Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tablets Are Great for Reflections

I bought an iPad and Apple TV for my classroom this year. I love the ability to mirror what is on the iPad onto the tv. I can see a lot of opportunities for students sharing their learning with it. That isn't the main reason I wanted the iPad though.

Today I bought a Nexus 7 after reading about it during the Google I/O conference. It will compliment the iPad because it meets a very particular need for me.

Next August my students will walk into a very different learning environment than they are used to. I have specific goals for them including an emphasis on writing, problem solving, and reflecting. Students will write in composition books. (I may write a post explaining why at some other time. It isn't because they don't have computer access.) Students will experience math and science through problem solving, not just following steps. Students will be reflective learners.

The last emphasis, on reflection is where the tablets will really shine. I will create a tumblr blog for them to record their reflections to (using their app on the tablets) throughout the day. Because they can record audio or video quickly with it, they will need much less time writing their reflections using a keyboard (they haven't had typing yet). They won't even need to disengage from the learning to do it, they can show what they are doing while they reflect.

I am pretty excited by the possibilities of students taking ownership of their learning and of their reflections.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Would Like to Propose a Radical Change

I am constantly complaining about school being more of the same. High school classes teach what students should have learned in junior high while they teach what should have been learned even earlier. Even colleges/universities are in on the act, not only teaching the same things that should have been learned in high school, but requiring students that don't meet their "standards" to take remedial classes so that they can then take classes that are the same as the ones they took in high school. (Is this the best our colleges/universities can do? If so, how sad.)

I would like to propose a (radical?) change in our ed system. I don't think the concepts are new, not even sure that the way I put it together hasn't been done before. If it has, good on them. I hope it worked.

  • Students would focus on tool and background knowledge acquisition. Emphasis would be placed on logical thinking skills, problem solving skills, reading, writing. They would have art, music, health and physical activities integrated into their curriculum and not as a stand alone class. 
  • Students would choose strands of learning they wished to pursue. The students would continue to build skills and acquire background knowledge through their learning. Emphasis would be on creating. Students would be expected to conference with teachers about what they are learning and how they are showing what they are learning. Students would also be required to teach lessons on what they learn regularly to others (students, teachers, community members) during workshop days.
  •  Students would spend the first two years exploring the fields they are interested in pursuing. They would work closely with educators in those fields and emphasis again would be on creation and sharing of knowledge. 
  • Students would spend the last two years apprenticing. Two years would allow them time to try out several different occupations and get experience and feedback from both the master workers they apprentice under as well as educators in the field that would observe them. The last semester (more or less depending on what was needed) would be spent by students creating a personal narrative (through tools of their choosing) that explains their journey through their educational career. The emphasis would be on how they plan to use what they have learned after they graduate. Degrees would be awarded in the fields that students apprenticed successfully in. 
Obviously this is a very generic outline. What do you think? 

Monday, June 18, 2012

They Don't Love Your Subject (and That Is Okay!)

I really love reading about the American colonial period and the revolution. I have a very large library of books on those time periods. Yes, I am a history geek (at least over that period of time.) While I taught fifth grade I was always tickled to share my love during our social studies class. I had a lot of passion and a wealth of knowledge to share. I just didn't understand why so many kids found it to be not their thing.

I realize something now that I didn't then. This may also come as a surprise to some of you. Not every student loves learning about history!!!! (Ridiculous I know, right?) Actually, it isn't.

Every teacher becomes a teacher because something in the content they learned really appealed to them. Perhaps it was math class that set them on fire, or doing experiments in science. I would make a bet that some even get into teaching because they love spelling! (about as alien a concept to me as calculus). Because we love our particular pet subject, we expect our students to catch our enthusiasm and realize that the coolest teacher they have ever had (in my case very true) loves it, by gosh they will love it too! They really have no choice because, after all, it is the best subject they will ever be exposed to. (Have you heard my talk on Peale's Mastadon? Such a fascinating story.)

The truth is, not all students will love your favorite subject. Not only is that okay, it is preferable. We need to allow our students the freedom to follow what they are passionate about. We need to love our students enough to let them not share our passion.

Friday, June 15, 2012

#EdStuff: A New Twitter Hash Tag

I have created the #EdStuff tag for people that want to post ed stuff, but don't want to tag it with the the chat based tags such as #edchat or #fifthchat. Feel free to use it as you will, for it is good for all ed stuff!

So Why Do I Feel Guilty?

I am working on a storytelling unit and am to the point where I am considering what activities I will expect my students to complete. While I will give them some choices as to these activities, there will be some that I am going to require. Yes, you heard it right. They will not have a choice.

I do believe that students should shape their own learning. I do believe that when we choose what we want to learn, we are more motivated and learn better. I also believe that sometimes students have to learn things they may not normally choose to learn. I do not refer to ridiculously complex geometric proofs that are completely useless to 99+% of the population, I refer to skills and content that are necessary for becoming a more competent learner. So, why do I feel so guilty?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blogging and the Writing Process

Stephen Anderson tweeted out a link to this post: Making Paper Blogs to Prepare for the Online Experience. While the post makes a good case for it, and it makes a lot of sense if your students have limited online opportunity my reaction was not positive. My thoughts are not based on the content of the article, they were formed before I read it. 

My first thought was that if we teach students that their early drafts are not worthy of being seen by others, it implies the early part of the writing process is bad. If we teach writing as a process and that their first drafts should not always be their last, we also need to teach that there should be no shame in sharing their writing at any time during the process.

If we are going to use blogging as a platform for student writing, shouldn't we make it repository of the process of writing as well? Students believe you only write something once because that is all they see. Perhaps if we have students model their writing process publicly we could dispel that misrepresentation of writing.

I reacted to the post title this way because I have been struggling with how I want to approach writing in my own class. I have decided that I want to impress upon my students the value of all of their work. We will be collecting all of their writing throughout the year in composition books. My goal is to have several filled by the end of the school year. My hope is that my students learn that they should value all of their writing, that a first draft is not necessarily the last, and that by archiving the work they will be able to see the improvement in their writing over the year.