Unfold Learning

exploring the best innovations in learning and teaching


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Playful Math

Ditch the worksheet

header image showing drawing created using Scratch coding blocks

What happens when you take one step, turn one degree, take one step, turn one degree, and continue the trend a total of 360 times? Of course, you will walk in a circle. Or, you walk along a 360-sided shape with each side measuring one step. The perimeter (or circumference, since it is technically a circle) is 360 steps. You can split this shape into 360 congruent triangles with angles measuring 1º, 89.5º and 89.5º degrees. 

This may not be new to you, and you may have an easy time understanding the above description and imaging the process and shapes I’m describing. However, if these ideas are new to you, you may have a difficult time creating a mental image of what’s being described. Asking learners to imagine things rather than showing them things can stress them if they are not familiar, or if they lack confidence. 

Luckily, nobody has to rely solely on imagination. We can replicate this process using Scratch — a simple, fun, powerful programming language developed by the MIT Media Lab. Using Scratch, we can carry out the process of ‘walking’ in a circle and explore what happens when we change things up. We can see the shapes generated and very quickly experiment with different numbers. Scratch’s block-based design (sort of like putting together LEGO blocks) makes it really easy to generate one shape after another

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Making Learning: Creativity or Platforms?

Adapted from a photo of North Cascades National Park by Matt Whitacre on Unsplash

Kids are fed up with sitting in front of screens watching teachers lecture all day. Is that a surprise?

And an even more important question: is watching a teacher lecture from a desk in a classroom really all that much better? Was it better when you were the student sitting in that desk? How many of those lectures made a meaningful difference in your life? How many of those facts do you actively remember or use regularly? How did those lectures develop your potentialities or kindle agency in you?

Now spin it back around. How many of the lectures students are fidgeting in front of today — either on-screen or in-person — will make their lives fundamentally better, more resilient, more genuinely enfranchised, or more fulfilled? Is that ratio any better than it was for you?

Most of us remember relationships, projects, team and club activities … parts of school that engaged, connected, and empowered us. So if delivered information is not primarily what we carry with us afterwards, why do we keep building schools like this?

It’s an Abilene paradox. Most students don’t really want to sit through that series of lectures, and deep down, most teachers want to do more than just deliver them. The limitations of COVID-19 have put this in even starker relief. We all hunger for something better.

But if we tear down the way school does school, what do we build instead?

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