Chess, Minecraft, Marco Polo, and Khan Academy

Posted on December 16, 2013


Chess, Minecraft, Marco Polo, Khan Academy, card playing, a philosophical discussion on education, numerous make believe scenarios, learning the piano.

I witnessed students engaging in each one of them today at the Sudbury Valley school I’ve been interning at twice a week. As I’ve settled in to the environment I’ve come to recognize the diversity of activities the students engage with.

When I first visited the school it was easy to notice the video games and the socializing. Students were frequently engaged in both. It almost seemed like those two activities encompassed the majority of their time. Since then, though, I’ve come to realize that any given student will likely engage in many different activities throughout the day. The activities range quite a bit depending on the age of the student, but no students that I have seen will simply play video games all day as many people have predicted when I discuss these ideas with them.

More and more I think the daily life of these students is not far removed from how I might spend a weekend day as an adult assuming I didn’t feel the need to relax significantly after a challenging week of work. I might play some video games if I enjoyed them, I might read some, I might play the guitar or piano a bit. I’d likely spend a significant portion of time with friends. I might do a deep dive in to a project of some sort or try to learn something new.

Some activities would happen more frequently (I almost always spend at least some portion of my free time with friends), while other activities would happen less frequently (I may or may not do deep in a project at any given time).

This is really what I observe most from this school. The students do what they want all day long and it ends up closely resembling what adults do with their free time (again assuming the adults are not exhausted from work).

There’s something significant in that observation. We hold students to a completely different standard than we hold ourselves. You could claim that at age 15 there is more ahead of you so you need to prepare more, but there’s quite a bit ahead of the average 40 year old as well.

I just don’t know that there’s any justification for expecting students to act in a significantly different manner than a successful, competent adult would act.

I’d be curious to hear any reasons people have that we should expect students to act differently than adults.