Follow the Kids…

I visited Lamu after a fun week of Nairobi Play PD in Kakuma, and while taking a walk on the beach I stumbled upon two children with a bicycle. One of them was half-seated on it, and the other one was demonstrating or modeling how to ride it. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen or experienced before, but it reminded me of our innate sense of learning by doing and gaining new skills. It’s strange that we often fail to incorporate this approach in our capacity-building of others (I’m specifically referring to guiding educators on how to adopt learning technologies in the classroom).

Two children in Lamu (Kenyan Coast).

As the boy on the bicycle flailed off the path due to his lack of balance (panicking with his hands off the steering wheel), his friend immediately came to his side to set him straight, give him feedback and reinforce what he had demonstrated at the beginning of their journey. With every trial, the new cyclist gained more confidence, momentum and skill, and his friend gradually inched back. Eventually he took off on his own down the path, with his friend jumping and cheering in the background. After a few minutes of successful cycling he fell over, but it didn’t matter, he was all smiles. It was clear he felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, and this experience was only the first of many adventures.

This iterative process of building the capacity of others is natural, whether it’s teaching a toddler how to walk, a child how to read, or an adult how to drive, but when we build the capacity of educators to learn how to use technology in the classroom, this iterative process seems to be non-existent, and I’m not sure why. What I’ve seen in the development field has often been no professional development or an initial training (poorly designed lecture) with no follow-up. More to come on this in a follow-up post.

This doesn’t mean that better learning doesn’t involve strategies and processes. This article from the Harvard Business Review, “Learning is a Learned Behavior”, provides a nice overview of the importance of organizing goals, metacognition and reflecting on learning to strengthen mastery of a skill, all which should be embedded in good professional development.

Looking back at the last few weeks, this is one issue I hope the Nairobi Play Project can generate best practices around and contribute to the field. What can a successful model for iterative educator professional development look like, and specifically for educators in low-resource contexts with little to no experience with project-based learning or using technology in the classroom? And the research begins…