I’ve spent a great part of my life researching sensory experiences, sensory integration, and how children learn through their senses. Why? Because, for years, we were walking the journey of parents, trying to help their child. A child whose senses were terribly out of balance from the world. She could feel the drops of water, individually on her skin when stepping out of the pool. Not feel in awareness, but a sting. She saw the intensity of light in a way that I still can’t explain, but that made a 5 year old say traffic was “a beautiful sight” because of the sea of red glow in front of us. She’s challenged everything I thought I knew and opened my eyes to everything I’m ready to know. You know that thing about our kids teaching US more than we teach them. Fact.
Now when I watch kids, at 4, at 6, at 8, take the world in, I see their senses. I see them smelling the paper. I see them touching the cardboard. I see them listening to the sounds of beads pouring into a bucket. I see their sticky fingers and watch them use too much tape. Places where I used to intervene, I now know to be quiet. I now understand how precious these experiences are.
Maybe, because these experiences were always a challenge, always different than expected, always bigger when I thought they’d be smaller. They were drops of water on the skin. Most of us don’t notice when we walk from the pool, most of us don’t experience the greatness when we go under and that stinging ceases. Most of us don’t get the blessing of being so aware. The raw look at senses.
Being fully aware is a gift. It allows us to question. Technology is a huge passion of mine– I’ll be in line to get iPhone X and I wore the Apple Watch as soon as I could get one. But, balance. The work of people like Seymour Papert who believed that technology was a vehicle for kids to create and construct and Friedrich Froebel who knew that hands on play was the vehicle kids needed. We can never throw out this work in favor of selling a kit or promoting a product that doesn’t take kids needs fully into account.
I find myself torn. Google tools are exciting. AR and VR. All the hardware, Pi, Arduino, LittleBits, drones, and I could go on. It’s all got the potential to be meaningful, to add to great experiences for kids. But, meaning. Those senses are calling. Raw learning. To me, in my heart, making encapsulates all that is good and raw. And necessary.
I am left thinking, just because I CAN stick an ipad in the hands of kids in our world and they CAN manipulate it, should I? Where are the sensory experiences? Where is the texture? The smell? the crinkle of materials? The resistance of the tape roll? Virtually, it’s not there. We can help our kids get ready for the future whether they learn to manipulate system preferences, taps, and clicks at 4 or at 10.
So, in the same way that I worked so very hard to help my child balance her senses all those years, I will work in the same way to find learning balance. The balance between raw and digital. And that’s what the experiences that I hope to plan in the classroom can be about. Raw learning. Technology used for creating. Incorporating sensory experiences in all of those things along the way. Developing all the things that will never be obsolete: resilience, joy, optimism, problem solving, flexible thinking. Ever tangle with a tape roll? Trust me, all those things.
Anyone who has ever created anything will tell you, you create with your whole being. Not just sight. Never just touch. Your senses working together to take your experiences from the environment and turn them into something that ONLY YOU can conceive of. And that? It’s what makes it so awesome. Raw creativity. Magic. It’s the reason I can’t settle for recipe learning. I can’t settle for finding all my lessons or teaching scripts on the internet, from someone else’s heart or soul. It’s the reason our kids, the ones right in front of us, hold the answers to our classrooms.
Our future is technology filled, that’s a given. But, it’s what our kids do with the power of combining their hearts and souls, their learning, the raw materials WITH that technology. it’s that. Kids come to us with millions of ideas, and it’s our job to help them feel the confidence to take those ideas and bring them to life. Technology might make that possible, but it will be our guidance and our getting out of their way… that’s when the magic will unfold.