Open The Door To Learning

11 Mar

I have realized recently that I have had very few opportunities to do a real open-ended project in my life, but I have had more than others.  Luckily, within the education program, I have had various experiences, and I have noticed a couple of things from each of them.  The first thing I have noticed, however, is how I have changed from project to project.

My first project would have been in ECMP 355, where we were allowed to do any kind of final project we wanted.  In my first year of university I didn’t know what this was really.  Rather than pushing myself I chose a topic that I thought to be safe.  I made an Online Portfolio, a task that I do think is beneficial, but not something that really pushes myself.  Sharing myself online isn’t something new for me, and making an online portfolio wasn’t that big of a jump.  I also left the project until the week it was due and basically did the bare minimum I thought was necessary to pass the assignment.  How sad.

My second project was in EVIS, again a final project completely open-ended, this time specifying on what would make me a better teacher or artist (or both).  This was my first subject focused education class, and I was very overwhelmed.  I had no idea what this was, and didn’t know what that asked me to do.  I created a resource binder for tessellations, and although it is very useful and made wonderful connections between math and visual art, I again left the assignment last-minute and didn’t put much thought into it.

When I started to really change my outlook on these open-ended assignments was in EPS 200.  We did an inquiry to teaching and learning and I chose Anti-Oppressive Education.  This was the first time that I have ever done any kind of research where I found the articles and read them over and over again because I wanted to get as much out of them as possible.  It expanding my thinking greatly and helped me through a difficult time.  Although this was a research paper, what I received out of this was much like the rewards I have received from my beneficial open-ended projects.

My first project where I found myself actually trying was in Ed Aesthetics 200.  This was a class that I actually didn’t enjoy that much, but found many things in it useful.  We had another open-ended art assignment, and this time I decided I wanted to look into something that truly interested me: graffiti.  My teacher basically told me that my project wouldn’t be useful in the classroom setting because no administrator would allow graffiti.  If it wasn’t for her telling me I couldn’t do something, I probably wouldn’t have taken the assignment the way I did.  I self chose to make a unit plan… I know, crazy talk.  I made a unit plan on graffiti that was applicable to grade 10, 11 and 12 and made the curriculum connections for all three grades.  I worked on it for well over a month, something basically unheard of for me.  When I was finished I was 100% proud of what I had accomplished.  That is the most important thing.  I did that assignment and for once actually took pride in something I created, a first in my University experience.  Even when I look back at other assignments I was happy with, until this project I knew that I could have put a lot more effort into them and done much better on them.  The really important thing, though, was that I planned to continue to add to my binder on graffiti, and it is something I still do to this day.

My most recent open-ended assignment has changed my views on education.  Our technology project, specifically my exploration into cell phone use and QR codes, has been one of the most beneficial things I have ever done.  For a majority of January, February and March I spent multiple hours every single night working on this project.  I want to make myself an expert.  I want to learn as much as possible.  I want to share everything I find with others.  These wants aren’t something I have felt this strongly in any of my education before, and I am happy with what I have learned about the project itself, but more importantly on teaching in general.  I want to be able to create assignments, and teach students, in a way that they have a strong intrinsic motivation to learn and can feel the rewards I have felt from this assignment.

If more education was like this, I couldn’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to learn.

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