Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

4/9/10

A Chance To Learn

In 1995 I applied for a job at the Youth Computer Center of the Science Museum of Minnesota. I told the director Natalie Rusk that I didn't know much about computers, but I was interested in learning and that I liked teaching kids. Natalie hired me, and she became the best boss and the most influential educator I've ever worked with.

Natalie has a deep appreciation of the way different children learn and of the shortcomings of many of the traditional ways children are taught. She assembled an excellent staff, and our main goal was to use the computer to have students spend time away from the computer making, building, and creating things.

Here is Natalie's website: www.natalierusk.com

I met Mike Petrich and Karen Wilkinson, who became huge influences on how I teach and how I approach technology. I remember Mike saying, "Something going wrong provides an excellent opportunity to learn how a computer works." And I remember helping Karen teach "How to Make your Own Candy Bar" where we researched candy bars, looked at cross sections of different ones, and created and named our own concoctions.

Mike and Karen now work at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and this website (PIE Play, Invent, Explore) gives an example of the excellent work they do:

http://www.exploratorium.edu/pie/ideas.html

One of the most important things I learned from Natalie, Mike, and Karen was to be open to technology. Natalie pointed out that technology is anything invented after we are born, and I realized the choice involved in how to approach it.

I'm still not an early adapter of devices or programs, but I do love the ones I use. I'm still curious about new things and went to see the iPad the day it came out and do believe it will change the way we read books. And I still keep Mike's advice in mind that something going wrong provides an opportunity to learn how a device works.

I am grateful to these three teachers and interested to see what new is coming and how it will change the way we work, play, and create.

4 comments:

Lauren said...

Learning how things work is a great opportunity indeed. I know my friends who chose to send their kids to Waldorf schools told me their first experience with a computer in the classroom was to take it apart and see how it works.
Thanks for the links John-- I look forward to spending time with them.

David LaRochelle said...

Mike's quote about things going wrong being an opportunity to learn is very freeing, John. I'm going to remember that, and use it to help myself embrace mistakes.

Edie said...

John,
You've presented some excellent outlooks and interesting opportunities here. This is the first time I've thought of "technology" as everything invented after I was born. Thanks for the links!

Mark said...

It's always heartening to hear the innovative ways creative people are helping our children. Thanks for sharing, John.