on a recent day not far from my house:
It happens to be from an October field trip arranged by master teacher Mr. Mike Torney. This 25 mile bike tour of Chicago’s west suburban gangsters delved into the local history of organized, violent crime that Mr. Torney’s US History classes were studying. The benefits of “experiential learning” have to do with its holistic, immersive nature: students get out into “reality,” breath fresh air, exert themselves in biking or hiking, and experience their subjects in a way that excites the feelings. What they learn when their brains are stimulated this way makes the learning “stick” better, with greater long-term retention, regardless of subject matter. The way it affects the learner makes experiential learning effective. Lessons learned “outside” school are the ones most people take with them in life, I would dare say.
But sadly, most public school administrators dare not say that Torney’s style of immersive education is worth doing these days, even though it might improve scores on high-stakes tests. That’s because in NCLB USA, our focus is narrowly on those results, and administrators just don’t have the guts or the money to invest in such programs. They’d be expensive, even if you did them in large scale, and possibly risky, too. And of course, none of the experientially learned concepts would be on the test, either.
Perhaps that’s where Internet-based, web-mediated “experiences” like this one at Duke’s Nursing school seem promising. The question I have is: can you get the same results in virtual experience as with Torney’s heart-quickening, “you are there” excitement?
I’m skeptical, but hoping I’m wrong. Anybody with positive experiential learning in cyberspace want to comment?