The phrase ‘hands-on learning’ often becomes a placeholder for many things. If it does not involve experiencing the subject matter, then it’s still theoretical.
There’s a school in San Diego that doing something really amazing with teaching through experience – or ‘learning by doing’ as some call it. (It is featured in ‘Creative Schools‘ by Ken Robinson.) At High Tech High, subjects are intensely focused on real world challenges. One project, for instance on Urban Ecology is described this way.
Students will discover how humans interact with nature in urban ecosystems. They will understand the terms sustainable and efficient in order to apply them to designing improved modern cities.
Students end up publishing an ‘magazine’ on the Urban Ecology, talking on publishing roles.They hold staff meeting with their Editors-in-chief, who are none other than their teachers!
Is this EdTech? Is it a computer class? Can this be used to demonstrate ‘rigor’? Yes to all three! But looking at their class structure, and philosophy, it seems that this kind of pedagogy is very different. In the end it’s not about exams, but about preparing for the real world.