reflectiveteacher2014

reflectively assessing my professional goals

Connecting meaning- a schema to learning beyond Harry the Dog

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(Al Smith [NCSA] CC license via Flickr)

I recently read an informative and endearing blog post by Jacqueline Van Dyk about early childhood reading initiatives. Her post, although all about reading works very well to make my points about connected learning. Like early childhood and the experiences that seed the reading child, powerful appropriate integration of technology to assist all learning demands engagement and connection- choice and content – that builds meaning. It’s not about the skills or devices initially. It’s about the stories and the person. We edtech specialist teachers need to always stay on point- meaning and engagement for the student is central not the technology.

“…And that, after all, is the point, right? To draw the child into reading. To engage and support the child in the learning. To help them be successful in learning to read. And ultimately, to foster a joy of reading that will last a lifetime.

And that’s what got me thinking about Harry the dog and his trip to the seaside. I don’t recall what attracted me to the book, but I know the experience made a lasting impression. Simply selecting that first book gave me the desire and confidence to begin to learn to read, and a degree of comfort around books and libraries.

As Faye says, pushing the skills before the learning does not create engaged readers! The skills are not more important than understanding the content. Connection and engagement trump readability levels and skill acquisition. So it doesn’t really matter whether the child selects an appropriate book every time at the library; what matters is that the choice is up to them. And the librarian supports that choice with a view to opening doors to the world for the child. Engagement leads to learning…”(Open Book, Van Dyk, 01-21-13)

20130124-214706.jpgJacqueline’s own childhood memories of borrowing a book and recalling its impact proves clearly that making connections and providing engagement is the key to learning (and reading) not just pure skills and the testing of them. That’s just business school theory manifesting itself in the wrong discipline. Education should be about personalized learning and that starts with the realization that we are connected. The bond starts with engagement and validation. Too many kids fail at skills, understand their weakness and then equate that poor reading or numeracy to personal flaws of birthright. “I suck at reading” or “I can’t do math” are blunt instruments against self-worth perpetrated by bad strategy. Like Jacqueline eloquently narrates, it about opening doors early on. I think finding meaning in the world through connecting words and pictures -from stories- is the key to the doors. What kid doesn’t love to hear stories or look at picture books. They get engaged with stories – connected – long before the skills. Librarians understand this truth so deeply many dedicate a career toward it. Ms. Van Dyk was one.

(Pete Souza [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
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Van Dyk, Jacqueline. “pick a book, any book | Open Book.” Open Book | Thoughts of a provincial librarian. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. .
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