In my grad class, I start with a question:. What are the fundamental things we know about how people learn? At first, they look at me and say not much. After a few minutes, answers come: interest, hands on, groups, organized, practice, etc.. at times they say, we need to know what they know before we move on.
I then explain that is why I will not hand out a syllabus this week because I need to know what you already know so that I can tailor the syllabus to meet your needs. They are surprised by this statement, because, in the past they come and we give a syllabus. This is interesting, it seems if a syllabus is provided first, we are focused on teaching, not on learning.
In college, pre-service teachers are asked to prepare lesson plans, for a group of kids and often given an outline to follow as they build. These plans are neat, sequential, and pre-services teachers are encouraged to have a very managed classroom. However, the plan is one plan for 23 different students with unique brains, how does that work when it comes to student learning, not teaching?
Often our Professional development, is focused on teaching. How to use technology, how to create formal assessments, how to use data, how to read standards, how to etc… You get it. But for a successful class, focus has to be on learning, not teaching. How can we begin to change that in the modern classroom?
Today is my birthday. I had a nice day, got to spend it with students who I enjoy being around and co-workers who care about the job they do. I also spent it Skyping with Mike and his class. The day ended uneventful as I walked out the building. I was driving home to pick up my own children and daydreaming about why I do what I do. As I walked into my children's school, I saw a flyer in the hallway, "It's Friday". It's Friday, is a weekly newsletter by the Superintendent's office about the schools my kids attend. It is for teachers, not the general public (I think), but anyways I read it--and so glad I did.
The superintendent started by exploring the Three R's: Relationships, Rigor and Relevance. I wanted to share a pome he had shared, with you.
We teach the whole child with all of his or her
Shortcomings and strenghts,
Soiled blue jeans and runny noses,
Feeling and attiudes,
And Deep human interests and needs....
That Have Driven Us All Into the Education Profession.
Enough said. I am proud to do what I do.
I read Harry Wong's First Days of School years ago. I bought in to his ideas on teaching rules and procedures for the first days of school. However, doing that on the first day of school made me just like everyone else. That is not me, I am not everyone else.
I stand at the door and greet my students. At the door, I hand them a card to find their seat. Random and quick. Once they sit down, we get started. My first day is packed. I start with a Think-pair-share. What is History? How do we study History?
The answers are the same. We read the textbook, work on vocabulary, fill in some worksheets and then take a test. This varies every once in a while, but for the majority of kids that is the study of history--and why most dislike it. I then explain this class will be a little different, as I had out a white or yellow chalk and a black 8 x 11 colored paper. I then explain to them to draw what they see on the overhead and flip it on. The image is a massive blurr. They freak out, for a second, but I calm them down and tell them to keep drawing. Over 20 minutes or so, I slowly focus the image, BUT never make it clear. During this time I have them move around the room and "See the blurr" from different angles (glare changes and the distance impacts the image). Kids are moving and guessing, making noise and "wondering".
I then ask them to talk about how this activity is like (Metaphor for) the study of history. They say some cool things:
-"I felt like I did when I open the book to read... I had no idea what I was drawing"
-"How can I be successful when I don't know what I am drawing"
-"We have to dig deeper"
-"See each topic from a different perspective"
-"Think about our farm of reference" (I explain this idea at in the first discussion)
Then I ask them to write a short paragraph on the following question: What did you learn today?
This is some of what they wrote:
"I learned that if something you see is blurry, try to learn more than what you know about the topic and soon you'll see want your looking at more clearly. What I want out of this class is being able to see things differently than I usually so. I want to be able to see the world in a whole new perspective and I think that history is the best way to do that."
"That history can be interpreted multiple ways by historians like a blurry picture, so we will be figuring things out this year...."
" I learned that not everybody sees everything the same way. This year in history will be different because I'll try to understand more and look at things from different angles. I'll try to actually think about it and not just learn facts."
"...I need to dig deeper and find out some background on the topics you are learning to "see it". "
"I learned that when you study history, you really have to sink your teeth into it. You have to look at history in a whole new and different way from everything else..."
"I learned about perspective, that you must let go of your wrong answers and let the real answer become clear as you learn."
"I learned that studying history this year will not be like other social studies classes. It will be more interesting and creative. I want to enjoy social studies more and really remember what I have learned. I think I will."
I could go on these are all from first period, I teach six periods. But I leave you with this one from six period:
"I learned that studying history will not be easy. You have to know all the facts before you can see the big picture. I want to learn history in a more fun way than reading a textbook. I think some skills I need are being patient until I know the information. I also need to not give up when I am frustrated about not being able to remember or see it all. It takes time, you even said you don't see a clear picture."
Students leave my room excited, not bored. They are engaged from day one and that carries over for the several days of rules and procedures, but they have "bought" in to my class and as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Stay tune to see what happens next. Garth
Several months ago, I wrote about confidence
and then motivation
. I said then I would come back to motivation at some point...so here I am with part two.
I have been reading a lot of Daniel Pink lately. First, I read Drive. Alan November interviewed
Mike and I a few months back and he had mentioned this book after some comments we had made about motivation and creativity. I thought I should get it and start reading, although I was sure I was sold on the ideas before I broke the pages. Dan's main point in Drive
, according to his twitter summary: "Carrots & Sticks are so last century. Drive
says for 21st Century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery & purpose." (Pink/203). I have always bought into this type of thinking. Motivation comes from within, not external threats or bribes. I found several really interesting quotes in this book, that I would like to share before we move on. -"They're working hard and persisting through difficulties because of their internal desire to control their lives, learn about their world, and accomplish something that endures."
(79) Do you see this in your classroom? -"People to contribute rather then just show up and grind out their days." (100) -What teacher has not wanted this? -"No matter what kind of business you're in, it's time to throw away the tardy slips, time clocks, and outdated industrial-age thinking." (101) -When was the last time you handed out a tardy slip? Why are they late anyways? -"We're born to be players not pawns." (107) Directions: read pages ??? and answer these questions. -"Control leads to compliance: autonomy leads to engagement...only engagement can produce mastery" (110-111) When was the last time you had true engagement and what caused this engagement? -
"Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it." (125) How often in your work room is the conservation about EFFORT? -"Do the workers refer to the company (school) as "they"? Or do they describe it in terms of "we"?" (129)
Do your students see school on their team? Daniel Pink's book is straight forward, the world has changed and we still are using an outdated method of motivation that is not based in research and science. So here we go. Schools motivation ideals are screwed up, according to Pink.
They are based on the old idea that teachers are the masters of knowledge and if students will only open their mind to what we are saying they will be successful. That used to work for some. They would do well, go to college or take a job at Ford and live a happy life (Pink called this Motivation 2.0). However, the world has changed and a new version of motivation is needed (Motivation 3.0). I disagree with Pink here. The ideas of Motivation 3.0 are not new ideas, but they are hard to implement in today's schools and often overlooked. High Stake Tests, Common Core, RttT, and other devices simply dictate what we "have" to teach; without focusing on who we are teaching. We lose site of kids and only see numbers, data and value added (by the way that is education talk for teacher Motivation 2.0: merit pay).
That encourages more Motivation 2.0. How do we move to more 3.0 motivation? We need to address the three elements of Motivation 3.0 according to Pink. First, Student's need to gain autonomy, not empowerment (we love this word, it gives the impression that students have power in the system). Autonomy is self direction. Second, Mastery of the topic (big word in education ten years ago). And third, purpose (education likes to use meaning or relevance). Can a classroom achieve these in today's world? I believe we can.
But I also believe the system right now makes this very, very hard to do. Being creative and finding ways to use technology helps us provide autonomy, mastery and purpose to student work. We won't ignore standards (nor should we), but we can and will find ways to engage students in self directed and meaningful work. The collaboration between Mike and I has made it possible for us both to create new and exciting ways to provide students with Motivation 3.0. No homework has helped, collaboration between the schools adds purpose and meaning and self-directed WebQuests/PBL's give students actual autonomy. But at times it becomes overwhelming. It is one thing to try and change the way students are motivated, learn and engage in the world, but it is a whole other task when you take into account 6 previous years of being "educated" in a broken system. For muscle memory, every time you do something wrong, lets say shoot a basketball, it takes three correct times (for every one) to replace what your muscle has learned. The question know becomes not just how do we change how we teach, but how do we help students unlearn what they have become so used to doing in our educational system. I find it very difficult sometimes to convince students that I am not grading a project, or that they can take a quiz whenever they are ready. Students have learned that they will be told and shown how to survive in education. What happens when these students go out into the world to find jobs that require independence, creative thinking and the ability to self-monitor?
Schools create learned-helplessness in students. We need to encourage students to be independent thinkers that formulate their own methods to their own answers. The data collection systems of education need to change to meet the new education system of the 21st century; we need to stop attempting to make new methodology fit into old data collection routines.If you have read Pink's book and see it in a different light or have comments on this post we would love to hear from you. "‘No limit for better.’ I think that is a worthy credo." -Harrison Ford (carpenter turned actor
Cassidy and Ms. Bable
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. My daughter, Cassidy, who is in kindergarten came home from school yesterday with a paper she had colored. The title was " What I'm thankful for:" She pulled this paper out of her backpack and notebook and smiled as she said, "Look at this, Daddy." Her smile and eyes clearly told me this was very important. I took a look and was a little surprised. The list said: Turkey, Mom, Family, and Ms. Bable. I was sure "Daddy" would be on the list, as she has been daddy's little girl for the last few months. She explained it was in the word family. Ok, I thought. We talked for a few minutes and she moved on to "Can I play with Robin?"
What I wanted to comment on here are the two words: Ms. Bable. My wife (kindergarten teacher) and I are both teachers and Cassidy reminded us of a very important lesson. RELATIONSHIPS is the key to any effective classroom. Ms. Bable has helped my daughter to love school, want to learn and wake up excited that she has school. My little daughter is Thankful for Ms. Bable. That says it all.
In education, we teach students content every day. We worry about test scores, district's report cards, levy's, how to reach each child and much more. We push students to "recall" more and more information. But Ms. Bable and Cassidy remind us all that building strong relationships with students is what encourages young minds to grow and desire knowledge.
I would like to take this time to publicly thank four people who encouraged me and help lead me down the path of becoming an educator. These are not the only people who have impacted me, but they deserve to be noted: Mr. Bruce Derrick (7th Grade S.S.), Mr. David Church (9th grade art), Dr. James Rowley (U of Dayton SS Methods) and Mr. Edward Bernetich (a master at building relationships and former Principal). These people have encouraged me, made me feel valued, and supported me as life moved forward. I also am Thankful for these great Teachers, just like Cassidy is about Ms. Bable. Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Mike and I are both big fans of Sir Ken Robinson. His talks on TED (including "Do School's Kill Creativity
") have influenced our thinking and teaching. However, this talk: "Changing Paradigms
" was given in 2008 at the RSA (Royal Society
for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) and is 55 minutes long. Below is a great, and only 10 minute long, visualization for the major ideas in this presentation. As you watch this film, ask yourself: what does this mean for me and my work with students? How can I break the mold of traditional schools? As social studies teachers, Garth and myself are constantly debating the merit of history for the sake of history, creating connections with the past and present (enduring impacts) and instilling our students with a cultural identity AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, a sense of cultural empathy. Sir Ken is an advocate for the arts and creative thinking. I often refer to social studies as the "red-headed stepchild" of the academic world; we are not math or science, and we don't teach communication like language arts. I believe that social studies is actually just as important as math, especially if we are talking about preparing kids for their futures. Historians are the secretaries of the world. We record, analyze, judge, and put into context everything that happens. While social studies may not encourage as much analytical thought as math, the critical thinking and empathy skills that social studies does teach is invaluable. I'm sitting at my laptop, wrapping up this blog that Garth started, wondering if I will be a teacher next year. The levy in our district failed and I'm caught at the bottom of the seniority list. I want to teach, I want to make a difference and I want my students to have the best possible education possible. Sir Ken talks about education and economics. While he focuses on the future economies of the world, I can't help but wonder about the current economy and where citizens and the government feel education belongs. "You get out what you put it"
, underfunding education and cutting the Arts will have a detrimental impact on the future of our economy. Believe in teachers. Believe in students. Believe that well-rounded education will create well-rounded people.
So here we are at a 1-to-1 laptop school. My 12-year-old students are so excited about the project we have been working on; they are interviewing their parents, grandparents, or anyone over 30 to try and answer the essential questions: (1) What does an historian do and how do they do it? (2) How has life and culture changed in American since your interviewee was in 7th Grade?
Students get to play history detective. They pick someone to interview and then study the time period that the person was in seventh grade. We spent time brainstorming topics to ask about, writing open ended questions and several days researching national and international events that took place during the time their interviewee was in middle school. In the end, they usually build an iMovie that explains their parents (interviewee’s) middle school experience while addressing the essential questions. In years past, we have also use this project to teach iMovie in a failure free way.
Over the years this has produced 100’s of interviews with primary images from the time period that discuss the changes in the world. Students get to see first hand just how rapidly culture changes and spreads.
I thought that this year would be no different. Just like in years past, we have done the brainstorming, written the questions, interviewed the people and researched the events. Finally, the day has arrived that we devote to learning how to use iMovie to complete this project. The students finally get to take all of their puzzle pieces and place them together in a digital format to share with classmates and their family.
The media specialist and myself planned what we would teach about iMovie a week in advance. The day came and we began to teach students iMovie. After ten minutes or so we began to notice students starring at us as if we had lobsters crawling out of our ears. They were not getting it, what was rather simple for the previous years students, seemed a daunting task for this year’s students.
It seems a small glitch had occurred. We were teaching on iMovie ‘08 version 7.1.4., the version that all of the faculty computers include. This year students received new laptops with iMovie ‘09 version 8.0.6. That means everything we just showed the students to do is completely wrong. Not only were students unaware of how to use iMovie, we just spent 10 minutes showing them the wrong thing to do! Ok, what fix do we make? We will teach enhanced podcasting with links in GarageBand. GarageBand is a program we use regularly so teaching it at this point in the year would still work well. Unfortunately, you can guess… faculty have the ’08 version and students have ‘09.
But wait, it gets worse. The sixth graders have the older GarageBand and iMovie HD, so the teachers in the building don’t have a copy of the software that any student in our building has access to! That also means that the sixth grade is using a completely different version of software than the other students in the building. It is hard to teacher with comments like: “it won’t look like this, and you don’t click here, but click that.” And “well, I am not sure as I have never used that software or have access to it.” Teaches were not made aware of this issue, nor were we given any training on the new software. I felt frustrated and stupid. It will make for an interesting week.
Made free on Motivator
School started this week. Just like the last 16 years, I could not sleep for the first two nights. Tired and that funny feeling in my stomach, I made it to work almost an hour early. The room was set up and the lesson plan ready for day one. The students were smiling and bouncing from room to room. At 12, they still are excited to start a new year. They seemed open and ready to engage in learning. By the third day (after a pretty good sleep), I interviewed each student on video into my computer to save for later use. I asked them three questions: 1. What are two goals you have for this year? 2. What is one long term goal you have for life? 3. What are two things I should know about you?
First, I was shocked how many came into the hall with sweat dripping from their foreheads because they were scared of being on film. I encouraged each student and gave them some positive feedback. My goal was to save these files until the end of the year for them to view and comment on. BUT, of course the new cloud server did not really save them, all were lost. Oh well.
What I found most interesting were the comments: yes, some talked of all A's, Honor Roll, and wealth and fame, but most talked about one word: confidence.
I was stumped on this one. I did not expect these students to say "I lack confidence in my ability." I don't know why this hit me so hard, but it has forced me to think about how to move forward. I know kids gain confidence from doing a task well, taking pride in it. So, I have to find ways to provide chances for my students to gain confidence from doing great things with our content. I have a feeling this is going to be a harder task than I thought.
I wonder what else they would tell us about learning, if we really listened?
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.
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.
Well, before I give my perception of why, take a minute to read the following Washington Post article by Laura Mortkowitz entitled, “More colleges, professors shutting down laptops and other digital distractions
We will come back to this.
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 the
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