thoughts on Learning Science in Informal Environments

I spent a couple of hours last night reading this excellent report ( from the National Research Council. I made some notes in the margins, but no notes to bring to work. So this is from memory. (I’m trying to be both looser and more committed to reflecting on this blog!)

My takeaways/thoughts:

  1. Context, context, context. I have to give some credit to John Seely Brown here as well – the report doesn’t use the word context. It talks about the importance of considering people, place, and culture when designing and assessing learning experiences.
  2. Social, social, social. Learning experiences must prompt students to reflect, and are best when that reflection gets feedback, as in conversation. Or comments on a blog post. Reflecting silently is useful, but it’s impact is amplified by feedback. So my blogging for me here is only a first step – if I really want to learn, I need to go public… Interesting that that is so intimidating. It’s perhaps a mark of my generation. And a great thing to be scared of and then get over!
  3. Organizations like the Gulf of Maine Research Institute who create rich science learning experiences and then support teachers using them in their formal curriculum are more unusual/rare than I previously thought. Informal science institutes more often provide programs for learners to visit, or do after school, or during summer. They may interact with the formal system through teacher professional development, but they rarely design programs to be used during class hours by teachers.
  4. The design recommendations are remarkably aligned with GMRI’s practice. Remarkably.
  5. The learning science world is pretty small… I was happily surprised by how many citations were of people I know personally. I feel lucky.

I’m only partway through the book. Thank you, Tom Keller, for giving me a copy! I should have read it long ago.


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