Get Real!

GaribaldiSometimes you just have to power down. Close the laptop, turn off the cell phone, power down the iPad, and…Get Real! Every September our 7th grade gets to spend a week on Catalina Island at the CIMI Camp at Toyon Bay. For the past five year’s I’ve been able to go along. We tell the kids they are not allowed to bring any cell phones (there’s no service anyway), ipods, computers, or any other electronic device.

What?! How can we expect any real learning to occur if they don’t have access to their technology?

Think back to your education courses. Do you remember Dale’s Cone? It implied that “Real Experiences” have a greater impact on learning & retention than simulations, dramatizations, audio/visual, or written information. That’s what the Catalina experience is for our students. A REAL experience.

If you want to learn about an octopus, there are tons of awesome resources available online – articles, stories, pictures, and videos. A student can learn a lot this way, but nothing compares to being out snorkeling in the ocean and having your instructor dive down, bring one up, and let you hold it yourself. You feel the suction cups on your wet suit. You see the animal change color right before your eyes and you watch how it’s body moves as it swims away.

I asked one of our kids this week if they remember the seeing the octopus. “Oh yeah, it inked on me!” was the excited reply. No book, web page, or video can evoke that kind of response. In church we refer to it as “head knowledge” vs. “heart knowledge”. When learning becomes and experience and not just an activity or exercise it grabs us in a way the goes much deeper than simply learning a bunch of facts.

At school I’ve spent a lot of time encouraging teachers to integrate technology for learning and motivation. We spend lots of money and time on technology tools, support, and training. We’ve seen the amazing things kids are able to do and create with the technology. In a time of budget cuts and fiscal restraints, sometimes tough choices have to made. So far we’ve been able to support technology and continue offering these real experiences to our students as well.  It is my hope that we never have to make that choice, but if we did I would be willing to sacrifice some technology to keep these trips going. The REAL experience is just too important to miss.

5 thoughts on “Get Real!”

  1. I think learning comes so quick and easy online that we sometimes forget to unplug and “smell the roses”. While on a tour at Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, I was without service for hours and had to actually talk and look around the whole time. I really felt out of sorts, but in retrospect, I probably would have missed a lot around me if I had been checking email and reading twitter all day. The trip you took with your class was a once in a lifetime experience. I know the kids will remember that trip forever. Your photos that captured the day were beautiful!

  2. I love Catalina Island and I am UBER jealous you get to go and take kids…that is fabulous! I agree that unplugging and DOING can be a wonderful learning and growing experience for all involved! Well done my friend!

  3. Thanks for the comment Liz. The 7th grade Catalina trip is both exhilarating and exhausting but the experience is totally worth it. The instructors at CIMI are amazing – young, enthusiastic, and all have a degree in some field of biology. Its something I look forward to every year.
    Right now I’m looking forward to next week when I get to spend a week up in the mountains (near Palomar) with 6th grade. More REAL learning experiences! I can’t wait.

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