Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Today Was A Good Day: Student Innovation

Lakin decided to create a paper model for her Explorers PowerPoint. She sketched the idea for each slide on paper so that she could organize it and tweak it before she created her presentation. Because she had already organized her pages and received the feedback she needed she managed to put her presentation together in just a few minutes. Instead of spending time on the computer making decisions about what information to include and how she should organize it, she focused on finding great pictures to emphasize her points (to the point of not even needing text on some slides!)

This was not a technique that Lakin was taught, she thought of it on her own (or maybe she had heard about it somewhere else but forgot.) Ours students can and will learn without us (sometimes despite us). I wonder if sometimes I am more of a roadblock than an expressway on their learning journey. Below Lakin explains what she did and what she learned.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Are You Afraid to Ask Your Students What They Are Learning?

When I ask my students simple questions like "What are you learning?" I often get answers I do not expect. One of the problems I have as a social person is that I tend to think everyone thinks the same way I do and at the same time. I don't seem to "get it" when I get an answer different than one I expect.

When I ask these questions below, I was expecting specific answers. At the very least I would assume the answers would be similar, but they are not. Typically my reaction is to immediately "correct" them so that they parrot back the information to me.

Is it really fair to tell students what they are learning? When we ask the question do we have the right to not like the answer? In this case, I don't think the questions are too difficult for them to understand. I do think that some of the students were trying to give me the answer they thought I wanted, but obviously not all did that. Should I try to give them the answer or at least lead them to what I want them to say?

I am not sure that me telling them what they learned will actually translate into what they actually learned. I am also not sure I have the right to discount what they are learning because it isn't what I want. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why I Require My Students to Blog

In a perfect world children would have access to all information, tools to create whatever their hearts desire, and the time to explore every whim and fancy that takes them. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. Adults have to make choices about what children must learn and (very often) how they will learn it. Because of this, I require my students to blog.

Blogging allows students the opportunity to write to a larger audience. I will not use the word authentic because I believe that students often write for their teachers, which would make that writing authentic to them. I don't want my students writing solely to me, they need to be able to communicate with a much larger, varied audience. I will not be their lifelong interpreter. While there is no guarantee that posting words on the internet will ever garner an audience, I can guarantee that the community of learners in my control will be viewing these writings and (with a bit of coaching/begging) leaving comments that are meant to create conversations.

Conversations are critical to blogging. While there are some who don't mind writing words only they will read, most of us have an inborn desire to have someone respond to our ideas. One-way conversations are an anathema to us whether they are done verbally or in writing. We need the opportunity to share our wants, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, and fears as much as we need the opportunity to have others share them with us. A blog post that doesn't create a conversation is a sad thing indeed.

Students need the opportunity, as well as the time, to develop conversations with their writing. To create online relationships that can enrich both their thoughts and their self esteem. No longer should they be required to languish in unfulfilling relationships created solely because of where they live. Their passions are shared by others who can be reached by carving out spaces online and searching for others doing the same.

As the adult, lead learner if you must, I know these things to be true and because of that, I must require my students to blog!