Guest Blog Post: It’s All About the Experience!

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Billie McConnell, President of Connected Consulting

As I work with teachers, I am reminded of my childhood experiences and how things have changed. My childhood was different from my children’s and today’s kids are even more different. Many of the experiences that I had have been lost to today’s children. But, I do admit that they also have some that I never had. (I will save the ones that I never had for another article.)

I played organized sports as a kid, but most of my sports were played on the playground, the street, or the front yard. No adults, just us kids. What happened if we had a conflict? We resolved it. No adults! If we wanted to keep playing, then we had to come up with a solution. We learned early how to resolve conflicts. We didn’t always resolve them using the best method, but that was a learning experience as well. Today, however, many of our students are involved in organized activities run by an adult. What happens when there is a conflict? The adult solves it. Children learn that someone else will solve the problem and they don’t get the chance to learn to deal with conflicts. (Hmm. That reminds me of many parent meetings that I had when I was a teacher and administrator.)

I also owned dogs. So, what did I do if I wanted my dogs to have a doghouse? I built one. We didn’t drive to the pet store and buy one. What if I wanted cookies? Well, at least in my house, I made them – from scratch. That is when I learned the difference between a cup of salt and a teaspoon of salt. Let’s just say that my first batch didn’t get eaten. If the lawn mower broke, I fixed it. If I wanted watermelons, I grew them. If my socks had a hole, I learned to sew them up. For many in my generation, we learned math and science through cutting, measuring, making, growing, converting, fixing, building and oh yes, failing! We didn’t just memorize math . . .we used it. We didn’t just read about science, it was part of our daily life. My everyday life required me to learn to solve problems, collaborate, resolve conflicts, critically think and overcome failure.

I am not proposing that we go back to those days, but I am proposing that students need experiences. If our society no longer offers those experiences for many kids, then we need to create those experiences in school. We learn by doing. We learn to collaborate and resolve conflicts by working with people to solve problems. We learn to be creative by trying, failing and trying again. Math and science make sense when we use them. The integration of learner-centered instructional practices like Project-Based Learning and Maker-Movement lessons bring those experiences back into the classroom. Our students need experiences, so let’s design classrooms that provide them.

Dr. Billie McConnell is President of Connected Consulting. He works with schools to form a vision for creating new school environments with technology. 

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