Simplicity at its best

Students have very different experiences from their teachers and view life with different lenses than we perhaps do. So when you start a new topic, if you discuss or introduce a new concept, how far do you think students see what you see? The quest, as always, is to make the abstractions of our subjects more concrete so they understand.

Seeing things differently

When Johannes first came to the UK from Sweden many years ago he got a job as a Guest Porter in a fancy hotel in Cambridge. This was a real learning experience for him particularly when it came learning colloquial terms and phrases. For example colleagues would ask if he was ‘alright’. Now this may not seem like an odd question to most, however Johannes felt that although they may be concerned about his well-being, he certainly was ‘alright’ as there was nothing wrong with him, so he would reply: “Yes I’m ‘ALRIGHT, there’s nothing wrong with me’”. Today Johannes can see what they meant. Strangely enough he was never lynched.

In a similar vein, the 3 minute talk below deals with those simple issues that can very easily be misunderstood, although you wouldn’t think that asking for direction could be so different?

The same goes for teaching. Students have very different experiences from their teachers and view life with different lenses than we perhaps do. So when you start a new topic, if you discuss or introduce a new concept, how far do you think students see what you see? The quest, as always, is to make the abstractions of our subjects more concrete so they understand (see this earlier post on using strategies to make lessons more concrete).

What are you doing, you know, generally?

We came across dawdlr whilst browsing Russel M Davies’s blog. According to Davies, he wanted to create a really slow version of Twitter. In his view:

Something less rushed and immediate but still brilliantly rich and daft.

To contribute to this tiny global community you must answer the simple question: What are you doing, you know, more generally? – on a postcard and send it to Russel Davies. When Davies means a ‘slow’ version of Twitter, he really means slow as he scans each postcard and uploads it to dawdlr every 6 months. The point, according to him, is to see how far something this slow can become viral or if it will stop all together. Ingenious.

example from dawdlr

example from dawdlr

It would be very interesting if this was replicated for education. Perhaps if it was aimed at students the question could be:

What have you learnt in school, you know, that you can use in life?

Or if it was geared towards teaching professionals, perhaps something like this:

Have you made it relevant enough, you know, so students really got it?

If you can think of more creative ways of using this approach, just add a comment. By the way, what are you waiting for, head over to dawdlr and get the address!

Simplicity is Complex: the Little Red Riding Hood Make Over

Simplicity doesn’t necessarily have to be ‘simple’ as long as the message is ( read this post on using the idea of ‘Simple’ in teaching) Tomas Nilsson, an Art Director and Motion-Graphics Artist from Sweden, produced a 3-minute video as a school assignment to re-interpret the classic fairy-tale. This is creativity at its best and can also provide students with an excellent demonstration of how to deconstruct a story, literally, piece by piece.

by Tomas Nilsson on Vimeo.

He has also made great use of both creativity, his own professional flare as well as comedy in this piece of work:

A fishing trip at the French west coast in 1944 by Tomas Nilsson

The original photograph by Robert Capa of the D-Day Landings was, according to the description on Nilsson’s website, modified for a”school assignment to composit a person into a historical environment”. Imagine what students could do to replicate this type of creativity in some of their subjects, wether using photographs or Green Screen Technology to create meaning or for teachers to make an abstract concept more concrete?

If you find these videos interesting why not also take a look at the Eat.Sleep.Teach channel on YouTube.com?

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About Johannes Ahrenfelt

Johannes Ahrenfelt is co-founder of 99Squared, writes frequently on EatSleepTeach.com and has a profound interest in pedagogy and technology. He delivers training nationally and internationally on e-learning and Teaching & Learning. Johannnes has written numerous books, most of which have been published worldwide.

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