This Is Not A Toy. This Is Learning.

The biggest change to my teaching this year has been quite subtle: it’s the language that we (the students and I) use in class.  Maybe it comes from too much design and maker reading.  Maybe it has to do with tinkering and rebuilding parts of my home on my own time.  Whatever the reason may be, the language that’s getting thrown around in my class this year is beautiful. Here are some examples:

1) We talk less about success criteria and more about tips.  This semantic difference matters.  Tips improve work without necessarily having an end game (success).  If learning is limitless and lifelong, shouldn’t suggestions to improve learning reflect those ideals?  Improvement is dynamic and long lasting.  Success is finished once reached.

2) We edit in all curriculum areas: language, math, science, the arts, etc.

3) We challenge each other on the feedback that we provide? “What do you mean by add more detail?  Where?” Moreover, students are free to use or ignore all advice.

About a month ago I connected with a group of people that shares this vision of learning.  Last week they hosted us for the afternoon.  

If you live in the Toronto area, please take your students to the Design Exchange.  Their current exhibit is This Is Not A Toy and it is amazing.  My students, parent volunteers and I were floored by the beauty and creativity of the toys, and by the high quality of programming that the museum provided.  Here’s a quick snapshot of what one of my students, Eliza, saw:


When students finished exploring in the gallery the best part of the trip began.  Our presenter Olga briefly talked about the evolution of toys then handed out old toys for the students to rip apart and redesign.

Students drew.  Students talked. Students created. As problems occurred new iterations of their toys emerged. 






I could see all of the work that we had been doing in class on establishing a common language and attitude towards learning coming out in this workshop. 

It was beautiful.

This Is Not A Toy will be open until May 19th.  If there’s any way for you to bring your students there, go for it.


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