meat and theory and insight into helping understand our ways of thinking rather than techniques for remembering to take your school lunch!

In two years of homeschooling, I have been weaning myself off giving them workbooks, or trying to duplicate a "school at home". 

As a homeschool, we are moving away from that linear path into a more project-based exploratory style, though this takes self-confidence that I am sometimes lacking! Even armed with an SB5 report on their FSIQ/gifted profile, I realised I am short on "learning style" clues and ideas for each girl.

Hence my following of the Eides. 

Their latest post includes an 18 minute video (see below). They contrast two learning philosophies - Turkey and Crow. Obviously a simplification - but an effective one all the same.

Talking turkey
The main point for me was that much of education today is directed to a rigid learning style which they cleverly coin "Turkey" style: repetitive, learning by rote, mastering facts from the bottom up, learning step by step, worksheet and essay formulaic style that is essentially teach to the test. The aim is to "hard-wire" learning - to ensure that every child knows their tables, what a factual report is, the steps in writing a narrative.

Reliable in an unchanging world. Boring but dependable. Quantifiable. Justifiable budget spent on educational output measured on national tests like NAPLAN in Australia. 

But our world is not static. Training kids to take tests well is short-sighted, horribly short-sighted. For more on this see the video from Sir Ken Robinson at the end of this post.

Crow mind
Which is where "Crow" style comes in...these extraordinary birds are the only tool users other than man and higher order primates. They excel in problem solving - ask Mike who took years to beat our ravens and crows in their raids on the chickens' eggs

Neuro diverse, Crow style is creative and dynamic. 

Here learning outcomes are met through projects, applying designs, stories and performances, experiments, dramatisation, celebrating context and concept, research.

Hard to test in a concrete linear fashion, you are thinking Crow for application in careers of engineering, physics, conceptual professions like applied maths, problem solving in open-ended situations like cancer treatments, exploratory surgical fields, all creative and artistic areas. Following a good test technique won't help here.

We are definitely a Crow family, so we will continue talking less Turkey (reduce those worksheets) and keep searching for more neurolearning clues! It is an evolutionary process, home education.

Which I guess is just another example of Crow thinking - keeping your beady eye open constantly looking for the goodies.

How about you? Are you Turkey or Crow? Or moving from one to the other?

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