Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Caine's Arcade and Project Based Learning

Try this:

Show these two videos to your students and provide them with class time and cardboard.

Here's what I've discovered:
  • Too often creativity is code for "did not follow instructions". Too often a child's creativity is seen by adults as a mess that needs to be cleaned up. 
  • Too many students have become acclimatized to classrooms where they are expected to play a passive role, and it is those students who find projects that require them to play an active role fiercely frustrating.
  • Too many teachers have resigned themselves to be agents of the state that are charged with the sole responsibility of content transmission. Regrettably, some teachers might see projects like this as a waste of time for they do not cover any of their curriculum checklists. 
  • If we are to design authentic learning environments for students, we must resist the urge to alter our focus from the learner to the teacher too quickly. Asking how something might be properly assessed is not a bad question, but if it dominates our thinking, we may justify not providing students with projects that they would love to do and love to learn from, but hard on us to assess.
  • For too many, the game of school sounds all too familiar. It's like the learners and teachers exchange winks that say: you will pretend to teach and we will pretend to learn; it won't be all that enjoyable, but it will be easy. Want proof? Sadly, some students might prefer to do worksheets, rather than engage in learning that requires them to play an active role; however, this is not a learning style to be accommodated, but a problem to be solved.
  • We need not frame school as a choice between the rigor of passive learning and the chaos of anarchy. School need not be soul-killing work or mindless play. School should be about learning -- which is an environment that has students balancing precariously on the edge of their confidence and competence.
  • Too many of us mistake rigor as a necessary characteristic of learning -- the secret to real learning is not rigor, it's vigor. Vigor and fun are what make learning sustainable and life-long and fuels an attitude within the learner for a passion to go on learning.
  • The best feedback parents can receive about their children's learning is for them to see their children learning. We need to shift from test-based accountability to a public assurance model that samples performance assessments that are collected in learning portfolios. 
For more on what real learning looks like, check out this post. 


  1. After watching Caine's videos, my first graders have been using their lunch recess every day to make elaborate sets and costumes for a puppet theater. That free time has become some of the best learning time of the day.

  2. Check out Robert Kelly's new book, Educating for Creativity. http://www.amazon.ca/Educating-Creativity-A-Global-Conversation/dp/1550594133

    I think you'll really enjoy it. It's been totally inspirational for me and has got my thinking going about creativity in my classroom.

    I took a cohort with Kelly for my M.Ed at the University of Calgary called Creativity in Educational Practice (http://www.ucalgary.ca/gpe/content/creativity-educational-practice). Amazing. Completely transformative.

  3. Erin,

    I have heard Robert Kelly speak and he is insightful. I will check out his book. Thank you!

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