Tag: teaching and learning

New Podcast: #30: What’s On the Horizon?

This (long-delayed) episode of the Moss Free Show discusses the six educational technology tools identified by the authors of the 2017 Horizon Report K12 edition as having immediate or imminent 2-5 years) impact on teaching and learning. What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the identified technologies, or did they miss something more significant?

Listen to “#30: What’s On the Horizon?” on Spreaker.

Shut…Up

Shut Up

A recent conversation about interactive whiteboards with an administrator had me suddenly feeling and responding a bit  Gary Stager-ishly. While I don’t quite hold IWBs to the same level of disdain as does the esteemed Dr. Stager, I find myself moving more to his point of view and growing consistently less tolerant of the type of teaching such technologies almost inevitably fertilize, that of the teacher-expert-lecturer standing in the classroom spotlight, seeking to fill students’ brains with some pre-determined list of important facts. Listening to Robert Wolk’s Wasting Minds yesterday as I drove to Austin, the author brought up the question of what we are actually here for. Is it to ensure students have a prescribed brain-load of knowledge and skills needed to ensure acceptance to the college of their choosing? Or, is it to create thinkers and problem solvers who can successfully navigate, respond to, and, when needed, even change the world? The best approach to teaching is radically different, depending upon which answer you subscribe to. As for me, I wholeheartedly believe in the latter, and it is what I want for my own children. As such, I want to offer some advice I wish I had been given as a rookie teacher 23 years ago: shut up. Our kids don’t need you constantly standing in front of the room (with or without that $2000 technological marvel hanging on your wall), dazzling them with all you have to share. They need you setting the table for learning by getting them interested, supplying them with the tools for learning, listening to their questions, directing and redirecting as needed, and modelling what a real learner looks like. You might be the foremost expert on plate tectonics, or the Constitution, or whatever, but think back to your own schooling for a minute. What was the most memorable learning experience of your school life? Was it an amazing, inspired lecture? Or, was it an engaging act of discovery, where you can barely remember the role of the teacher? What do you recall? What are your thoughts on the matter?

Oh, and I apologize for the title–I know it probably makes elementary folks cringe. 😉

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunciti_sundaram/8070622700

New Podcast: Innovation Ready Questions

In this episode, I’m talking about the types of questions our students ask in the classroom, and how we can encourage them to ask better, deeper, more probing questions. These types of questions are often open-ended in nature and encourage our kids to experiment, create things, break things open, and ask still more questions. Examples might be:

  • What if we had a serious earthquake here?
  • Why do people bully one another?
  • Can we make the traffic pattern around our school safer and more efficient?
  • Could we make our classroom warmer without using more electricity?
  • How does my phone send text messages?
  • Could I make my own device to send messages?

As always, I look forward to your responses (even the ones that disagree!).

What’s Taking Us So Long?

The pace of educational change is frustrating.

The pace of educational change is frustrating.

Dean Shareski, an educator friend whose ideas I highly respect, recently shared a post  on his blog entitled “Why Teachers Aren’t Making ‘The Shifts'”. His post was in response to an earlier post by Will Richardson, one of my earliest ed-tech influences, entitled “My Summer of Confusion“. The two posts both address the issue of a lack of change in most classrooms, despite increasing resources and evidence supporting such changes. Why do so many teachers attend conferences, read articles, or hear in the teachers lounge about amazing, innovative practices, yet fail to implement any significant changes in their own practices? Here are a causes of this inertia that I took from each blog post.

Will:

  • Many teachers and administrators lack a clear vision of what teaching and learning, particularly with technology, should be.
  • Educators lack the technology experiences needed to take those tools and skills and put them to work.
  • Educators don’t do enough to stay abreast of the “latest research, technologies, and news that impact learning.”
  • Resistance to change as a by-product of defending the old system against corporate reform efforts–a bunker mentality.

Dean:

  • Lack of autonomy.
  • Demands on educators’ time are just too great.
  • Inadequate or misguided teacher training–teachers are told by “experts” who have done the legwork what to teach and how. They need time to work through what that means in their own classes.
  • Some (a small percentage) teachers are just more prone to change like this than others, for a variety of reasons.

So much to discuss there, but I’ll just touch on a couple and add a little to the discussion. The vision, experiences, and research are intertwined. As Dean touched on so well, they are also time-consuming. I am fortunate to have a job that encourages me to do all of these things. I do a great deal of the vision building on my own time, reading blogs, tech sites, magazines, and engaging in professional conversations outside of school hours. But I don’t sleep enough, either, so it’s probably taking years off of my life. Seriously, Not everyone can or wants to devote significant portions of their own time to grow professionally. Families, recreation, and other demands do matter greatly. I believe, therefore, it is critical to build in much more time for professional learning, planning, collaboration, and vision building during the school day. The US falls behind most other high-performing countries in the amount of time devoted to growing its teaching pros. In the highly respected educational system in Finland, teachers devote less than 600 hours per year to actual teaching, versus 1,600 for US teachers. Much more time is devoted to research, professional collaboration, mentoring, etc. Singapore provides 100 hours  of PD each year, plus 20 hours/week for co-planning, observing other teachers teaching, etc. Here in the US, we talk about longer school days and years and rarely discuss the role of time for learning and collaboration as a route to improvement.

Inquiry learning works for adults, too!

Inquiry learning works for adults, too!

Dean’s reflections on the typical nature and quality of his professional development sessions are important. Think about what we know about the ways kids (people) learn best: inquiry, problem solving, and discovery. This is precisely the opposite of most technology PD, at least most that I’ve delivered over the last 11 years. I, the expert, have done my extensive legwork, developed my vision, and attempted to impart it to the willing masses. Interestingly, however, some of my favorite professional development sessions have been the few where I’ve asked questions, guided teachers to the resources and tools they needed to answer the questions in their own way, then sat back and watched professionals get after it. I have, admittedly, not conducted research into how the “stickiness” of these sessions compared to more traditional ones. I did read the very positive post-session surveys, however, and I suspect that the sessions probably produced greater levels of change than my standard fare.

I would add but one thing to Dean’s and Will’s fantastic assessments: administrator influence. Administrators have an enormously powerful influence over how teachers do what they do. First of all, administrators in schools where teachers are making exciting changes encourage teachers to take well-educated risks. If you’ve researched it, can reasonably demonstrate that it should have positive effects, then do it. It doesn’t matter that it hasn’t been done in their schools before–change and risk are welcome (and even exciting). Administrators who feel the need to have their hands in every move made by their employees or to enforce a one-size-fits all, misguided philosophy of teaching and learning, will likely never see innovation in their classrooms. Additionally, and I’ve said it before, administrators who are using technologies in powerful ways in their own lives and work will encourage others to do so. Administrators I have seen who fit this description show up with the new Galaxy or iPhone the day after release, are rarely seen without a smartphone or iPad in hand, tend to mix it up with how they share information (YouTube channels/videos, streaming, Prezi instead of a PowerPoint, shared Google Docs, etc.), and they actually attend technology-focused professional development sessions.

This is a vital discussion. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what we know is possible and what we know is happening, and it shows glacially-slow signs of changing. I don’t purport to have the answers down, just a few insights from a long time in the business of trying to foster change. What are your thoughts? What IS taking us so long? What do we need to do differently, or possibly throw out entirely?

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/52748818@N07/4995276801;
http://www.flickr.com/photos/andercismo/2349098787

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