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Synthesizing Synthesis

November 11, 2008

So here I am, trying to synthesize synthesis! It’s a lot harder than it first seemed, I must say. But here goes.
First of all, I have to inform my distant readers (if there are any left) that this Blog has turned from mildly amusing afterthoughts on my return to life in Canada after a year in Australia, to a more focused examination of things I am learning through my online course and my preparations for changing jobs. And so I am reading Gardner’s Five Minds for the Future.
Reading Gardner, one jumps back and forth between abstract ideas and practical ones. And then one has to make sense of it all. One way is to look at one’s own teaching practices and see if it is mirrored in Gardner’s ideas. Perhaps then, some sense can be made of it. We shall see.
Looking at a classroom strategy that may have some elements of synthesis, I chose a project used in Mathematics and Science. The topic of Structures, particularly bridges, is introduced in Science through various digital media: Discovery Streaming video and bridge design software (West Point Bridge Design). As an integrated task, students work in groups to design and construct small toothpick bridges, while keeping track of “building supplies” (toothpicks, glue, paper etc) in Excel spreadsheets, when they “purchase” daily supplies to complete their bridges, journaling their day by day successes (and failures) thereby integrating Science, Language and Mathematics.
The outcomes are truly cross-disciplinary, with group work skills, scientific knowledge and practical mathematics being learned. The idea follows Gardner’s Components of Synthesis: A goal, a starting point (previous models), and a method.
Unfortunately, I will not be in a position to assign this project this year, and therefore will not be able look at it from the new perspectives that I am developing from my reading and engagement in this course.

One Comment leave one →
  1. drdblu permalink
    November 12, 2008 3:05 pm

    This is a very good example of synthesis. I have seen this project done, but the task of students keeping track of the building supplies is a wonderful added element!


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