Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is it Learning or Compliance?

This topic has bothered me for some time. After reading 4thGrdTeach's blog on homework she inspired me to write. Homework is a big issue but the bigger issue is what are kids learning from the class? Are students truly learning or are they just complying with our course requirements to "get the grade?" How do we build young minds to desire knowledge? Have we taken the time to write curriculum that engages them or are we using the textbooks as an easy time saving devise? Are you one of those teachers who assign reading and questions at the end of a chapter? Or do you know a teacher who is referred to as "Captain Handout?" This is all very real and sad and it only functions as a means of turning kids off to learning. Not all students love all subjects but we can at least make it interesting by building a better mouse trap.:-)

Many teachers complain that they just don't have enough time. Okay, I understand the limits of time for teachers but there are a lot of us who take the time to create good lessons that get kids interested in learning. What is the point of a lesson if the student doesn't learn anything from it? Ask those teachers, "What the heck are we here for anyway?" I have heard countless students tell me that a class was a waste of time or that they were so bored in a class. Didn't I read recently that the number one reason for high school dropouts was boredom in school? Houston, we have a problem!

So, how do we move kids toward an intrinsic desire to learn? There are a lot of ways and I am hopeful that my colleagues will use some of the many examples that they learn from professional development and their PLN. Wait...most of them don't even know or want to know what PLN stands for let alone create and use one. Alas, that is a problem but things change and many of us who have a PLN and blog and dare I say...LEARN are forcing the change. 

Staff and students learn differently! We know this from Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, Differentiated Curriculum training and Sir Ken Robinson's "The Element." Therefore we need to allow students the freedom to learn in the way they learn best. Paper and pencil is not the answer for most kids. Give them choice and give them buy in. Once you give them a choice then you can build solid lessons that engage them. Cooperative learning works wonders when done well. Students learn more when they share with each other. So here are a few methods to incorporate:
  • PBL - Project Based Learning with student choice of topic and type.
  • Cooperative Learning - Students learning from each other. Score!
  • Socratic Circles/Discussions - Works well in most subjects.
  • Collaborative Web based Learning - Wikis, Nings, Moodles, etc.

Okay, I get the fact that those of you reading this already do many of these things and that I'm preaching to the choir but, I am hopeful we can spread the word and influence others.
We need to work hard to develop a child's desire to learn. Create a democratic classroom. Don't talk at them, talk with them. As we move away from the old model of education, let us hope that learning is at the forefront of what the new model looks like. Be a part of the solution!

Friday, July 9, 2010

A New Road to Travel

The world is an amazing place where technology changes faster than we can keep up with from day to day. People however do not change. We still have the same hopes, dreams and desires that have been with us for millennium. We want a good life with family, friends and enough to feel fulfilled. For many of us these thoughts are realized as we work to make them happen but for others the struggle continues. Personally, I believe that those of us who have should help those who do not. Thus, that is why I am an educator.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with young people on a daily basis. They keep me young and give me the desire to be a better teacher, coach, advisor, and mentor. As a result, I seek to learn more every day. Moreover, I look for ways to improve the educational experience for all of my students; lucky for me and them the world changes. 

Globalization for all its faults has created new technologies and connections never seen before in world history. Of course there are pros and cons to most everything. For all the negative impacts of consumerism and technology there are some positives that many of us should and will take advantage of to make the world a better place. As more and more of the world tries to emulate the West's lifestyle and standard of living competition forces us to be better educated as well as up to date on the latest tools for our chosen field.

Technology has provided us an opportunity to see the world in many new and different ways. We now have the ability to work, talk, write, text, research and learn from almost any place on the globe. Careers and jobs in the future will require skills in technology that currently are unknown. Those of us in education should and in my opinion must learn and embrace technology for our students and their futures.  If education reform has any definitive look to it, then technology is a big part of that picture. So, let us encourage, push, prod and force our colleagues to grow and change.  We owe it to our students, to our selves and to our world.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Adventures in Santa Fe

For my first post I am compelled to write about my summer exploits in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Learning is just apart of who I am as an educator and therefore every year I try to find something, somewhere to give me deeper appreciation and knowledge that I can share with my students. So, last February as I was looking through the many opportunities for summer workshops I was intrigued by one called "Contested Homelands."

"Contested Homelands" was being developed and sponsored by the University of New Mexico. I was interested because I didn't have a lot of historical knowledge of New Mexico other than the Santa Fe Trail and the Camino Real and because the fact that I didn't know much bothered me. So...I applied and was accepted! Yay me!

The good news is that there was a stipend for the workshop. The bad news is that it ended about the same time ISTE10 was taking place in Denver. Nonetheless, I was excited to be going on another journey. One that would prove to be my most fulfilling yet.

As the date approached I received a book on Po'Pay and some articles on the history of Santa Fe. Very interesting reads for a history geek like me. Of course I did a little research to find out more and was feeling pretty good about my trip.

I arrived for a weeklong adventure by way of 10 hours of travel time that took me through four different airports, the least of which was Phoenix International, ugh! Nonetheless, there I was in Santa Fe ready to learn and boy was I going to learn.

The week started off with a nice reception and introductions from the four leaders of this adventure and discovery. They made us feel at ease despite the demanding schedule we would endure for the week. I was feeling pretty good about my time in New Mexico and prepared for the variety of activities we would be exposed to in the days to come. And we did a lot but the outcome from this journey surprised even me.

See, it wasn't the museums or the visits to pueblos or the lectures by respected scholars that impacted and inspired me. It was the relationships I built with other educators from around the country. How powerful it was to connect with each other, learn and grow as professionals and people. I am truly blessed by the people I met and as the director of the project, Dr. Rebecca Sanchez said to me, that hopefully "
elements from this workshop weave into your consciousness." Those elements for me are the people. So, take that to your classrooms and remember that the most important elements are the ones that come through your door during the school year and for many of us the educators who make up our PLN.