Friday, July 9, 2010

Insights on Project Learning & Contemporary Learners

I wonder if contemporary learners’ musical interests and their social-musical involvements are terribly different things to begin with. Or at least, they are integrally related to one another. The fact that today’s students regularly find, make, listen to, share, and create music completely independent of formal instruction is ignored at our own peril, as music educators. Finding ways to use project learning in combination with what are clearly motivating and interesting ways of learning on their own and inviting them into the school atmosphere will allow us to both recreate our roles as music educators by joining our students on an exciting journey into the future while valuing the knowledge and skills they already bring to school and building on them.

Too often, students feel like failures in school because they encounter activities and content that has no relevance to their life, or is presented in such a fragmented manner, that they struggle to make any sense of the information or care about it beyond getting a good grade. Giving students the opportunities to be leaders by honoring their natural skills, talents, and inquiries into the world around them using the newest technology not only makes them feel smart, it makes them smarter. By incorporating project learning and 21st Century practices in our classrooms that include using students and their prior knowledge as valuable resources, we make learning relevant and worthwhile to them. And when observing students in action in these kinds of collaborative environments, you don’t need research reports to tell you that students are clearly capable of teaching each other, and even the teacher, something new.

I would think every educator would welcome such an exciting opportunity to share in learning side by side with their students, and guiding them in the exciting pursuit of new knowledge. I mean, we all went into teaching in some part because we love to learn, right? If this is true, then there is no need to fear iphones, facebook, video games, or any other portal to students being excited about learning. Or even to be open to being perpetual students ourselves.


  1. As a student, I love technology, but I hate facebook as the social interaction overwhelming ruins the personal one on one relationship in person. We can't communicate nowdays without electronic means. And I think that is quite distasteful.

  2. I hear ya... facebook certainly has things about it that are annoying/overused/don't work well, etc. But I might argue that you could say the same about anything used to the exclusion of all other forms, on the other hand.

    I will say that I've found facebook, on a personal level, a great way to reconnect with old friends, share thoughts, and yes...even learn new things. I've been prompted to read new books I've never heard about, listen to new music, and even change my own thinking about previously held ideas.

    When viewed as just one choice (of many) in communicating and learning from others, I would say not to dismiss it entirely. But I agree that if used exclusively, it becomes impersonal and even damaging if we are not also talking to people face to face.

    My larger thinking was that we should recognize the value in what students already use and know, and guide them to deepen their thinking process and responsible, exciting new ways to use known technology in their lives to connect with what they learn in school. And that teachers should embrace the challenges we face with the undeniable reality of the world our students live in and make it work to our collective advantage.