Archive for September 2012
In the world of educational technology, we often hear Pedagogy Before the Technology. hmmmm . . . really? Then why are there so many 60 tool in 60 minutes presentations? Lists of 100 Web 2.0 tools and apps found on the Internet? This presentation is my attempt to actually put pedagogy (and the students) before the technology. It is my 14 Tweets or my own truths about teaching and learning. I love Twitter as good tweets are like sound bites of wisdom. These are my truths about educational reform (a little t as they are subjective as opposed to the big universal Truths, the big Ts).
Teachers often demonstrate through their own practices that they teach the way they were taught – lectures, tests, maybe some group discussion thrown in. I am on a mission to encourage educators to teach not the way they were taught but the way they wished they were taught . . . better yet, maybe practicing the Platinum rule. The platinum rule extends the golden rule beyond treat others the way you want to be treated. It states that we should treat others the way that they want to be treated. So maybe educators should work with their learners in creating classrooms the learners would want.
, , , and seriously, who would select lectures and reading textbooks as their primary and only sources of learning something new?
I also want to encourage educators to teach using models, techniques, and strategies based on the educational philosophies that they admire; that they profess allegiance
. . . Student-centered?
. . . Progressive?
. . . Constructivist?
. . . based on the works of Dewey? of Montessori?
Most of public schools and many classrooms are essentialist. Essentialism ensures that the accumulated wisdom of our civilization as taught in the traditional academic disciplines is passed on from teacher to student. Such disciplines might include Reading, Writing, Literature, Foreign Languages, History, Mathematics, Science, Art, and Music (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_essentialism).
My moral compass doesn’t point to forcing students to learn, know, be tested on a pre-determined body of knowledge. Does yours?
. . . and as I tell pre-service teachers, “Never forget why you became a teacher in the first place. Keep this mind as all of the politics, fads, and mandates, typical of public education flow all around you.”
What follows is my ideas about what education should look, feel, sound like in this era of learning. I include questions along with these small-t truths. They have been designed as a type of self-inventory (for me but I am inviting you along for the ride). Approach the questions in a way that works for you. Some may confirm what you do, others may challenge you, and still others may not apply.
Our culture is information-rich (Shirky), connected (Siemens), participatory (Jenkins), creative (Florida). Given the affordances of technology, we live in a time that is significantly and qualitatively different than when many teachers went to school.
- Does the physical setting of your classroom reflect a participatory, creative, connected, information-rich culture? Is your classroom flexible and creative allowing changes to reflect the different learning tasks rather than having desks and seats set up in rows facing the teacher
- Is your classroom an open portal – open to people, visitors, social networks? Are your classroom walls permeable allowing persons of interest to enter; allowing students to visit persons of interest?
The Internet has created a generation of engaged learners. They expect that their educations (not necessarily their schooling) contain elements of real time and authentic information and connection.
- Do you permit and encourage real-time, immediate, as-needed access to online content?
- Do you encourage your learners to use Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Social Networks?
- . . . allowing students to do so on their own devices?
Learning networks have always existed with groups of people organizing around their interests and passions focusing on books, games, sports, etc. One of the greatest gifts we could offer our learners is how to find, join, and interact with their own personal learning communities – both online and face-to-face.
- Do you assist your learners in finding, joining, and interacting with their own personal learning communities – to find their own online and face-to-face tribes?
Maybe the Google 80/20 should be applied to schooling . . . but in a reverse . . . 80% pursuing one’s own passion-based learning and the other 20% getting a liberal arts education. The ultimate payoff for participation in self-determined, passion-based learning communities is gaining expertise in one’s area of interest. . . a natural and powerful form of intrinsic motivation.
- Do you have forums for learners to showcase their skills and passions?
The educator should be an ethnographer of his-her students. Educators should know the background, interests, passions, antagonizers of every student. They should study their learners from the lens of a cultural anthropologist viewing each one as the unique human being he or she is.
- Do you know the background, interests, passions, antagonizers of your learners?
Have me watch a video, I forget; Ask me do an online interactive, I remember; Let me to produce and create, I learn. This is a modern take of the old Confucius saying, What I see I forget, What I hear I remember, What I do I Know, but the same cautions apply in what learning activities are asked of students. If the learners are not producing and generating more content than the educator, then the educator is doing something wrong.
- Do your learners produce and create every time you “meet?”
- Do your learners produce as much or more of their learning materials as they consume?
The educator is no longer the gatekeeper to information. In the past, systems of education had a responsibility to suggest and provide access to knowledge believed to be worth knowing. The Internet has opened up these systems so everyone who has access to the Internet has access to knowledge. Educators should view themselves as class facilitators, offering and suggesting learning activities, but asking students to be responsible for their actual learning.
- Do your learners work harder than you during meeting times?
The educator should be a tour guide of learning possibilities . . . showing learners the possibilities and then getting out of the way. The key becomes getting out of the way. Often, even with the best intentions, educators often attempt to direct the students’ learning process. This may have a paradoxical effect; creating obstacles for students to gain the knowledge and skills that the educator is actually trying to teach.
- Do your learners interact more with other students, professionals, web materials, and hands-on materials than with you?
A goal of all educators should be to provide students with transferable life skills. The ability to take tests is not one of them. Human learning is often complex, multifaceted, and idiosyncratic so to attempt to quantify it, often to a single number, diminishes and minimizes this incredible experience. Plus, learners aren’t going to remember you for the worksheets and tests given
- Do you use authentic assessments that provide ongoing and continuous feedback to learners about their performance?
The map is not the territory; the destination is not the journey; the people are more than the community. The map is not the territory. Maps give us the illusion that they represent the entire territory. The only was a map could accurately represent a territory is if it were the exact size of that territory and it included all of the geographical landmarks of that territory.
A similar illusion has evolved in education. There is a belief that the curriculum maps, lesson plans, and teaching scripts are the territory, that all there needs to be known can be taught with these “maps”. Just like geographic maps, curriculum and lesson plans are inaccurate and incomplete maps of what can be learned and known. Learning can be guided by curricular maps but there is an expectation of digressions, exploration of alternatives, and at times, throwing out the map altogether (http://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/learning-on-the-edge/).
- Do you step away from your lessons plans and established curriculum to jump onto those teachable moments?
The map is not the territory; the destination is not the journey; the people are more than the community. The education system is one based on production – producing outcome-based learning; producing good test scores; producing good (compliant?) citizens. Ironically, this era of anytime, anywhere learning has initiated an even stronger need to emphasize the process of learning rather than the outcome of learning.
- Do you focus as much or more on process of learning as the products and outcomes?
The map is not the territory; the destination is not the journey; the people are more than the community. It’s more about the connection than about the content. Learning is promoted by heart-to-heart connections. What this means is that building community – a sense of belonging is important but at the same time recognizing the unique qualities and strengths of each individual within that community.
- Do learners leave at the end of day saying, “I was happy I was here. I enjoyed being with my co-learners today?”
- Do you not only build community but also allow for independence, individuality, uniqueness of thought?
For some of the more creative kids, their creativity will help them survive their standardized school years. For others, this standardization crushes their passions, spirits, joy. The biggest ethical travesty of our schools is extinguishing a child’s passion, spirit, zest for learning. Making children into widgets or testing commodities is especially tragic is this time where every person has an opportunity to have a voice and have an audience for that voice.
- Do you encourage student voice in all its forms – speech, writing, drawings, and media creation?
Everyone can achieve some form of greatness. My wish for each person is that s/he gets a standing ovation for an extraordinary act. One of my missions as an educator is to set up the conditions for my learners to do so.
- Do you set up the conditions for your learners to be great?
- Do you set a climate for learners to be kind, concerned, passionate, compassionate?
What will you do to be and live the legacy you want to leave in the world?
I absolutely have no idea why educational institutions use tests to presumably measure student learning. I believe that tests provide an illusion that something has been learned, one that all stakeholders; teachers, administrators, parents, and students, themselves, have bought into.
I do not give tests. I have taught undergraduate and graduate level college, gifted elementary students, middle school physical science and K-8 PE; and never give paper and pencil tests. One of my missions as an educator is to provide students with transferable life skills. I do not believe that the ability to take tests is one of them. Would a vast majority of learners say . . . “Wow, I can’t wait, we get to take tests at school today.” “I found that test totally engaging. I was in a state of flow”
Prior to going forward, let me clearly state that I believe that are qualitative differences between assessment, measure, and tests. I think that feedback and assessment are important aspects of the learning cycle, but am unclear how tests, in their traditional form, provide students with feedback that lead to increased personal performance. Human learning is often complex, multifaceted, and idiosyncratic so to attempt to quantify it, often to a single number, really diminishes and minimizes this incredible experience.
As Cathy Davidson discussed in How Do We Measure What Really Counts In The Classroom?
Education has not yet moved past the standardized assessment, which was invented in 1914. Frederick Kelly, a doctoral student in Kansas, was looking for a mass-produced way to address a teacher shortage caused by World War I. If Ford could mass produce Model T’s, why not come up with a test for “lower order thinking” for the masses of immigrants coming into America just as secondary education was made compulsory and all the female teachers were working in factories while their men went to the European front? Even Kelly was dismayed when his emergency system, which he called the Kansas Silent Reading Test, was retained after the war ended. By 1926, a variation of Kelly’s test was adopted by the College Entrance Examination Board as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The rest is history.
But because the No Child Left Behind national law began requiring the standardized tests for all students since 2002, it takes them one to two years to retrain these great students not to think in terms of single-best-answer (multiple choice) options. They have to make them “unlearn” the skill of guessing the best answer from five available ones (a pretty useless skill in the workplace), and begin to “relearn” how to think about what they do or don’t really understand about a situation, who to go to in order to find out, and what they need to do to have the best results. In other words, whether we are 1st or 17th, we’re failing at testing what we really value in the workplace. There is an extreme mismatch between what we value and how we count.
Leon Nevfakh, in a Boston Globe article, discusses the implications of the Harvard cheating scandal in What to test instead
Being successful in today’s world, as we all now recognize, requires more than an ability to think quickly and recall facts on command. And our education system has, however fitfully, moved to address those values. The problem is that our tests still lag behind.
“[Historically], the testing industry, because it was pragmatic, only tested what it was easy to test,” said James Paul Gee, a professor at Arizona State University. “But as a parent, I don’t want you to just test what’s easy to test, I want you to test what’s important to test.”
In terms of developing more authentic assessments, Nevfakh notes:
Using new testing ideas like computer simulations, games, and stealth monitoring, they are trying to take what they believe is a huge and necessary leap—changing the test as we know it from a fixed measurement of what a student can remember on a particular day, to something far more dynamic and informative.
The researchers at the forefront of test design also have a bigger dream, rooted in the idea that tests aren’t just a static part of education, but can actively shape what teachers teach and what students learn. If you can really build smarter, more sophisticated tests, they say, you can change education itself.
I am in the process of designing and teaching a graduate course on Social Networked Learning. For the third module, the educators in the course are to go out and seek their own professional development opportunities based on their own grade level and content area interests.
This prompted me to revisit my ideas surrounding user-generated education – the inspiration for and title of this blog. A few years ago, I facilitated a conversation about user-generated education for EduCon. It was fueled by the idea that this era of learning in the 21st century should be student-centric and user-generated. An extensive list of videos, articles, and text resources on this topic can be found at http://jackiegerstein.wikispaces.com/User-Generated+Education.
This Educon conversation originated from my confusion as to why public school education is still be driven by educational essentialism when knowledge is in abundance via the Internet and when educators are no longer the gatekeepers of knowledge. Mimi Ito and others have described, in their research, how young people are getting online to connect and find others with similar interests, how they seem to be learning more in their informal learning environments than in their more formal school environments.
The urgent need to reimagine education grows clearer by the day. Research has shown that too many students are disengaged and alienated from school, and see little or no purpose to their education. Business leaders say there is a widening gap between the skills of the workforce and the needs of businesses seeking competitive advantage. Additionally, technology and the networked era threatens to stretch the already-wide equity gap in education unless there is decisive intervention and a strong public agenda (http://connectedlearning.tv/connected-learning-principles).
The major purpose of school, most would agree, is to learn. As such and given the rich array of resources available via networked learning, the time is ripe for a student-centric, progressive education. Some educators have proposed addressing this gap with Google 20% Projects and FedEx Days at school. But school is not/should not be work (aka employment). The Google Rule should be turned on its head with 80% of the time students pursuing their own interests and passions with educators acting in the role of mentors, facilitators and coaches. 20% of the other time could be spent engaging in a liberal arts education.
Given this 80% time to pursue their passions, learners could have the opportunity to become experts in their areas of interests/fields; finding resources, web links, and videos; remixing and mashing them up to gain a personal and deep meaning; and then sharing their resources, findings, and projects with their classmates. So many “needs” would be met . . .
- Students would learn the process of how to learn, how to find reputable resources, how to report their findings.
- Students would find their tribes.
- Students in their face-to-face learning environments would learn about the diversity of other student interests, possibly finding new passions and interests in the process.