Today in my Astronomy class ( year 8 ) we started learning about space exploration. Students knew who the first person to walk on the moon was, some even knew who the second was. Nobody knew who the first person in space was – although some thought it might have been a Russian. Now, suppose I had simply told them who it was ([whispers] It was Yuri Gagarin but shhhhh! because at this point in the story my students don’t know that yet). How engaging would that have been? Right! it would have been boring and the lesson would have been utterly unmemorable.
Instead, I told them we were going to have a contest. The first student to get a text message on their phone, with the correct answer to the question would be the winner. Here’s how events transpired…
The truth is, of course that we were all winners. We’d had fun, learned something… no, not that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space – just between us, I don’t really think that’s terribly important to remember – you can always look it up if you need to know it – but the important lesson was in the value of a PLN (personal learning network). If you’re reading this blog, you probably realise the value of a PLN in your own career, but how often do we encourage our students to think about cultivating a PLN? In a world where information is voluminous, ubiquitous and free, a person’s professional success will not be predicated on an ability to remember facts, but on an ability to quickly access information on the fly. A PLN is powerful for that.
If nothing else, the lesson was memorable. The engagement of students made it a worthwhile novelty – you could see it in their faces. Their pupils were dilated, they were smiling and there was a buzz in the air (literally! – from the ringtones).