I mentioned in my last post that I don't believe in grade inflation. I also don't believe in "learning styles." There is no such animal as an "auditory learner." With the exception of those with hearing loss, we are all auditory learners. We are also visual and kinesthetic learners. Our brain processes information in different ways. All of these methods of input have an impact on our learning and memory.
I have been thinking more and more about the kinesthetic part as of late. As we move further into a digital age, what will become of "hands on" learning? I understand that an online dissection can replace a real one...that a flash-based simulation can model experiments that students might not be able to complete in a school setting...that open-source tools can put powerful options into the hands of kids to create new meaning from the knowledge they've gained. There are amazing wonders to be had...but what will we lose in the process?
I haven't looked around to see if there is any ed research out there comparing the learning that occurs in a digital environment vs. real world manipulative one. I'm sure that each can be effective in their own ways. What I'm most interested in at the moment is how a teacher would determine when to use one or the other---is that based on the student or the content? Does the purpose of the learning and cognitive demand necessary make a difference when selecting one form or another?
It would seem unlikely that hands-on opportunities will disappear from lower grades. I have a hard time imagining elementary schools without scissors, glue, paint, sand, and other bits of analog exploration. At upper grades, as 1-to-1 programs become more popular and learning is moved beyond meatspace, will we forget what it is like to reach out and touch some learning?