Home' Teacher : July 2010 Contents 28 TEACHER JUNE/JULY 2010
just put out because it's her iPhone and she
wants it back to play Block Out.
Okay, those game-thumbing young peo-
ple we see everywhere might just be learning
something, but the rest of the time they're
in the real world, they're just goofing off,
right? Well, again, I'm not so sure.
I took my twins for a bike ride down to
our local skate park. It's one of those con-
crete bowls with lips and rounded, scooped
out depressions that skaters can zoom down
and around. The one we visited has a big
scoop for the big kids and a small, flat scoop
for little kids.
While my kids tried out the little one
with the other little kids, a whole gang of
skateboarders, biker riders, scooter rid-
ers and roller-skaters clustered around the
edge of the main area. There were probably
about 20 of them ranging from 10-year olds
to older teens. Most of them were boys, but
there were a couple of girls, too.
As I watched one after another throw
themselves down the impossibly steep edge
of the depression, only to zoom along the
bottom and come flying up the other side
spinning, weaving and sliding around, a
thought struck me.
Who decides who goes next?
We're talking here about a seriously dan-
gerous activity involving mostly teenagers,
and while there were a couple of obvious
groups of friends, it was clear that few of
them knew each other.
While I sat and watched for half an hour
or so, I saw them, one after another, taking
turns down into the bowl. I saw the young-
est have as many turns as the oldest. I saw
them giving each other help and advice. I
saw no one pushing in or taking too long
on their turn. And, amazingly, there were
absolutely no collisions!
Only once was there even anything like a
near miss. One of the little kids decided he
wanted to have a go in the main area and
launched himself down the edge without
looking around first. A blink of an eye later,
one of the older kids came down the other
side on a skateboard. The older kid quickly
pulled out while the younger kid made it
to the other edge and proudly went back
to the group of little kids. There was some
shaking of heads by the older kids -- and the
As I rode away with my kids I thought
about what I felt about skaters in particu-
lar, and about teenage boys in general. In
that short time I'd seen cooperation, turn-
taking, respect for others, mentoring -- not
to mention risk-taking, adventu re, achieve-
ment and fun, and every one of those with-
out a responsible adult in sight.
Talk about authentic learning. Tap Fish
on the one hand and those kids at the skate
park on the other both put me in mind of
the idea of desire paths, a term coined by the
French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, back
in 1957. These, as Bachelard explained, are
the authentic paths we take, often as short-
cuts, but sometimes just because they offer
the best experience. We've all walked them
-- they're the foot-worn dirt trails alongside
those concrete paths that don't quite take us
where we want to go.
The question for educators is how we
might harness the desire paths our students
already take, in the real world and the vir-
tual one, and what sorts of authentic learn-
ing we might enable.
Ralph Saubern is the Acting General
Manage r of School Programs in the
Assessment Services Division at the Aus-
tralian Council for Educational Research
(ACER). He was Gene ral Manage r of
ACER Press from 2006 to 2009.
Bachelard, G. (1957). La poétique de
l'espace. Paris: Presses Universitaires de
Bachelard, G. (1969). The Poetics of
Space (origin ally La poétique de l'espace).
trans. Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon Press.
Hopkin s, D. & Putnam, R. (2007).
Person al Growth Through Adventure.
London: David Fulton Publishers.
O'Connell, J. & Groom, D. (2010).
Lear ning in a Changing World Se ries:
Virtual Worlds. Melbourne: ACER Press.
I'd seen cooperation,
turn-taking, respect for
others, mentoring -- not
to mention risk-taking,
and fun, and every
one of those without
a responsible adult
in sight. Talk about
Links Archive May 2010 August 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page