Almost forty years ago, a many by the name of Carl Rogers wrote the book, On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. In this work, he outlined three processes that give a person the prime learning platform: acceptance of the individual, lack of external evaluation, and empathetic understanding.
To put it plainly, these three factors have big implications on any classroom. When students have a classroom that operates under these conditions, they are granted the permission to be creative. More of how this all works can be found in Alane Starko’s book, Creativity in the Classroom. She shows how Rogers ideas can liberate the thinking of students.
I want to focus on how this theory relates to students and computers. When students, or any of us for that matter, go online to create, whether it be writing, art, web design, or whatever, we do it because online, we find the conditions that Rogers discussed allowing us to be creative to our fullest potential. To put it simply, Rogers says that when we have a safe place to create we are more likely to do just that. We do it on our own without prodding, and we enjoy it.
Now, think of most classrooms. Students are given the assignment to make a poster. They are given a 10 point rubric with a detailed guidelines, though the guidelines are really a detailed outline of how the project needs to look in the end with little room for change. Students are asked to create this poster in a classroom, sitting in rows in desks, oftentimes with no music or interaction, knowing that when it is all done, a grade will be entered in the book dependent on their ability to follow directions.
And we as teachers create a great product?
What we usually get is a bunch of posters that generally look the same, and in most cases, this is not the best work for most students. They do what is needed to get the grade and not much more. It is not just art projects where this happens. Most assignments look just like this in one form or another.
Ever wonder why students can get on a computer and spend hours designing a Myspace page, or manipulating pictures to post on their Facebook? Look at writing sites like Writing.com where there are hundreds of thousands of pages written by students, and this is done without a rubric or any pressure from anyone at all.
They do it because writing is fun.
Rogers was right. People can be intrinsically motivated to do great things, but the conditions have to be right. People need a safe place to create without a bunch of limiting conditions. People need feedback, but not limiting feedback in the form of a grade. People need others to look at their work with an empathetic eye that attempts to see things from the artists or creators perspective. These conditions are found in online communities, and that is one reason our teens spend so much time there. Their minds are free to explore, think, share, create, and wonder with no outside stipulations. There is no grade, only pure feedback from people who care.
The key here is finding out how to create these same conditions within a classroom, or maybe even better, utilizing these 0nline communities in the classroom. When that is accomplished students will learn. They will create. They will be poised to make great changes in our world. That’s the end goal, isn’t it?
Read Full Post »