One of the great things about working with “A” track kids is their thirst for intellectual challenge. These are the kids that learn German as a hobby and read classic literature for pleasure. As an informal learning specialist this is where my work resides. The students identify what they are interested in and my job is to provide the resources to support their journey and act as a sounding board as they make the connections with their formal learning.
Take for instance a recent informal learning journey that began this summer. It started simply enough. One of the boys was volunteering at the Pop Culture Museum this summer because he’d been told he had to get a job or volunteer and the Pop Culture Museum was the least offensive of all the options. While he was there he was introduced the sequential art versions of V for Vendetta.
V for Vendetta is an amazing piece of sequential art written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd that depicts a futuristic totalitarian government. Originally a ten-issue comic book series, it was adapted for the screen by Warner Brothers in 2006. The film is quite popular among civics educators. In fact, I’d venture most of the boys in this group had seen the movie at least once. However the great thing about sequential art is that it is not film. The engagement is active rather than passive. For the self driven learner this distinction is huge. Where the movie barely registered with this group of students, the sequential art spoke volumes to them.
As school resumed the boys the Occupy Together movement was taking shape. Protesters had begun Occupy Wall Street but there was little news coverage and no one was really talking about it. We talked to the kids about what the occupy movement was about as best we could and even offered to take them downtown for the first day of occupation in our community. They weren’t really interested.
One of the boys started reading George Orwell’s 1984. In a post on Facebook he made the comment that it was freaky. I recommended he read Huxley’s Brave New World when he finished because one informed perspective on the other. Besides, at some point in time they’ll have to compare and contrast the two stories in English. One of the other boys in the group offered lend him a copy. Halloween rolled around and the group decided to trick or treat. One of the boys went as Guy Fawkes. They were beginning to see Guy Fawkes masks on occupy protesters. It was the Holy Grail of informal learning! Their interests were dovetailing with current events.
I often ask student teachers this question, “Is it your goal to teach or for your students to learn?” They are two very different things, teaching and learning. One focuses on how we impart knowledge, the other on how we construct knowledge. Over the past few months I’ve been able to watch a group of students build knowledge. Young people, some of whom will be voting in the next presidential election have been critically evaluating the events of the past few weeks through the filter of classic and contemporary literature, asking questions most would never think to answer. I think I’ll see if any of them have read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.