The DIY Movement Revives Learning by Doing

Posted on September 18, 2010  Comments (8)

School for Hackers

The ideal educational environment for kids, observes Peter Gray, a professor of psychology at Boston College who studies the way children learn, is one that includes “the opportunity to mess around with objects of all sorts, and to try to build things.” Countless experiments have shown that young children are far more interested in objects they can control than in those they cannot control—a behavioral tendency that persists. In her review of research on project-based learning (a hands-on, experience-based approach to education), Diane McGrath, former editor of the Journal of Computer Science Education, reports that project-based students do as well as (and sometimes better than) traditionally educated students on standardized tests, and that they “learn research skills, understand the subject matter at a deeper level than do their traditional counterparts, and are more deeply engaged in their work.” In The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely, a behavioral psychologist at Duke University, recounts his experiments with students about DIY’s effect on well-being and concludes that creating more of the things we use in daily life measurably increases our “feelings of pride and ownership.” In the long run, it also changes for the better our patterns of thinking and learning.

Unfortunately, says Gray, our schools don’t teach kids how to make things, but instead train them to become scholars, “in the narrowest sense of the word, meaning someone who spends their time reading and writing. Of course, most people are not scholars. We survive by doing things.”

I am a big believer in fostering kids natural desire to learn by teaching through tinkering.

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8 Responses to “The DIY Movement Revives Learning by Doing”

  1. phil
    September 21st, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    I get sick of how school is structured these days. Let’s teach kids things they can learn in an environment they love, and let’s give them the skills they need to succeed. Think about how skilled a child would be if he was interested in computers at a young age and the curriculum allowed him to learn various programming languages and theory all the way until 22 (typical age for college grads). I’d dare say he’d have much more experience and knowledge than even some masters graduates have now.

    Learning should always be hands on and provide kids with the things they want to learn.

  2. Colleen Anderson
    September 21st, 2010 @ 3:46 pm

    I agree with your opinion as well. The best way to learn something new is to do it yourself. All the reading and review means noting if you can’t actually do what it is that you have learned.

  3. Anonymous
    October 4th, 2010 @ 3:35 pm

    I whole-heartedly agree! Most everything I have learned was done by actually trying to do it for myself. I remember when I got my first car and my grandpa showed me how to change the oil in it. I didn’t actually learn how to do it until I got underneath the car myself and did it.

  4. Anonymous
    October 5th, 2010 @ 3:26 am

    Actually learning is sometimes a matter of personality and individual differences. There are people who learn more through reading and writing;the traditional type,eh. And there are also some who learn through doing. However, it is a widespread believe that people will learn more and tend to remember more those things that they have experienced personally. Those things that involved many of our senses,not just the eyes for reading, and hands for writing are more meaningful kind of learning than the traditional one.

  5. Anonymous
    October 5th, 2010 @ 11:08 am

    Experience is till the best teacher, & it’s no good being locked away in the ivy tower & being “scholarly”, because it is in the application of what you know that matters most. a knowledge not put to work is nothing.

  6. Josh R
    October 5th, 2010 @ 7:12 pm

    I’ve always learned better by actually practicing something in real time rather than thinking about it theoretically. Even today, reading something doesn’t cut it for me sometimes.. I may have to re-write it.

  7. Anonymous
    October 27th, 2010 @ 8:37 am

    I agree with your opinion as well. The best way to learn something new is to do it yourself. All the reading and review means noting if you can’t actually do what it is that you have learned.

  8. New Blog with Simple Demonstrations and Scientific Explanations » Curious Cat Science Blog
    May 2nd, 2012 @ 1:25 am

    Try this at home is a new blog by Dr Mark Lorch, a chemistry lecturer at the University of Hull, with instructions for the citizen scientist…

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