Monday, January 31, 2011

Can We Adopt a Master/Apprentice Approach to Learning?

In this post I make a lot of assumptions about your belief of the role of teachers education. 

Assumption one: You want students to become master learners. 

Assumption two: You are or are working to become a master learner.

Assumption three: You model learning to your students.

The master/apprentice model has been around much longer than the factory educational model we have been using and, it might be argued, been much more successful. The basis of this model is the master has a specific set of skills. He then contracts with the apprentice to teach him these skills in return for the apprentice working for the master. 

If we apply the master/apprentice model to learning, what would it look like? Obviously we would have fewer students and spend much more time with them. We would be focused on teaching them learning skills that help them develop into master learners. We would model learning for them and encourage them to follow by example.

Just as the master printer controls what content the apprentice prints, the master learner would control the way learning skills are imparted. Just as the apprentice printer spends free time creating their own content, the apprentice learner would spend his/her free time learning what he/she chooses to learn. 

Could schools be re-purposed to this end? Could a teacher take on the role of a master learner, take on a small group of apprentices (very probably of varying ages)? Can teachers as master learners help create master learners from their apprentices?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Snow Days Are Not My Friend

I have a confession, I don't do work on snow days. As a matter of fact, I don't do much work outside of my classroom. That doesn't mean I don't learn or explore or design, I simply do not like to do the schooly stuff outside of school.

Due to the school schedule and the weather we have not had a full week of school since before Christmas. Honestly, this makes it really difficult to "get in the groove". I feel my brain really disengaged from my classroom which is not where I want it to be.

Typically I would find myself musing about things to experiment with in the classroom while not in the classroom. I would be planning in the shower or checking if a particular digital tool would work while sitting in front of the television.

You can all pray, wish, or even do a snow dance if you want. I want to get back to normal.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Trying a New Spin on Current Events

I am teaching an elective class this semester on current events. While it would be easy to come up with stories for the students to look at and talk about, I am more interested in helping them develop critical thinking skills from the context as well as the content.

I believe too much of the news we consume is pre-packaged from a few large sources, think of it as fast food news. Are we supposed to give as much credibility to the stories written by anonymous writers working for big organizations more than the local beat reporters that write under their own by-line?

I also want my students to think critically about the importance of the news being reported. Do these stories directly effect us, our nation, or our world? Are they distractions such as sports or entertainment stories or are they really important? My suspicion is that most of the news people want to read falls into the former category.

To begin the semester I have had the students visiting international news sites (we are in the United States.) I have asked them to look for differences in word choice, and types of stories that are being reported.  Thanks to the Ted Williams story, we had a chance to discuss word choices from different sources. I was actually quite surprised by my students' responses.

What do you think about the way I am approaching this subject? Do you have any advice or some different ideas?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Social Media in the Classroom as Artificial Societies

Yesterday's afternoon #edchat was focused on using social media in the classroom. I have been thinking about community building and social networking with my students a lot lately. As projects I work on mature, I often see that there are limitations to the way I have set them up. While this is not usually a problem since most of my lessons are not long term, the Comments4Kids project is a long term project. Originally it was just a way to drive traffic to student posts. After conversations and time to think I have really seen the limitation of project.

My problem with C4K and social media in general is that we (teachers) are creating connections that (for the most part) are artificial and just not very useful for our students. For example, most of the time the C4K is a one shot comment on a blog post. Yes, it is social but it is not very engaging for either party. In fact, the best use of the meme happens when teachers and classes develop long term relationships through it. Even then, the relationships are usually created by the teachers, not the students.

When I started to use Twitter as a way to connect and share with other educators it was a natural process that developed over time through our shared passion. It worked for me because it engaged me on that level. There was no mandate to use it, no artificial society created by others that I was forced to engage in.

Instead of focusing on creating these artificial societies, perhaps our time would be better spent introducing the tools we use to our students and allow them the time to start to develop their own societies based upon their passions and interests. What do you think?