When teaching becomes an abstraction and not something real, the learning doesn’t stick in the student very well.  Imagination must first be grounded in a hard reality.

As we move closer into living in a 24/7 virtual world, it is important for all of us to keep in mind that learning is best fostered using real things, in real-time, in the same, real, room with each other getting real.  That is important in all human interactions, not just the classroom.  We’re always trying to learn from each other and doing it with real objects is a powerful experience that binds.

When you’re teaching about a flower — is it better to show a computer image of a flower, or hand out a flower printed on a piece of paper, or is it best to share a real flower plucked from a garden in your alive hand?

A real flower authentically engages every bodily sense and creates a sensation in the mind.

Yes, it is utterly difficult for the teacher to become the collector, propagator, and curator of a bunch of real things that can be held and not imagined.  You tend to have a lot of clutter and you have to carry around big bags of stuff to get your point across.  It takes a strong back and a willful mind to make it all work in the context of right learning.

Death to PowerPoint presentations!

Hands on participation — involving the whole body in the learning — is key to making multiple pathways for understanding sink into the learner.  It is better to be told about the plot of a great play or to virtually read it on the internet?  Or is it best to have the play in hand, with props, and a makeshift set and costumes and bring the play to life in real-time?

No dramatic experience lives on the page. A play lives only in performance. “Dramatic Literature” is no such thing — “Dramatic Performance” is the point of any written play and that must be the goal and the end mark of excellence in proper teaching technique. There can be no other way. Any other way is a cheat against the student.

The abstraction, reduction and deconstruction of the learning quickly happens within the student and when the learner has the object in hand, and all senses are in play, the exploration of what is, and what is not, and what might just be takes on a penetrating reality of its own that cannot be quantified or qualified by outside minds.

Teaching with “real things” can be done with any event or idea.  Making things real in a virtual world is something to be remembered and cherished and shared.

Once the real thing has been caught, then the authentic magic begins within the mind of the receiver.  Stand back and watch out!  An explosion of new understanding is about to rip apart the real world!


  1. I for one am a person who learns by experience/s rather than by “rote” . I can usually get the gist of something by reading or watching but full comprehension and understanding only comes to me from doing – and making the mistakes that first attempts inevitably bring – and then learning from them.

    There is nothing to beat hands on learning – taking your example of a flower in the hand – you get the whole experience, the smell the texture, the fragility or robustness . the differences or commonality between that example on other species.

    No power point here – and no distance learning either – has to be real !

    1. My concern is that in 20 years everything will be virtual and nothing will be actually held in the hand. We will suffer a great educational loss when that begins to happen.

  2. We have lost so much already in the terms of traditional skill sets already that a move to “virtual” everything will be a grave loss . It has already started in certain areas – the introduction of calculators has virtually replaced what was “mental arithmetic” – where calculations were done in your head based on the principles you already knew.

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