Saturday, November 12, 2016

Messing Around

We are finishing up a round of Genius Hour projects, getting ready to share our learning with each other. I asked students to prepare their projects for a three to five minute presentation. One boy decided he wanted to create an iMovie for his project, but said he didn't know how.

"Okayyy....," I told him a bit nervously, "I'm not very familiar with iMovie, but let's give it a shot."

I handed him my iPad and told him we could create a practice video together. To gather footage, he went around the school looking for places where math concepts were being used and put together a short video. We worked together to learn how to import clips, add photos, and edit his video snippets. He was pleased with his test project and made plans to take video for his Genius Hour project.

When he returned to Genius Hour class yesterday, he had his video recorded and saved to his Google drive -- All 15 minutes of it in one continuous clip.

"Can you help me edit it?" he asked. "There's some stuff I need to take out."

Together, we figured out how to load his (very long) video into iMovie.

"Hmmm...I'm not sure how to edit something in the middle of a clip," I told him. "We could Google it." (Google is one of my favorite teachers.)

"I still have my video in my Google drive just in case. Should I just mess around and see what I can figure out?" he suggested.

"Yes! Great idea!" I told him, slightly relieved. "Sometimes we just have to mess around with things until we figure them out."

He went off to his desk, putting his headphones on so he could hear the audio without disturbing others. He was super focused on the task at hand, determined to figure it out. Soon, he was next to me, teaching me how to use the "clip" button to edit footage within a video.

He was quite proud of himself. (I was too!)

This got me thinking.

How often do we allow our students time to just "mess around" with their learning?

Probably not often enough. 

We are so driven to get them to their learning destination that we forget the joy in the journey. We don't have time to allow kids to wander off the lesson plan path to see what new discoveries they can find. This kind of learning is messy. It may require us, the teacher, to admit we don't know something.

But that's okay.

This student reminded me that sometimes messing around with something is the best way to learn about it. I could have taught him exactly what to do, (after I Googled it, of course), but chances are he wouldn't have learned as much from me as he taught himself.

My goal is to introduce more messy learning whenever I can. To be okay with telling a student I don't know something, but that we can find it out together. To allow my kids to explore and learn from mistakes, then teach others what they've found.

This can be the best kind of learning.

And a good reason to celebrate.


  1. Jennifer, learning is messy but messing around is such a great term for what we do in the process. You gave me new ideas on how to help teachers understand the productive struggle we want students to engage in. Happy Saturday!

  2. The joy of the journey in messy learning! That is exactly what many of our classrooms are missing...mine included! You are making me think about how I can make learning messy this week. :) Have a great weekend!

  3. Google is my best teacher, too, Jennifer, and it's great that you supported and learned alongside him, then gave him a chance to figure things out. Wonderful post that many teachers will enjoy! Happy weekend!

  4. What a wonderful celebration of messy learning! To let go - and allow kids to explore and make mistakes, to allow ourselves to explore and make mistakes - isn't always easy. Cheers to you for encouraging it!

  5. Wow "How often do we allow our students time to just "mess around" with their learning?" You're correct not enough. I will be pondering your question for awhile. Thank you.

  6. They learn better when the learning is messy and all theirs. Bravo to both student and teacher!

  7. Great question! Love how there was lots of figuring it out as you went shared here. :-)

  8. Messy learning is a brave and glorious thing. Kudos to you and your students!

  9. Celebrating messy! I love this post and the journeys taken and learning that occurs when messy is embraced.