Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kids learn when they are solving problems

It's funny, sometimes I have the same conversation 10 times in a couple of weeks.  Lately the conversation has been about the nature of how kids are going to learn online.  I think the idea that kids are going to learn from pre-recorded video of a teacher discussing a topic is silly.  I have never seen a child at Rocketship learn that way and my friends running secondary schools say the same.  Maybe by late high school or college this changes, but I kind of doubt it.  When you are in a school, I think it becomes very clear when learning happens.  Students who are working on a problem that they can solve learn by trying to solve the problem and receiving prompts and insights from peers or the teacher when they make mistakes.  This eventually helps them get over the hump and be able to solve similar problems with a lot less mental effort.  That's learning.  This happens thousands of times a day in well run classrooms.  For whatever reason, we have really lost this truth in online learning.  First, we don't spend near enough time trying to make sure the student is trying to solve a problem that they have the ability to solve.  Second, when they make a mistake, most of the time a buzzer just goes off and we hit them with a similar problem to frustrate them more.  We lose the teachable moment all of the time.  And finally, when you watch the amount of receptive learning students are expected to do outside of the context of problem solving to "learn" what to do, it often dwarfs the active learning time.  I am really hopeful that the next generation of online learning systems approaches learning from the perspective of the child solving a problem they can solve.


  1. John,

    I really appreciate this perspective. It's the foundation around much of my work on

    Learning takes place when a student decides to solve an appropriately difficult challenge. If the student struggles then it may be an excellent opportunity to introduce explicit content toward the goal of solving the challenge.

    I've been trying to put these theories in to place in the puzzle-games I'm developing. You can see some of my latest efforts here:

    Would be curious to hear your thoughts on this approach.

  2. Very consistent with what Dan Willingham describes in Why Don't Students Like School?

  3. Learning by doing is a very easy and nice approach of problem solving techniques. Children should be trained as per certain plans and guideline in order to overcome career problem solution which are likely to be faced if the beginning is not proper.

  4. Your perspective on how kids are able to learn when they're solving their problems whether it's related to school or in life is greatly appreciated. People especially young kids are able to learn when they do things on their own and when they solve problems on their own or even if they ask help from others. Learning from a mistake is ideal so even if you failed your first paper writing service attempt, you can still try another time.

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