A few nights ago I was riding home on the motorcycle and I had a nice long hour and-a-half ride to think about things.It was completely freeway miles, so I got comfy in my alligator seat, crossed my arms and let my mind wander a bit…while paying attention to the road of course.I started thinking about something that may be common sense and it may even be too obvious a thing to waste a blog post on, but Garth’s last post relates to what I was thinking.
A lot is being said these days about education and “how we educate”.When I began in this profession three’ish years ago, I always called myself a teacher.Somewhere along the way I started to call myself an educator.I do not think that this was a conscious choice; rather the system assimilating me.If I became an educator, then that means I am part of the “problem of education”.It may seem like semantics, but I really started to think about how important the words we choose to define ourselves are.
Teaching is as old as the human race.Men taught their sons how to hunt; watch me, and then you do it.Women taught their daughters how to sow a field; watch me, and then you do it.Children taught each other games, man taught each other government and religion, so on and so forth.Education though, is a relatively new event if you look at human history as a linear thing.So I started thinking about if the two are the same thing or not; is a teacher the same as an educator?
I decided that they are two different ideas.Education, from its inception and arguable through the present day, has been controlled by the rich and powerful.The children of elite received an education to help their families remain elite.Those that received education through religious institutions were taught to control (and remain controlled) by the institution in charge of the education.It is the same today.Ideas like No Child Left Behind, school funding, state standardized testing, etc all seem to favor those schools in more affluent areas.In the past, students have escaped the oppression of formal education: Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, Zinn, and while more people are able to emerge as free-thinking spirits, it isn’t enough.
To these ends, I pledge to call myself teacher.I want to teach students to think, to create, and to be independent.One of my favorite poets said, “It isn’t enough to question authority, you have to talk to it too”.Maybe the fix for education is to get rid of formal education, but keep teachers.Teachers used to be a valued position in society; they were revered and often poor.I could live my life a happy man as a teacher, and someday I hope to find a way to teach without the bounds and politics of education.
A few weeks ago Mike and I interviewed Shannon Conley-Kurjian, a high school teacher for our webshow. Shannon then sent a follow up blog to me (posted here). Shannon said this: "I also believe that every person has an epic story that influences their perspective on things and no prescribed set of standards/curriculum will sit the same with any two people. So critical theory plays an important role in my classroom (http://www.freireproject.org/critical-pedagogy-and-teaching)"
I was struck by this statement. Not because it was a new idea to me, but in the way she phrased it. The next day, I pulled Pedagogy of the Oppressed, By Paulo Freire off my bookshelf and started to read it again...it has been 10 years or so. I read about 1/2 the book and keep thinking about something I had written in 1993 as a preface to my political science honors thesis. It is copied and pasted below.
Often in life we forget about what is really important.We focus on the material worth of an individual and forget about the worth of the individual.We lose sight of what makes us all feel dignity and acceptance.We find ourselves lost in work and unable to see the real people who make our work possible.We take away a person's self-respect by our actions and our talk.We unconsciously stab their heart with the knife of worthlessness.
When Education loses sight of the "law of persons" it has lost all sight. It becomes a tool of the establishment in controlling and destroying people’s dreams and their dignity.We lose confidence in ourselves and in all of society’s institutions and only the few hold on in search of a better tomorrow.
These are the underlying principles in the concept we call education;tolerance, acceptance, moral understanding, critical thinking, questioning of society and our establishments,truth, and human dignity.
Often teachers forget this simple quote, "A master can tell you what to do. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations."Teachers, whether in universities, colleges, secondary or elementary schools, try to force youth down a path that leads to the "promised land" and yet that path only applies to a few.We need to focus on opening our young minds to the global world, their opportunities and their own expectations with human dignity.
I can only give one man's opinion as to what can be done in search of a better tomorrow for everyone.We do face a global "crisis" in the thing we call education, but again what we really mean is in human dignity and the search for happiness in our complex cruel world.
What I am saying in this preface is that too often we assume education is to be understood in a vacuum, I argue that this is not the correct way to see it.We must approach it as education (not only in schools but in society) and in turn as the basis for human dignity and worthfulness in society.
This paper is based on the underlining fact that education creates people and their beliefs and notions about individuals and society. This paper discusses a new way to think about the education of young people by using a new paradigm when teaching history called QUANTUM HISTORY that is based on the “law of persons” . This preface is intended to give you an insight into my personal thinking about educational beliefs that this paper is based on.
When Shannon reminded me of the beliefs and values I had held for years, it was a wake up call to reflect on the happenings occurring in my classroom. I for one, thank Shannon for doing that. Let me know your feelings or ideas on the comments of Critical Theory in education, Cheers, Garth
Constructivism is an educational theory, usually associated with Jean Piaget, that states humans generate knowledge and meaning from their experiences in a process of accommodation and assimilation (more details).A person who really buys into Constructivism would practice a pedagogy of active or hands on learning.I like to think of myself as a progressive educator who follows these principals. So with that said, I am sitting at a workshop today.A University professor is discussing the “Sounds” of history.In the room are 26-27 teachers from northeast Ohio.We are visiting sites and listening to historical content with discussions about each topic.The discussions are week at best even with some impressive sound clips and historical data.Why?
Computers engage people. Maybe not the way you always want, but they do engage. People want to “connect”, they want to share, they want to explore.The discussions are week because the people are digging deeper into the sites then the story he is playing and disucssing. They are linking the voices clip to films, website, etc in fact Mike heard theSNCC founders.He went on the web, found a 1996 documentary “Rebels with a Cause” watched it, then went to Facebook and “friended” three of the founding members of SNCC, who were interviewed in the documentary.Needless to say, Mike did not say a great deal in the discussions, but was he “playing” or constructing his own knowledge?
As noted in the Washington post article, not all schools or professors are shutting down technology; Seton Hall University is giving all incoming students a MacBook and an iPad.As the world changes and becomes more “flat” we need to find ways to engage people in more complex thinking.The 21st Century skills and technology go hand in hand.
We all construct knowledge; we want to connect to our learning.However, we need the instructor to guide us…not dictate all learning.Humans are not educated on an assembly line.As a teacher, I often guide my student toward learning objectives, but let them connect the learning in their own way.I often talk about the “accidental learning” that takes place in my room.Students are working to achieve classroom, district, or state goals but learn a large amount beyond that by accidentally reading, seeing, viewing something beyond these objectives. They begin to construct knowledge and learn how to learn.The true goal of 21st Century skills is to become life long learners—computers and technology help us do that, but they will never replace the guide: teachers.
So, do you agree? Let me here your ideas. Have a good weekend. Garth
The year is over. I am now at the beach in N.C. with my family, but everyone is sleeping, so it gives me some time to reflect. Mike and I have done some great work this year for, and with, our students. By using skype, Google docs, inspiration, comic life, wikis, Google earth and other technologies, we have been able to link students in a way that would not have been possible when I was in high school in the late 1980's or when Mike was finishing high school in the late 1990's. Technology has experienced exponential growth and we teachers are playing catch-up. I see how technology has effected our teaching; how it is impacting teachers in my building and student learning. It is truly amazing to see what is happening, but the question continues to be: how has it changed teaching and learning? I think as teachers, we tend to use the final "product" to analyze the effect of methodology and the use of technology. I don't think everyone can see the change brought about by the use of technology by looking at a students podcast, imovie, wiki, etc. These final products are great technological tools, but you cannot see the collaboration, research, revision in any of these final products. Like these blog entries; you see the final written piece, but no nothing of the revisions and conversations (Mike's revising this right now) that go into an outstanding final product.
The question, however, must still be answered. Modern education loves data and proof, however, proof and data do not always tell the complete story. We must explain how technology changes our role as teachers and how it impacts the role of students and individual learning. I will not be able to answer these on my own and will ask for your help: please add your ideas and explain how technology/computer have changed teaching and learning in your classroom.
Daniel Pink said ""We are preparing students for their future, not our past." I believe this is the place we must start. Often I hear: "We used a textbook all the time and I turned out fine." We are preparing the students for a future that no one knows what it will bring. Our students (7th graders) will retire around the year 2060? Think about that. I understand the idea that pencil and paper were fine for teaching students to function in an industrial world, but now we are facing a global "flat world" and students must be prepared to work in ways not possible 10 years ago. Books like, "Wikinomics" by Dan Tapscott and Anthony Williams, was written from Canada and England without the two authors meeting in person. In fact, they did not even finish the book, but invited anyone to edit the final chapter in a wiki online. This is very different from the traditional book. We are living in a world where individual-created content is exploding on the web. You tube, in one minute, has 24 hours of new material uploaded to its site. That happens every minute! Not to mention 2 billion videos viewed each day. Facebook, has 400 million active members--many of those are our students (that is 90 million more people then inhabit the United States). We need to prepare students for a world where communication, critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving are the key building blocks for success. They need 21st Century skills--not that content is not important, but as "Did you Know" states: where were questions asked before Google (BG)--31 billion every month. We have to prepare them to think, to engage with content and to be creative in solving problems. We need to prepare them for a world very different from out past.
So, we need to highlight how this changes our teaching and student learning. I would like to provide a few key ideas and then hope you will respond with more ideas. This is a question education must be able to answer as we move toward more technology integration in the classroom. We have to explain how technology impacts student learning.
1. It requires teachers to be risk takers--but based on sound educational principals. 2. It focuses less on content and more on process, understanding, and critical thinking about material. 3. It requires "old" skills (reading, writing,etc..) but develops new skills need for the changing world. 4. It exposes students to engaging social networking in an educational setting 5. It establishes and allows students to can create their own knowledge based on fact and content. 6. It makes learning and teaching more FUN.
These two Youtubes, might help us to think about this idea (Then and Now: Tom Woodward's Blog). I hope to hear from you, Cheers, Garth
Today, I will be posting the first of several interviews with teachers in my building and from around Ohio.These podcasts, will range in topics from: classroom management, first year stories, integration of technology, special education issues and maybe even parent interviews.I hope you find them helpful.Our goal in the future will be to put these podcasts into Itunes for download as an RSS feed.
T.C. Messer (email: email@example.com ), is a Language Arts teacher here at Beachwood Middle School.It was my pleasure to sit down with her for 20 minutes and chat about her students and classroom.T.C. mentioned a few sites that are linked below as well as a few images from the wiki she discussed.
I got an email today that reminded me of the importance of teacher leaders in a building.They move others toward the integration of technology into content areas.Rita sent the following: I am emailing you about how I am trying to take what you are teaching and implementing it into the classroom. After your lesson on inspiration, I approached the language arts teacher that I work with and told her how I thought it would benefit my special needs students who are more kinesthetic learners. I found out we only had it in the computer lab and asked the tech department if they could get it in the library lab. Since I have such a wonderful tech lady!! Shehad it on my lap top that day to put up on the projector to demonstrate as well as in the library for the 32 computers in there- wow what you can get if you just ask!!!(Garth again, yes we have to ask for things.) I really just gave them the basics like you did and they (as you said they would) took off with it. We began it with only the inclusion class that I am in, but the general ed. teacher thought it so helpful she implemented it in all her classes working on the research papers as well. The majority of students really like it. We are also working on more things in google docs-- all in good time.
I have also helped a couple of teachers set up delicious accounts. So YES things are sinking in!! :) Thanks so much for your help. Will continue to share!!!!
Not only share, but lead.That is what each building and district needs…teacher leaders to create a path for others to follow.Will you be that person? Garth
WhiteHouse.net Tapes: Over 4700 hours of secret tapes from the White House
Over the last few years, I have taken part in a grant TAH (Teaching American History) and have had the pleasure to work with Marc Selevrstone, from the Miller Center.Marc is a major player in the website, White House Tapes.
This website has thousands of hours of secretly taped conservations between the President and a number of other important government offices.Each conservation is created with a flash video transcript of the conversation and formal written transcripts.However, the greatest feature is to hear the individuals talk: the tone, the stutter, the cuts offs, the pauses the small things that explain so much.It is powerful stuff and sheds light on the true workings of the Office of the Presidency.
The site has several pages to navigate through for specific recordings, from specific Presidents.I like to use the classroom/topic option.This link will take you to the general topics covered in the tapes. From here you can click the live links to hear the conservation.
They also have entire teaching units created that tell the stories in chorological order of the conservation with background information.
The images below give you an example of what you will find.
How could using this site change the teaching of History in your classroom?I encourage you to explore this resource and comment how you used this site and what your students had to say about what they learned.I think you will be happy with the results. Garth
How can we use technology to take a students on a Quest for knowledge?The answer is WebQuests:WebQuests have become a major part of education over the last decade. They are inquiry-oriented and have students use variety of web resources for them to engage with content in a 21st Century way.They can be both long and short-term assignments.Bernie Dodge, who created WebQuests, describes what a WebQuest is in the following way,
“A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. The model was developed by Bernie Dodge at San Diego State University in February 1995 with early input from SDSU/Pacific Bell Fellow Tom March, the Educational Technology staff at San Diego Unified School District, and waves of participants each summer at the Teach the Teachers Consortium.
Since those beginning days, tens of thousands of teachers have embraced WebQuests as a way to make good use of the internet while engaging their students in the kinds of thinking that the 21st century requires. The model has spread around the world, with special enthusiasm in Brazil, Spain, China, Australia and Holland”
However, as a university teacher at the grade school level, it is very clear many students who plan to teach have no idea what a WebQuest is or how to use them.Last week when I asked 24 graduate students in our google doc pretest for the course to “Explain what a “WebQuest” is and explain the parts required to use one?” Three students mentioned they had heard of them, but could not explain them.Only one student was able to define and explain the parts.This raises some interesting questions for the future of education.Teach WebQuest is not in this course syllabus, but I believe they should have an understanding of them and how to engage students in the content with WebQuest.I will make time to address this concept in the course.
WebQuests have five major parts:Introduction, task, process, resources, and conclusion.The introduction provides some background on the topic and the hook to pull students in.It should raise some motivating questions and get them excited about the topic.The Task defines what the student will do.WebQuests often have group collaboration to them, so this is where the roles or jobs are explained.It will also explain what they need to accomplish during the WebQuest.The Process is a numbered statement of what needs to be accomplished.This could be the guided reading type questions or projects that need to be completed.The fourth part resources are just that the prepicked (by you) places students can find the information they need to complete the tasks.The conclusion is summative and rhetorical in natural.I usually add a sixth section: evaluation.This should provide a rubric for students to understand how their work will be graded before they begin.Not all WebQuest online have this section.They also at times combined the process and task page.Individual teachers can adjust the assignment, if they hold true to the concept.
WebQuests are great learning tools--see this link for more details.WebQuests prompt many types of learning strategies, such as: Motivation Theory, Constructivism, Defferentiated Learning, Situated Learning, Thematic Instruction, Learner-Centered psychological principles, and Questioning at a higher level.
Ohio history standards require students to describe the enduring impacts of the ancient world: including Egypt, China, India, Rome, and Greece.The focus of this work is on the four following ideas:Development of Government, Cultural and scientific achievements, Spread of Religions and slavery or system of labor.This seems like a huge task for 7th grade students.However, over the years I have developed a unit based on inquiry and higher level thinking that has shown positive results.
I began by using film from the web (teacher tube, You tube and Unitedstreaming, Even Infohio has free films).These films were embedded into the software inspiration--see photo Gallery below.Students then used the index in their textbooks to find specific information quickly in the book or students would be using headphones to watch film, rewind and fast-forward at their own pace, while others were reading websites provided from me.Students were using the learning style that best fits them.During this exploration period students add to the webs (similar free software online MindMeister or bubbl.us)After all students had a completed web (for some that was 30 ideas, for others that was 15 ideas), we moved to pairs to share what had been found.They added more and talked about what these things "really mean".
Next, these groups of two would pick out their top five enduring impacts from the society we were working on.These would be place on the board and a common theme would be discussed.Then as a class, we would discuss and vote on the five most important from each society to remember and understand. Then back to pairs to write out justifications as to why these are the top five for each country.
The exam scores were very high.I had students answering 15 Ohio Achievement Testing questions (from pass released OAT questions) and part two a take home exam.In the take home section students would look at images from "our" world and explain how they would not be possible without the Ancient World: I used a football Stadium.Students talked about the basics: cement, Arch’s, Columns, Realism in Art, paved roads, etc. but went much deeper. They talked about Civil Law and how sports could not be played without written laws to explain the process, they mentioned the Hindu Arabic Numerals and scoring, or the laying out the field, in fact several talked about Euclid and Geometry, and this list goes on and on.These kids were thinking and doing it in critical manner. .I can’t help but mention how one student even explained the computer as enduring from the ancient world: since it runs on zero’s and one’s.
To show them one more major example, I asked the students to pull a state out of the hat and then find a large image of the statehouse.We then stood as a group at the back of the room and viewed, 20-25 images of American State Houses: only two are not Greece or Roman in architecture.They see us paying respect to Democracy in the Ancient world.
The combination of exploration, pair’s discussion, group and individual justification helped them to truly understand and see how the Ancient World impacts our world. I am pleased with the their work and believe it was teaching 21st Century skills.
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