Saturday, July 25, 2009
The power of imaginative rehearsal
How did he do it?
I asked a group at a conference this question about the landing (not crash) of flight 1549 recently. The answers that come back are usually "training" and "practice." That's not quite enough of an explanation though. No one "practices" water landings in passenger jets. What did Captain Sully's training look like, and what can K-12 teachers learn from his heroic success?
Time: Captain Sully got his initial license at age 14. He's been flying for years, he's experienced. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes 10,000 hours to develop a skill to the level of expert. Captain Sully has been at this for a long time. Time isn't enough though, that time has to be well-spent. Kids are in school for thousands of hours in their lifetimes. Are we spending that time well? There are two components that deserve more time than most schools give them.
Reflection: On more than one occasion, Captain Sully studied and reviewed the evidence of airline accidents. He wrote reports designed to help improve the safety of commercial flying. These sound almost like traditional school activities, don't they? It is critical that reports in school include a true synthesis of primary sources and a reflective, future-thinking, component.
Role playing: Pilots train for hours on flight simulators for scenarios that can't be practiced in real life. In his book Teaching for Tomorrow, Ted McCain discusses the importance of having students engage in projects via role play assignments.
Young children learn about the world and the roles of people in the world through imaginative play. They dress up like firefighters, princesses, and superheros. This type of play ends all too soon. This imaginative role play is important for developing practical skills such as making a presentation that closes a sale, designing a building that will survive an earthquake, or landing an airplane without any engines. Yet even more critical is the importance of developing students moral compass through role play, or imaginative rehearsal as Kelly Gallagher calls it. Teachers must design learning environments in which students can imagine themselves in situations where a choice must be made. Well-designed re-creation of historical scenarios can provide children and teens authentic opportunities to learn the consequences of cruelty vs. kindness, selfishness vs. generosity.
This kind of teaching isn't easy. There is a lot of work involved and teachers need to be supported in doing this work. What tools and resources can help? That's the subject for my next post!
PS I've watched this video dozens of times now, and my heart still races each time. It was created by the folks at Scene Systems. Their website says that they are specialists in digital recreation for litigation. I think, though I am not sure, that the re-creation in this case was to help them market their product.