Flipping Out Over On-Loom Learning

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Everything was going so swimmingly as we ate our sandwiches together and my daughter multi-tasked with the pleasant voice of a YouTube video showing her how to make the infamous “Panda” on her rainbow loom.

Then, “SNAP”, one of the elastics broke in the middle. Hours of work, wasted, followed by tears and the requisite bedroom door slam. Over an hour of life, wasted. The pleasant girl on the video continued on her merry way, narrating how simple it was to complete one of the most complex tasks of the modern era.

I hit the pause button.

Don’t get me wrong, Khan academy and flip classrooms transformed learning math and a bunch of stuff for me forever. With this same girl, we learned the opening licks to “Don’t Stop Believing” on the piano without looking at a piece of sheet music. But there was something about this loom video that made a pleasant learning experience all wrong, even if she could hit ‘pause.’

It made complex stuff all too simple. It didn’t show the hundreds of takes the girl had to take to get “Panda” just right. (There had to be, it’s way to difficult to do it the first time). It didn’t show the struggle, the others grappling with the same problem, the broken elastics on the floor.

In my panic, I scrolled down to the comments whilst she wailed in the other room. “Look,” I
yelled with encouragement, “There’s a bunch of people who got upset just like you!” She emerged, wiping the tears, and I read them to her.

“Thanks for wasting two hours of my life.”
“There’s no way I could ever do this. Everytime near the end an elastic always breaks.”
And along with a bunch of profanity-laced ones I did NOT read, was simply, “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.”

The tears stopped, then the giggling started. I put my arm around her and said it was okay and that I bet the girl on the video had the same troubles. Thank goodness for the failure feedback from the audience. It saved us.

This is what we’ve always said about online learning, that it cannot replace the vitality of the social context of learning, successes, and failures. The pain of the process as opposed to just the finished product. We know these things as educators.

Then what happened surprised me and I took note. My daughter picked her broken loom off the floor, took off the old elastics, and tried again. This time, she improvised her own creation without a video. Except what she did was that she pretended as though she were narrating it herself. She took on the same, patient inflection of the girl from dreaded “Panda” and forged ahead with her own newfound confidence and optimism, returning to her nimble craft like never before. (I tried to film some but she caught me). I had never seen her use a “teacher voice” and she was so caring and attentive to doing the task and being helpful at the same time that it distracted her from the struggle and she returned to form. It was remarkable.

She recovered. She re-created. She improvised and copied. She found her footing again. And most notably, she became somewhat of a teacher in her own right in a way that allowed her to get back to her “creative confidence” that she had lost only minutes before. I had never seen this effect of the “flip classroom experience” and wondered how other students were managing in the absence of their own social contexts (without throwing their laptops or entering their own profanity comments below the video.

It was cool. And yes, I got the bracelet when she was done.

Success!

Almost forgot the requisite 80s video. This one was a no brainer.

True Colors

About Stephen Dexter, Jr.

Stephen is an international educator and administrator. A native of the United States, he lives with his wife Stephanie and children Zoe and Ian in the Singapore. With a career that spans over twenty years in public, private and international schools, he writes when he can and is on a quest to discover if "text walking" is changing the human brain.
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