If you look a few blogs down, you will notice a video of Sir Ken Robinson speaking to a group in England about creativity and education.Sir Robinson makes an interesting point that at the very basics of theater (and by analogy, education) is the existence of two people.In theater all you need is an actor, who creates drama, and an audience.In education, all that is needed is a learner and a teacher.Anything and everything else, as argued by Sir Robinson, should only be added to the equation if it is helpful.The idea of separate subjects, master schedules, and “core” verses “supplemental” subjects only acts as a hindrance. Sir Ken constantly speaks about an educational revolution, not evolution and the idea that society must look back to the Renaissance and emulate the approach of studying all disciplines as one.
If all goes as planned my district will give me an amazing opportunity.I will have the opportunity to put theory to use in a full-time manner within a 1-1 environment.My work in the classroom to incorporate 21st Century Skills, my collaboration with Garth over the last 5 years and this website are all long-term projects that are starting to change education.The world is starting to take note of Garth’s and my dedication to creating positive changes in teaching.There are a lot of things to consider with this jump in technology: curriculum, work/homework, projects, parents, school board, the public and at the center the students.I have no doubts that education does not work, or rather it works for a minority of people and the rest of us just learn how to exist within it just to get out of it.The simple fact that we say you are entering the “real-world” when you leave school creates the dichotomy of life and school. So where is my rambling leading me?I want to speak a little about how I plan on starting next year for students, parents, school board and John Q. Public.
Garth and I have written often about the problem of changing students’ motivations and understanding of what it means to “go to school”.While I often pontificate to students the importance of the experience of school and getting out of it what you put in; in the background the majority of students are still only really concerned with how to get an “A”.The system has created students that do not care about how their middle school education can be used to understand the world, but rather how their middle school education is preparation for high school (where learning is important…for the sake of college).So the biggest battle I am planning to fight is changing student motivation.I want creative, independent thinkers.Now I know most, if not all teachers would say the exact same thing, but most teachers think that you can achieve this by having quiet students whom listen to lecture, complete all of their assignments on time and do well on a test.I think students need to design their own assignments, stay focused and interested and infuse subjects/disciplines that help them be inspired and creative.The hard part is convincing students of this new way of learning while knowing when they leave my classroom they return to the “real-world” of education in every other subject area.My goal this year is to allow at least half of my students the autonomy in my class to become intrinsic learners AND to be inspired enough to question why they cannot have such opportunities in all their classes.
I am a teacher and I exist in a political realm.School boards, the public and administration all have agendas and goals.Most remain fixed on students, but unfortunately, through no fault of their own, policies often need to consider factors other than the students.Funding, government standards, teachers unions, etc all influence what is happening in our schools.They open some doors and close many others.My goal, and the goal of my principal and superintendent is to bring as much attention to the opportunities we are giving students in my classroom.I know going into next year that I will be under the lense of several groups.I want my students’ work to be the catalyst for more change.I want my school board and parents to demand laptops for their students.I plan to attend and present at several board meetings throughout the year to keep parents and the school board current with educational philosophies and the progress of my students.I know that the atmosphere will be charged, especially with a levy on the ballot in November.Money is tight, but that is true everywhere.I do not think that I will have to produce justification for the large investment in technology that the district made; rather I hope that my role will be show to that technology real does inspire intrinsic learning, drive students to mastery and help students leave a positive digital legacy.
…If you teach in a 1-1 environment or have ever piloted a technology initiative in your district; please leave a comment and share your story.Success, failure, no noticeable difference, all stories are helpful and have meaning.
Yesterday was a very special day for Garth and myself. Yes, it was a snow day, but more importantly, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Alan November. We met Alan several months ago at an Ohio technology conference where Garth and I presented and Alan was the keynote. For those that have never read, listened to or heard of Alan November; he is a very inspiring man with great ideas about technology in education. While Garth and I are usually interviewing people for this site, Alan interviewed us for his podcast series.
The scope of our conversation revolved around three big topics: The online textbook created by our (Garth and mine) students, helping students leave a positive legacy through technology and education, and collaboration/self-reflection of Garth and myself.
The online textbook is a (going on) five year project in which students have been creating digital content based on the world history standards in Ohio. The idea of the legacy students leave, fascinated me. It was the first time that I had heard someone refer to students' work as their legacy. It struck me and really put into perspective what we, teachers, do everyday. Garth and I have written several blogs about the connections we create with students, the skills we teach them that are beyond any government regulated standards and the impact teachers have on the world. But hearing the word legacy gave me a new perspective on how I teach. As a teacher, I want to leave my legacy both on my students and on the institution of education. Allowing students to understand that they too are leaving a legacy helps connect me with my students. Tomorrow, when we finally return from our two snow days, I plan on starting class talking about this idea. I want students to understand that we share the same goals, that my class is a journey that I am taking with them; sometimes as the leader, sometimes just as a passenger.
The third point that we discussed with Alan, reflection and long-term planning is something that I took for granted. Garth has always been a long-range thinker. He understands the scope of what we do and sees the need to be prepared for the future. Both of us have always been very reflective about every aspect of our lives. Almost to the point of depression. Teachers that are not reflective do not change. They do not advance themselves, they do not take risks and they do a dis-service to their students by being complacent. Reflective teachers are never happy with what they do, they are constantly questioning their methodology, philosophical beliefs and choices. Even when what they are doing may be great...there is always a better way!
Speaking with inspirational people like Alan helps me keep in perspective just how much growing I still have to do. there is always some new technology, new methodology or new way to approach the issue of teaching. Always change, always grow and always take risks. Sometimes you will fail, sometimes you will succeed; but all the time students will respect your honesty, courage and empathy. At after standardized tests are taken, diplomas are handed out and students go out into the "real world", they won't remember the capital of Djibouti, Newton's 3 laws, or Pi. They will remember the connections you made with them, what you taught them about digital footprints, how you showed them what empathy really is and how you never judged them based on spelling ability or background. Be the best you can be...if not for you, then for them.
Jenna Daugherty is our guest blogger today. She is the intervention specialist that I (and the students) are lucky enough to work with everyday. Jenna is a passionate professional that shares Garth and my desire for reflective teaching, change, and taking risks. She came up with a great lesson after we reflected about starting a "no homework" policy. Students were engaged in learning! It made me proud to be a teacher today; a shining moment in my career. I can only be as good as those with which I collaborate. Luckily I keep great company in Garth and Jenna. Thank you for making me better at what I do...
Yesterday, in class, we wanted to get the students thinking about the rest of the year and what things relating to world history they wanted to learn more about.Instead of coming into class with a pre-generated detailed lesson plan and syllabus on what we were going to teach, what students would be learning and how they would learn it; we gave the reigns to the students. We want students to take ownership of the class and the content we discuss. The goal is to create students that are invested in the discussion, assignments and projects they do within the class.Students feel empowered to control their learning destiny.It wasn’t just lip service either; Mike and I are going to make the curriculum fit what students want to study.
The past couple of weeks we’ve discussed culture and introduced different aspects, or parts, of culture. We started this with a project Garth created called “What was 7th Grade like?”.Students look into their own lives and family history to uncover culture/cultural diffusion from the recent past; the decade their parent(s) were in 7th grade.We incorporated higher level questioning skills, interview and research skills with students through this project. Now that students had an idea of what makes “culture”, we introduced the foundation of the class, which is the concept of civilization.
We posed a question: “what characteristics do you think a group of people have to possess to be considered a civilization?”Having a list of characteristics for civilizations, we told the students to think… Think about what you want to learn appropriate to a class entitled “world history”.That was their homework.Not a worksheet.No questions or short answers.Simply to think about class outside of the school.It is our first attempt at the new “no homework” policy in our class.
So, today students came prepared to discuss and debate what they had thought about.Many students came with their lists of questions (which was not required), and those that didn’t necessarily write those down, had a couple minutes to organize their thoughts on paper.
Around the classroom we hung large colored poster boards with the different characteristics of civilizations: geography, government, the arts, economy, religion, social structure and an “everything else” category. We gave each student post-it notes to write their best questions down, whether it was all 5 or just 1. It wasn’t the quantity that mattered; it was the quality.After writing their questions on separate post-it notes, students stuck them to their desks.They then had to rotate to a new seat somewhere else in the classroom and were given the task to take another student’s post-it notes and stick them onto the correct colored poster board around the classroom.
This lesson incorporated the different modalities of learning as the students discussed with each other their questions by means of think/pair/share (auditory), wrote down the questions and sorted them onto colored poster boards (visual), and had the opportunity to physically handle the post-it notes while walk around the room to find the right category (kinesthetic).
Watching this in an inclusion setting with students identified with disabilities, it was impossible to distinguish between students of varying abilities.Listening the student’s conversations, we heard tons of higher-level questioning as they asked each other questions and debated about certain areas.
...We are developing patient-learners who value quality not quantity
At the end of the day, the whole reason we integrate technology is to create students that create the questions, not just the answers. Recently I discovered (through TEDtalks tweet) an amazing high school math teacher named Dan Meyer, click here for his blog. Dan presented at the TED conference and talked about re-inventing how math is taught. basically, Dan doesn't give homework, hates textbooks, and wants to create "patient problem-solvers". His presentation is the video below this blog post. I love the term "patient problem-solver". To me it evokes imagery of students using the scientific method in a social studies classroom. Students observe something happening in the world around them, create a hypothesis of why it is happening, then formulate questions to answer using historical resources. How great would it be if students applied patience, collaboration and technology to understand why the world works.
Students could skype students around the world, or professors from major universities specializing in particular areas of history, scour the internet for historians blogs and primary resources, then test their data against their hypothesis. Maybe they were right, maybe they were wrong. Either way students have complete ownership of this academic journey. From observation, to asking the question, to solving the question. Students can take days, or weeks to solve one major question; and along the way....accidental learning will take place. Students will be exposed to research tangents that pull in information, create connections with others, and hone their critical thinking skills. All of this is possible if you model patience with your students. Dan Meyer talks about how textbooks create problems that mirror contemporary sit-coms. Everything can be solved in a 1/2 hour. Only problem is that the world doesn't work that way. As Dan says, have you ever seen a problem worth solving that can be accomplished in a 1/2 hour?" (I'm paraphrasing here) Take a second and watch his presentation and then please leave a comment expressing your opinions. Just think, maybe answering 4 or 5 big questions in an entire school year will provide a better education than weekly assessments and a yearly 40 question standardized test.
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
Copyright 2013 Teachersfortomorrow.net Mike Pennington & Garth Holman Duplication, reproduction and/or use of this site without a direct link back here is frowned upon All information contained on this site is the expressed opinion of Mike & Garth. It in no way is meant to be a reflection of our employer(s).