A few years ago I filmed a couple of the Fletcher gang playing a game I love called “Set”. Set shows us that challenging means fun. The game that requires some pretty sophisticated thinking. Initially, I didn’t know if my 5 year-old could handle a full game of set, but I thought I would try it anyway. And… she surprised me. Even though she just turned 5 a week, earlier, she was capable of so much. Now, I’m not saying that she is a genius. Rather, I make the point that average intelligence is still one of the most powerful forces the universe has ever produced. We would do well to accept it. When it comes to intelligence, however one defines it, average means powerful.
Check out the video to see how I worked with the Doo Dah. The toy company markets Set as “the game of visual perception” but there is a lot more to it. I use it primarily to encourage a) Planning/Executive Functioning b) Simultaneous/holistic processing c) control of attention d) fun. In the video you will notice that I use very little direct instruction. Instead, I ask questions and encourage the Doo Dah to think for herself. I could have given her the answer at one point, but that would have stopped her from thinking. Instead, I gave her just enough information to allow her to solve the problem for herself. Watch this video with an eye for the process. Maybe you do some of this yourself. What you will see is: 1) I encourage the Doo Dah to survey the task/tell me her plan 2) I prompt her by asking questions/guiding her attention 3) I model for her by talking about my thinking 4) I ask her to summarize her own thinking.
Can Intelligence Be Taught?
How we think is very much a product of our culture and our relationships. Play often leads to meaningful interactions, creativity in learning, and new thinking strategies. Even attention is developmental and therefore trainable. If you like, you could try meditation sometime. You may find that the beginning sitting practice is tough. In fact, Buddhists say we have “monkey mind” because our thoughts and attention bounce around like a monkey. With practice, however, one learns to sit for longer periods. One learns to select the breath as the object of attention. Meditation is the art of resisting distracting thoughts, at least that is what I have learned.
On another note, I can’t for the life of me understand how “experts” continue to ignore the important role that emotions play in learning. Any reform that doesn’t place emotions at the center is likely to fail or have limited effects. In response, several years ago I decided that I would develop video games as learning tools. Few would disagree that it is the child’s nature to play. I go further. I believe it is the adult’s nature to play, as well. You might be aware that the average age of the most frequent video game customer is 40 http://bit.ly/brmQA . If we care to bring the emotions into learning, we would do well to pay attention to video games. I include play in learning precisely because play brings emotional experiences. When a person feels intense feelings, he/she often performs better. Boredom, conversely, interferes with learning. Anxiety interferes with learning. Play, on the other hand, reduces harmful stress. Video games are play. Video games can teach.
In a short while, my team and I will release what I think will be a very important iPad app. I hope you will stay tuned so that you might try it. I will give updates as the release date draws nearer.
Can children learn the entire elementary school math curriculum in 30 hours? For evidence that we might be underestimating what kids can do, see http://bit.ly/c7QETj
I recommend Todd Kashden’s excellent work on curiosity. Please check it out: http://www.toddkashdan.com/