Imagine better classooms

Imagination knows no bounds, no restrictions; nor do the questions we pose when we cultivate our powers of imagination. An essential question that arises from imaginative engagement is an important way to bring teacher, student and subject matter together in ways that enrich all three.

Canadian Professor of Education, Kieran Egan  believes children learn more deeply and more profoundly through interacting with what they can imagine. He grounds his theoretical approach with practical ‘cognitive tools’ such as the use of story-telling, metaphor, binary opposites, jokes and humour, and association with heroes, etc. – mental and culturally inherited tools which become progressively more sophisticated as the child develops.

There was a remarkable experiment by someone called Pasquale Leone a few years ago. He took three groups of adult human volunteers none of whom could play the piano. And the poor old control group get the boring bit to do. They just had to stare at a piano for five days.

However, the other group learned five finger piano exercises over the period of the five days and their brain scan showed an astonishing difference compared to the controls in that the areas of the brain relating to the digits that had therefore been moving were really much, much bigger,

But the most exciting group were the third group. And these guys just had to imagine they were playing the piano. What was remarkable is that the scans of the people that merely thought about playing, imagined it, their brain scans were pretty much the same as the people that were physically playing the piano. And what that shows you is therefore it’s the thought that precedes the movement.

Why are children so engaged in videogames?- think carefully before dismissing it as ‘passing/wasting time’.  They are learning, because they are imaginatively engaged, and the game provides the exploration and playground for imagination. Now think about so many classrooms – un-imaginative, predicable and now loaded with technology. Imagination goes a long way to engage us. It remains sad that it is so often ruled on in favour of facts.

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