Leapfrogging

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I hated learning piano. I hated learning French. I loved learning to ride a bike. Billy Kopecky held onto the seat of my Huffy Thunder Road at the top of a hill and let go. I turned the wheel, went over the handle bars and wiped out. This was before the helmet days. It hurt, I got bloody. He said, “that was cool, let’s do it again.” Three years after I took my last piano lesson, I picked up a piece of “Fleetwood Mac” sheet music and taught myself to play some of my favorite tunes. Yes, I needed to know the notes but I didn’t need five years of Chopin and Mozart, which killed my desire to tickle another ivory. I played for love. I learned some of the things I needed to know for French in high school (drmrsvandertramp comes to mind), but actually learned it when I lived in a French speaking African village for three years. Of course we learn by experience. It’s the oldest educational principle on earth.

But there’s this leapfrogging thing that has caught my attention. It applies mainly to technology but I think it could apply to other things too, like language, bike riding and piano. Africa is not going through the various stages of technology development because it doesn’t have the time or the resources to do so. It’s jumping right into cell phones without landlines, fiber optic without DSL (lucky them) and numerous other innovations that they are, yes, ‘leapfrogging.’ How does this apply to education?

I was sitting at a table last week with my librarian and a teacher. We were developing a curriculum for digital literacy. The conversation became a bit strained when the topic of ‘skills’ came about and what students should be taught to do first. I couldn’t help but think of Chopin when I really wanted to play Fleetwood Mac. To cut the tension, I said that we should play to one another’s strengths and we could flip flop classes, I would help their students with expression and portfolio development and they with the more technical aspects of online research and skill. I didn’t tell them this, but I am planning to do very little with the technical side and get the students to focus on their own sense of creativity, expression, and focus. Leapfrogging. They aren’t going to learn a host of Google Apps BEFORE they can be part of a Google hangout. We’re just going to do it.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to fly over the handle bars and get all bloodied. I can only think of Billy standing there and saying, “that was cool, let’s do it again.”

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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