John Seely Brown Discusses Importance of Hands-On Learning

How do you capture the unbounded curiosity and imagination of a child? Researcher John Seely Brown suggests the freedom to allow a child to interact with the world by tinkering with it. At the EdSurge DIY Learning pavilion event, Brown shared his thoughts about the importance of “do it yourself” and the benefits of an education in physicality.

“The appreciation of awe is critical,” he said. “We do a good job of destroying that in classrooms. But we can bring it back into the classroom through the kinds of thinking we see here.”

Brown is a researcher who specializes in organizational studies. A sharp thinker, he graduated from Brown University with degrees in physics and mathematics and received a PhD from the University of Michigan in computer and communication sciences. He sees a relationship between curiosity and learning and suggests that children should be encouraged to explore and experiment at the earliest possible ages.

“We’re so preoccupied with believing that the human mind stops at the neck,” Brown said. “Actually the human brain permeates every bit of our bodies, so I’m particularly interested in the interaction between hand and head and how we actually come to understand things by making things; we use our entire body to understand the world.”

“I think this preoccupation with sitting in the school room and being taught something is so peculiar,” he adds. Many of his colleagues who are working on things in the digital world started out as “tinkerers” as he called them, working on engines and lawnmowers and motorcycles in garages before heading out into the digital world.

Earlier in the month we wrote about the concept of a “makerspace” as it related to STEM education. Some schools are working hard to provide their students with the chance to be physical in their learning styles, arguing that it encourages a deeper level of thinking. Dr. Brown’s words are spot on, and this video is definitely worth a look.