Friday, July 30, 2010

Clay Shirky on Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic : Amateurs vs. Professionals and The Soma Experiment

"Amateurs are sometimes separated from professionals by skill, but always by motivation; the term itself derives from the Latin amare--"to love." The essence of amateurism is intrinsic motivation: to be an amateur is to do something for the love of it." 
Clay Shirky, Cognitive Surplus

In his 2010 book, Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky devotes a chapter to the topic of motivation, and weaves examples from past and recent history throughout the entire book that illustrate the difference between intrinsic motivation (IM) and extrinsic motivation (EM).

Shirky suggests that IM and EM are distinguishable from one another by more than just their motivating components: IM seems to produce a type of thinking and collaboration that EM doesn't. In essence, they create two different experiences. Learning for the sake of learning, on the individual and group level, seems to free one's potential for progress from limitations because the end goal is intangible. There are fewer limits when one is not working to fulfill a given number of hours or earn a certain amount of money.

The Soma Experiment: Rewards' Effect on Intrinsic Motivation
One of the most fascinating examples Shirky uses to explore IM and EM and their effect on eachother is an experiment he refers to as the "Soma Experiment." 

The Soma experiment was performed in 1970 by a psychologist named Edward Deci at the University of Rochester. In the experiment, Deci gave participants a puzzle game known as "Soma"(hence the name of the experiment). The participants were given a certain amount of time to try and solve the puzzles and then Deci would leave the room. What Deci did not tell the participants is that he observed them while he was out of the room, and recorded the amount of time they spent on the puzzle while the experiment was "not being conducted" (at least as far as they knew).

  1. In the first session, the participants were not offered a reward for solving the puzzles. 
  2. In the second session, half of the returning participants repeated the exact same process, while the other half of the participants were given a dollar for each shape they assembled.
    • When Deci left the room to "give the participants a break," he found that, on average, the paid participants experimented with the puzzles for one minute more than they had during the "break" of the previous session.
  3. In the third session, all participants were given the same conditions as in the first session: no one was paid.
    • During the "break," Deci found that, on average, the amount of time that the participants who had been paid in the second session spent playing with the puzzles dropped by two minutes from the time spent during the second session.
      • This means that they spent a minute less experimenting with the puzzles in the third session than they did in the first session, even though they weren't paid in the first session either. 
    Shirky's summary of Soma experiment: 
    (might be a bit over-generalized, but it still offers lots of food for thought)

    "In psychological literature, experiments designed to illuminate voluntary engagement are called 'free choice' tests--when someone has control over his actions, how likely is he to engage in a particular behavior? Deci's Soma experiment found that payment for working with the puzzle depressed free choice for the same activity. Deci's conclusion was that human motivation isn't purely additive. Doing something because it interests you makes it a different activity than doing it because you are reaping an external reward."(72)

    "Receiving sufficient payment can make otherwise undesirable activity desirable and worthwhile. (Thus is society able to employ garbage collectors.) But Deci's experiment suggested that extrinsic motivations aren't always the most effective ones and that increasing extrinsic motivations can actually decrease intrinsic ones." (72)

    An Admittedly Narcissistic take on Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

    I took a turn for the personal (coughegotisticcough) in this post and wrote about how intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation fits/has fit into my on life. 
    I'm curious to hear what comes to mind when you think about what in your life is more intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. Additionally, are there are any "tasks" that you feel are motivationally ambiguous?

    All this talk about Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation makes me contemplate the "productive" pleasures in my life where I find flow, as well as those odd tasks that seem to fluctuate somewhere between intrinsic and extrinsic depending on my mood and the items on my "should do" list.

    Mesotrinsic motivation?
    One of the first "fluctuating" examples that comes to my mind is high school trigonometry. Sure, my high-school-self would've ideally spent all my free time trolling on AIM (like a good little creep), but that was out of the question. After all, I had parents with eyes and limited access to the family computer, so I had to spend several hours after school at least looking like someone doing homework. And as far as homework went, trig was pretty swell. Doing the problems felt like playing with puzzles, and I truly think that that intrinsic motivation positively affected my work ethic across the board. I would always start my homework by doing trigonometry as a way to warm up my brain and ease me into the rest of my more extrinsically-motivated workload. 

    Preserving the intrinsic
    Nowadays, as I may have mentioned once or twice in class, I spend a lot of my time experimenting with tools and making goofy pictures on photoshop elements. This has always been an out-of-classroom pursuit for me, which I sometimes regret, but I also kind of like. If I had taken more graphic design classes I would have a more professional set of skills. If I had majored in graphic design I could've gotten a job doing what I already spend hours on every day. However, would I enjoy assignments as much as I enjoy my self-designed projects? Would I lose the "pleasure" of the task if it became my work? 

    All I know is that I'm happy with the balance I have right now. But who knows? Maybe that will change some day. Right now I find security in the "pro-bono" aspect of what I do. By keeping this as a hobby instead of a job, I preserve and protect the intrinsically motivated value and pleasure of the task.  

    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    Social Cognitive Theory & Goal Theory

    I've grouped Social Cognitive theory and Goal theory into the same post because I think that they separately tackle the two variables discussed in the Expectancy Value theory.

    The Social Cognitive theory focuses in on expectancy: a key component to motivation is whether or not a learner believes he or she is capable of carrying out the task at hand. This crucial component of a person's confidence in his or her own ability is known as self-efficacy.
    While the Social Cognitive theory focuses on the "prerequisite"aspect of self-efficacy (in this instance, the "pre-" refers to "pre-task"), the Goal theory, on the other hand, focuses on how the outcome promised by a certain task affects motivation.
    Here I think there's a more obvious correlation between mastery goals vs. performance goals and intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation (respectively) than was the case with the expectancy value theory. 

    But even in this case, I second guess myself and hesitate from drawing any permanent lines matching the two similar distinctions. 

    While mastery goals seem pretty irrefutably intrinsic to me, I'm less definitive when it comes to deeming performance goals as extrinsically motivated. It's certainly my first impression, but after giving the "extrinsic" assessment a little more thought, I think someone could also make a case that a "desire to be seen as competent by others" could be an intrinsically motivated desire. Even though the "competent" judgement is determined by someone other than the learner, the learner has intrinsically chosen to place value in his or her peers' approval. (What do you think? Too much of a stretch?)

    Both these theories, as well as the expectancy value theory, underscore that learners need to feel confident in their abilities in order to take on a task, and they need to be motivated (either intrinsically or extrinsically--though less flexible interpretations might argue for the former over the latter) by some incentive provided by performing and/or completing the task. Learners need to understand why it's important to learn what they're learning, and motivation will be that much stronger if they are intrinsically driven to do so.

    Add on:
    Where does praise factor into this discussion? Alfie Kohn would clearly argue that it discourages development of intrinsic motivation, as children become "praise junkies," just working towards their next token of spoken extrinsic validation.

    After reading his article, Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!", I definitely think Kohn makes an important point, but even with what little experience I have, I can attest that "Good Job!" is a hard habit to break.

    Expectancy Value Theory

    Compared to the self-worth theory, the expectancy value theory is a lot easier for me to accept. However, I must remember that this is just a brief overview of the theory; the general synopsis provided in table 6.1 allows me to interpret the vagueness of this description however I please. (Further research could show that my assumptions here are not in accordance with a more detailed profile of the theory.) 

    On Expectancy:
    Essentially, no one is going to take on a task they know to be impossible. Still, there's a huge spectrum of different levels of "challenging" that spans between the endpoints of "easy" and "impossible." 

    The way I see it, somewhere along that spectrum the challenge level shifts from encouraging to overwhelming (no doubt there are shades of gray in between those two points as well). 

    I would predict that people of almost all ages are open to challenges, but I'd expect that the level /intensity of challenge that a person is willing to undertake--that is to say, the level at which the challenge remains predominantly encouraging--would correlate to experience of some measure (not necessarily years). 

    On Value:
    Here I'm a bit more inquisitive than I was with the 'expectancy' variable. 
    The E.V. Theory says that motivated learners have to believe that there is some benefit to the task at hand. Okay, I can get on board with that: we wouldn't do/learn something unless we had good enough reason to. 

    As the description goes on to say, 
    "Learners must place a value on the task itself or the outcomes that are likely to result." 
    I start to wonder whether this distinction (the bolded part of the quote) is at all connected to the seemingly similar distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, which Ormrod also discusses in chapter six:
    "intrinsic motivation: [A person] is motivated by factors within herself or inherent in the task she is performing. Learners who are intrinsically motivated may engage in an activity because it gives them pleasure, helps them develop a skill they think is important, or is the ethically and morally right thing to do. Some learners with high levels of intrinsic motivation become so focused on and absorbed in an activity that they lose track of time and completely ignore other tasks--a phenomenon known as flow.
    extrinsic motivation: [A person] is motivated by factors external to herself and unrelated to the task she is performing. Learners who are extrinsically motivated may want the good grades, money, or recognition that particular activities and accomplishments bring. Essentially, they are motivated to perform the task as a means to an end, not as an end in and of itself." (pg. 181)
    In terms of my question, I'm still pretty torn as to whether the distinction between "value of the task itself" and "value of the task's outcomes" is the same as the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

    One could argue that the distinction made within the value definition (the task itself vs. the outcomes of the task) still implies intrinsic motivation, because even the outcome is still related to the task. On the other hand, "getting good grades" is technically a beneficial outcome of an otherwise unappealing task, and one that Ormrod has classified as external to the task. 

    The ultimate question in my mind becomes, "Is there a difference between 'performing a task for beneficial outcomes' and "performing a task as a means to an end'?"

    Self-Worth Theory

    I find I am more hesitant to agree with the self-worth theory than with other theories. My hestitance is probably due to the fact that, according to the self-worth theory, the key driving factor for humans (the desire to protect our self-worth) is not something I consider to be a conscious mission. If this self-worth theory is indeed the case for me, I am not aware of it, but maybe that's just because I haven't critically considered the possibility until now.

    However, I can say definitively that I don't think majority of my own procrastination is driven by a suspicion of failure. When I procrastinate, I believe I'm postponing a given task because I'm not intrinsically motivated to do it. I'd probably be better at writing a reflection for class than I am at, say, photoshopping a gecko's head onto my father's body, but guess which one I'm more likely to spend my time on? (You guessed it.)

    Now that I think about it, I guess my example is flawed because doing work is not the same as learning. In terms of younger students (who are new learners in many areas), I can see the correlation between insecurity or "fear of failure" and self-sabotage.

    Sadly, avoidance of a weak topic only intensifies the student's problem because it's just more time without practice. I feel like we teachers often promote the idea that "all of us good at somethings and bad at others," and while I agree with that I think we need to make sure that the focus of this sentiment doesn't fall too heavily on accentuating the positive. While that is no doubt important, if we emphasize only that, we neglect the possibility and importance of improving our weaknesses. A bumpy start doesn't mean we can't have a smoother ride down the road.

    Self-Determination Theory

    Self-determination theorists thus believe that effective learning is most likely to occur when these three needs are met. As teachers, this means our classrooms environments should: 
    1. Teach important, relevant skills.  
      • How do we define/determine "relevant"? How subjective is this definition from the student's point of view?
    2. Give the students flexibility and opportunities to discover and pursue their passions/interests, and strengths.
    3. Foster a sense of camaraderie and affection among students, and (I'm assuming) the teacher. 
      • What would the teacher's role be in this aspect of classroom environment? I want to say something between a parent and a friend, and yet something else too--and not necessarily all the things that the "parent" and "friend" labels entail. 

    Theories on Motivation

    I hope this doesn't clog up the blog (rhyme unintentional) too much, but my next posts will be devoted to five of the six theories* about motivation that are listed in table 6.1 of our textbook.
    (page 179 in this edition)

    I've translated the key points from table 6.1 into Webspiration graphic maps that represent each theory, and I plan to add some of my own thoughts and questions about specific theories or points that stand out to me. (Naturally, I encourage you to join me!)

    *I've yet to tackle attribution theory; I got side-tracked by intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010


    Colorful sign that welcomes children to the Bubble Room.

    According to Vygotsky, scaffolding for a student or child is when a support system is built to help the learner go from what they can do on their own to what they can do with assistance with the hopes of removing the assistance and the learner still maintaining their highest ability. This is exactly what two specific stations in the bubble room were meant to do. These stations had pulley systems for the child to make large bubbles by pulling down on the rope- one was a bubble wall and the other a bubble tube. These pulleys allowed for the child to pull as much as they could to form the bubble but also had a place for the adult to pull as well (higher up on the rope). With the adult putting a little more "elbow grease" into pulling, the child was capable of making a bubble whereas many of the children were not able to form bubbles without the slight assistance. The hope, when considering Vygotsky's scaffolding theory, is to teach the child to build those muscles while slowing retracting the assistance and eventually the child will be able to use the pulley system all on their own.

    Praise and Understanding: The Bubble Room

    We all seemed captivated by the Bubble Room. Maybe it was the fact that we were indoors on a hot summer's day and wanted to be near splashing water, or maybe its because the room was full of bubbles, and who doesn't love bubbles? The Bubble Room was a great spot to watch interactions and there were two groups that caught my attention.

    Scenario 1: Good job, Dad!

    A mom and dad came into the Bubble Room with two children who appeared to be about two and four years old. All four of them started at this boom-like contraption with rope and pullies that made sheet of bubble when it was raised at just the right speed. The parents raised the boom over and over without really engaging the kids. In fact, they seemed more interested in lifting the boom than either of the kids, so much so that the older boy walked away. The young girl kept putting her finger in the bubble sheet and popping it and her mom asked her to stop doing it. The parents don't seem all that concerned that their son is out of their sight line in another part of the room. They seem highly interested in trying to get the girl to pull the rope to raise the boom, but she doesn’t know that she has to pull it slowly to make a bubble and the parents don’t tell her, so she too loses interest. The father leaves, presumably, to join the boy, but ends up blowing bubbles on his own at another table. The boy saw what dad was doing, but wasn’t interested, so he went to another part of the room to wait in line for a different activity.

    It seemed to me that the parents were able to understand how surface tension works in making bubbles so they were having an enriching experience. Making bubbles was easy for them. Eventually, the parents stopped watching their children entirely and started snapping photos of one another making bubbles. The girl started hanging on mom's arm, the brother was still in another part of the room, and the mom was generously praising dad’s bubble making. The brother, once he left his family, seemed to be having a good time, while the sister was unsuccessful with the bubble boom and didn't leave her mother's side to try an activity. She showed her feelings by hanging on her mother and whining. The only person who was praised was the dad. The daughter seemed to be having fun by popping the bubbles but was scolded because this interfered with mom's bubble making. Really, the only person who really wasn't having fun was the daughter because she was directed to a task that she neither understood, nor could do successfully. If I had the opportunity, I would have liked the chance to observe this family in another play space to see if the dynamics changed.

    Scenario 2: Bubblehands!

    I got to witness an honest-to-goodness social learning activity when a brother was teaching his sister how to hold her thumbs and index fingers together to turn her hands into a bubble wand. They were both making large bubbles and seemed be having great time. A younger boy approached the table, watched the pair, and mimicked what the older kids were doing. It took him a few tries to get it right, but eventually he succeeded in making a bubble.

    Later, at the same table, a mother, son, and daughter stood together and the mom demonstrated how to make bubbles. The boy seemed reluctant to put his hands in the water approach bubble table. The sister immediately copied her mother and began trying to make bubbles. The sister was really engaged, but her brother looked like he’d rather be someplace else. Mom praised the bubble making saying “ooh! Good bubbles!” but she appeared to be giving the praise as a means to keep the kids engaged long enough so she can snap pictures. After the photo op, they stepped away with the brother not having gotten his hands wet.

    Before I went to the museum, I decided that I wanted to keep my eyes and ears open for hovering, overly-praising parents. I had just read Alfie Kohn's article "Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!" and I was ready to dissect the praise-heavy parenting of the museum-goers. Other than the mom praising the dad, I didn't see all that much undeserved praise. What I did see in abundance was parents who compulsively redirected their children to engineer a photo op, or try to get them interested in an activity that they had chosen for their child. The kids who seemed to be having the most fun were exploring at their own pace and in their own way. The museum trip was their instructional anchor, but the children who seemed the most happy and engaged were those who chose authentic tasks and created their own solutions.

    Creating Bubbles

    Maggie, 10 years old, plays with the large bubble rings in the bubble room.

    Here is where I wanted to start the conversation on Motivation and how it effected the children learning at Boston Children's Museum.
    Often we would see a child completely immersed in their self-directed learning. They woul be picking items up, pretending and involved in an activity. Parents, in this situation, seemed to be oblivious to the fact that their child was getting exactly what they were supposed to be getting out of visiting a children's museum- a great hands-on learning experience. They instead would pull their child away from the self-directed learning situation to snap a "cute" picture. They would say, "play here, do this, smile, look at the camera, 'show me what I think is you learning while I pulled you away from what interests you'" This in turn would be such the opposite of motivating and the child wouldn't be interested in either activity (the one with self-directed learning or the picture op activity) anymore. The reason I chose to write on this picture about motivation and parents de-motivating their children through picture opportunities is because this very picture would be very unsatisfying- so it seems- to the typical mom or caregiver at the museum. They would tend to take the child's attention off of the activity in order to get a smile to show the fun they are having. (And I clearly let Maggie continue to learn on her own as proof through this picture.) Moral of the story is that posing for good pictures is not motivating children to be interested in an adult-chosen activity but rather de-motivating them to participate at all.

    See more pictures of the Bubble Room here:
    Bubble Towers

    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Motivation: The train table

    The Toddler and Preschool room at the Children’s Museum is a bright and attractive place. No children under three were allowed in the space and the attendant at the door ensured that no children could leave without an adult. The entire room is constructed to 'kidscale'; this rather short adult felt like a giant as I towered over the climbing area, car, water table, and open carpet reading area. Perhaps because even the most petite adults felt ungainly in the space, most parents and caregivers chose to sit in the adult sized chairs lining the margins of play area Unique in that it was the only area we observed where there weren’t hovering parents trying to manage children’s play.

    Scenario 1: Tiger vs. Train
    I observed the train table where I watched children, mostly toddlers, negotiate the tiny train cars along the track. All but one of the children that I observed at the train table were boys. The first child I watched was a boy wielding a plastic tiger (I'll call him tiger-boy)who was trying to derail the train of another child (I'll call him train-boy). When the train-boy screeched at tiger-boy, the caregiver of the train-boy came over and scolded him for screeching, while the mother of tiger-boy calmly redirected her child without telling him not to attack other kids' toys. The boy who had been scolded abandoned the train while the kid with the tiger grabbed a second toy, a lion, and proceeded to bang them on the train cars. The reactions of both caregivers in this situation really bothered me. Both boys were engaging in play that was fun for them, but when the play of the train-boy was disrupted by what tiger-boy was doing, train-boy cried, either because he was angry or wanted help. Instead of being supported, he was 'shushed' and left the train table. I do think that tiger-boy's caregiver should have corrected her child or asked him to apologize to train-boy. I doubt train-boy understood why he was being scolded, and though he looked like he was having fun at the train table, he was no longer motivated to play there after this interaction.

    Scenario 2: The Rules of Attraction

    This boy (I'll call him magnet-boy) was adding and adding and adding train cars together but wasn’t pushing them. He seemed most interested that the magnets stick the cars together and kept adding as many cars as he could find from other parts of the train table. He was soon joined by another child (I'll call him tunnel-boy) and they engaged in parallel play for a while. While they both seemed somewhat interested in what the other child was doing, they were each more focused on their own explorations. Tunnel-boy put together a string of cars and pushed them toward the tunnel. Instead of pushing the cars through the tunnel, he picked up each individual car and placed it on the opposite side of the tunnel. Whether or not he understood that he could have pushed the cars through the tunnel, I don't know, but he was engrossed in his activity as he very carefully picked up each car and placed it on the opposite side of the tunnel. Both boys seem more interested in sticking the cars together than moving them. They repeated these activities again and again at different parts of the table. It was not evident which adults were the parents of these children, though the boys did not seem to know one another.

    The time on task for both of these children was BY FAR the longest of any I observed that day. They both seemed to be succeeding in the tasks that they had set for themselves. They were given the space to make sense of their environment and adapt to it and appeared to be happy and engaged throughout. Ormond reminds us that "Learners are happy when they succeed. But they also have feelings of pride and satisfaction when they attribute their success to internal causes- for instance, something they themselves have done (p. 204)." Neither boy had an adult swoop in to praise or admonish, to manage or redirect their play and of all of the children I saw at the museum, these two seemed to be having the most authentic play/ learning experience.

    For video of the play space, click here.

    Monday, July 26, 2010

    Motivation: A Failure to Cooperate

    "Play with this so I can take your picture!”

    “L., come here and look at the shoes. Look! Look at the shoes. Hey, come back. Where are you going?”

    In the Arthur's Kitchen/ Kidport area, I observed a girl who looked to be about two years old with her mother who was trying to direct her daughter's play while also texting on her phone. First, mom tried to interest her in some shoes that were lined up against the wall in the kitchen, but it was clear that she was more interested in the airplane that was across the play area. She ran toward the plane and explored the various areas while mom stood nearby, alternately taking pictures and typing on her phone. The next thing we saw, the little girl was running away down the hallway. Mom initially didn't notice because she was texting. Within a few seconds, she was off, chasing after her daughter.

    What I noticed during this parent interaction was that the mom seemed to be either trying to control/ direct her daughter's play, or not paying attention at all. Both behaviors appeared to have an effect on her daughter. When the mom was trying to compose a photo op or direct her daughter, the child actively resisted. We know that young children “seem to prefer classroom activities of their own choosing, and their perception of autonomy versus control are often seen in their notions of play or work” (Ormond, 2009, p. 189). In some of what I witnessed, it seemed that the parent's attempt to direct play actually lessened the child's desire to play. When her mother shifted her attention away from her child, the girl ran away, presumably, because she knew her mother would give chase.

    Could both mother and child have had a more calm and satisfying interaction if mom had taken the role of interested observer? Possibly. What I think I witnessed, was the power of situational interest. Situational interest is "evoked by something in the immediate environment. Things that are new, different, unexpected, or especially vivid often generate situational interest….” (Ormond, 2009, p. 193-194). There were many vivid and engaging play spaces in the vicinity of the kitchen. Interest is a form of motivation. This girl was interested in several things in the area and wanted to be free to explore the areas that captured her interest. She also seemed to be trying to communicate with her mother, both by ignoring her and trying to get her attention.

    I was surprised by the number of parents who tried to micromanage their child's play at the museum. In the dozens of children and parents that I observed, this level of pressure seemed to do very little to drive their children toward playing with one toy or another. Children were motivated to explore what they themselves found most interesting. I wonder how I've been guilty of this as a parent over the years. Watching these families interact has really made me think of how manipulative we parents can be at times and how little we tend to listen to our children as they try to communicate with us!

    Arthur's Kitchen

    Piaget's pre-operational stage was observed through children interacting with the "mini life size" kitchen. They were able to use "symbols to represent objects" (Kara and Mary Kay's Blog on Constructivists). With this area being a cartoon picture from a common show children may enjoy, there were layers of representation available for children to display: pretend play, imagination and personifying objects.
    One specific instance we observed: a mom and dad were sitting at the kitchen table allowing the child to bring them food.  They were able to pretend making toast, pretend that lunch was really served and imagine a real life situation within a cartoon setting.  

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    Children's Museum Memos

    Parents directing their children to take pictures.
    Disingenuous photo op.
    This is the Facebook approach to learning.
    I made Madison and Margaret take a picture instead of learning about the kids.

    For more pictures of the construction area, vlick here:
    Car and truck zone
    Emily poses and heavy equipment

    Tuesday, July 20, 2010

    Baby and Toddler Room

    This video shows the layout of the room where only children under the age of three were allowed to play.

    While observing the young children and caregivers in this babies and toddlers-only designated play area, I noticed vast differences in the ways that the guardians interacted with the children. In two specific scenarios, I saw caregivers speak to their children in drastically different ways. The first interaction I observed was between a young woman and a boy (presumably her son), who was approximately 2-2 1/2 years old. The little boy was playing at the train table, while the woman watched from a close distance. Then the boy started to walk away from the table toward an area where there were no activities or playthings. The woman quickly walked after the boy, and while pointing to the climbing area, said, "Mac, would you like to go over there? Look how fun that looks!" Then she gently grabbed his hand and physically directed him toward the play area. The other interaction I observed was between an older woman and her child, although she seemed to be chaperoning a field trip along with other parents and teachers, because all of the children and teachers were wearing matching lime green t-shirts with the school's insignia. The child was sitting in a chair surrounded by other children, and they seemed to be doing some sort of pretend play. The mother was sitting on a nearby bench watching the children and the teachers were scattered about, also watching. Then the teachers directed all the children into the shaving cream area. The one little boy stayed seated and watched while the other children all went into the other room. After about a minute, his mother got up and walked over to him, saying "Come". The boy didn't move, so the mother grabbed his arm, said "Come" again and dragged him toward the shaving cream area.
    The ways in which caregivers interact with their children may have a lasting impact on children's development. In a 2 1/2 year study done by Betty Hart and Todd Risley, it was shown that children raised in low-income families may hear as many as 30 million less words by the age of three than children raised in high-income families (Hart & Risley, 2003, Since I was just a third-party observer at the Children's Museum, I obviously have no context for the two mother's that I described above. However, these two women were markedly different in their interactions with their sons. The first mother used two sentences to explain to hear child that he should go to a different area in the museum. She first asked her son if he would like to go to another play area, and then described it as looking fun, giving her son a chance to be autonomous and make the decision for himself. Then, she gently guided him to the jungle gym area and he willingly followed. In that short moment in which a mother was coaxing her child to play the child heard thirteen words. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the other mother that I observed simply used the word "come" as a command, and then grabbed her son by the arm. The child obviously got the message, but was given no explanation or choice in the decision to go to the shaving cream area. Both mothers got the same outcome, however, the two boys had drastically different learning experiences.

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Pictures: Construction Room

    Four areas in the Construction Room. Top: Emily poses in a construction hard hat next to a life-size photo of a real construction worker.
    Top: Real size construction vehicle that children can sit in and manipulate the driving controls.
    Middle 1: A life-size photo of a woman construction worker was included in the room.
    Middle 2: A play area in the construction room; Only children 5 years and older allowed to play on it.

    Picture: More Construction Room

    A large area in the construction room where young children are able to play with cars and trucks on these ramps. Trucks can go over bridges and in tunnels under the ramps.

    Picture: Welcome to Arthur's World!

    This sign (in English and Spanish) greets children as they enter the Arthur's World center in the Children's Museum.

    Picture: Arthur's Dad

    Arthur's dad in the life-size play kitchen.

    Picture: Bubble Towers

    Bubble towers in the windows of the Bubble Room.

    Picture: Smocks in Bubble Room

    Smocks hanging on the wall in the Bubble Room, some children wore the optional smocks and others chose to play in the bubbles without smocks.

    Pictures: Bubble Room

    The four suggestions posted around the room for children while playing with the bubbles: Notice, Wonder, Explore, Question.