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What does this say about us as learners?

A 2nd grade teacher told me – without any seeming embarrassment – that her students knew more about their iPads than she did. I thought in my head, ‘Really? They’re 7…’

As educators, shouldn’t we be embarrassed if we’re getting outlearned by 7-year-olds? (or 15-year-olds?)

See also Struggling with educators’ lack of technology fluency and “I’m not good at math.” “I’m not very good at computers.”

If the kids know more than we do

 

Robot alligators

Lego Alligator

I spent this morning at the Maker Tech Camp at Edwards Elementary here in Ames. Teresa Green is an innovative teacher who received a grant from the district last year to purchase various ‘maker’ resources. Since then she has been busy putting them and her students to work!

Today’s activity for the 2nd and 3rd graders was to build a Lego alligator and have it chomp down when it sensed a finger or pencil in its mouth. The students had to build the alligator – including the motion sensor – and then figure out how to use the Lego WeDo software to code it correctly. The Team Neutrino First Robotics student helpers from Ames High were of great assistance. My favorite kid quote from today was

We sent a message to the alligator and then the alligator said ‘Oh, I can do that!’

Other camp activities this week appeared to include making LED bookmarks, learning circuitry by playing with Makey Makey and other electronics, creating objects with the 3D printer, and goofing around with robots. Teresa and I talked about a lot of different things while I was there, including how to sell others on the educational value of this kind of learning, how to be less directive and enable the kids to explore more, and what ‘maker days’ have looked like at other elementary schools across Iowa. Teresa also shared with me that the Science Center of Iowa is hosting ‘maker chats’ on Twitter every other Tuesday evening this summer at 7pm CST using the #iamakerchat hashtag.

This is always good stuff. More of this, please.

When students develop learning objectives based on the standards

Steve Carroll said:

When we transitioned to Common Core we did an unpacking the standards process. More importantly, after we got through that process, we started a backwards design where we developed questions and learning objectives based upon the standards themselves and then translated that into assessment. Probably the biggest gains came after we let students start developing learning objectives based on the standards. We would actually give the students the standards and ask them, ‘What would you have to be able to do show mastery of this?’ The students themselves developed learning objectives.

via http://hechingerreport.org/lessons-from-the-principal-of-a-kentucky-school-that-went-from-one-of-the-worst-to-one-of-the-best-under-common-core

When I understand it, why do I have to repeat it twenty times?

Again and again

Students said:

“The teachers used to talk at us all the time, non-stop, but they never actually spoke to us.”

“Can you remember what it feels like to sit at a desk for a whole class, just listening? Have you any idea how much I just want to scream?”

“So, I get the practice part of homework, but when I understand the concept or idea the first time, why do I have to repeat it twenty times? Who made that the magic number of knowing?”

Mike Crowley said:

The truth is that we intuitively know what the word personal means and we understand that in order to make learning personal we need to make connections with young people, we need to make learning meaningful in contexts that are relevant to their current and future lives, and we need to stop doing things that we innately know no longer make sense. Young people want to do math and science, not observe it; they want to write for real audiences on blogs, not write the autobiography of a pencil; they want to address real-world problems in society today, not memorise the past; they want to create, explore, build, move, and express themselves and, most of all, they want to grow in an unshackled environment. Being talked at, sitting passively, engaging in rote learning – the vestiges of a pre-digital past – are no longer acceptable. There is no need for debate here. Our students are no longer listening. For them, learning is only ever personal, and, in order to engage them, to really help them grow, we need to keep the words of Alice in mind: “No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”

via http://crowleym.com/2015/05/10/gyre-gimble-fool-whats-the-point-of-school

If you’re good, you get to watch a movie. If not, you have to read.

Reading

Jennifer Bradley said:

The fourth grade classes also held an end of the school year movie and party. Students were allowed to choose between 4 classrooms with 4 different movies, but there was a catch. They had to pay for admission and snacks, and admission cost 10 ‘good behavior’ tickets. Students who did not have enough tickets were to be sent to a separate room to read.

via http://beyondthestoplight.com/2015/06/09/317

Leaving aside for now the very idea of ‘good behavior’ tickets, why is this school sending the message that reading is what you have to do if you weren’t good often enough?

Image credit: Yellow, Sizumaru

The core of education needs to take into account the people that are in it

Sir Ken Robinson said:

[The standards movement is] well intentioned to raise standards, but the mistake it makes is that it fails to recognize that education is not a mechanical impersonal process that can improved by tweaking standards and regularly testing. . . . It’s a human process. It’s real people going through the system and whether the system takes into account who they are, what engages them, isn’t incidental. It is the core of what education is.

By the time [kids] are educated I want them to come out knowing what they are personally good at and interested in, what their strengths are and where they might like to go after school. I want them to feel confident that they can face the challenges that life will throw at them and they can begin to make their way to become productive members of the community.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/21/sir-ken-robinson-has-a-lot-to-say-about-u-s-school-reform-it-isnt-good

Asking students to work in complete isolation

Sitting alone

Joe Bower said:

I would never ask students to complete anything that is worth doing in complete isolation from their peers, parents, books, or the Internet. I’ve worked hard to encourage my students to see collaboration as a critical characteristic of learning.

Alfie Kohn reminds us that, “I want to see what you can do not what your neighbour can do” is really just code for “I want to see what you can do artificially deprived of the skills and help of the people around you. Rather than seeing how much more you can accomplish in a well-functioning team that’s more authentic like real life.”

In the real world, there simply aren’t that many times you are expected to solve a problem or perform a task in complete isolation – and even if you were, it would be awfully archaic to refuse you the opportunity to reach out for the help you needed to get the task done.

via http://www.joebower.org/2015/05/3-reasons-why-albertas-provincial.html

Image credit: Sitting Alone, naraekim0801

Taking an advanced course should not be synonymous with copious amounts of homework

High school student Carolyn Walworth said:

It is time to rethink the way we teach students. It is time to reevaluate and enforce our homework policy. It is time to impose harsher punishments upon teachers who do not comply with district standards such as not assigning homework during finals review time. It is time we wake up to the reality that Palo Alto students teeter on the verge of mental exhaustion every single day. It is time to realize that we work our students to death. It is time to hold school officials accountable. Right now is the time to act.

Effective education does not have to correlate to more stress. Taking an advanced course should not be synonymous with copious amounts of homework. Challenging oneself academically and intellectually should be about just that — a mental challenge which involves understanding concepts at a deeper level. The ever increasing intertwinement between advanced courses and excessive homework baffles me; indeed, I would say that it only demonstrates our district’s shortcomings

via http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2015/03/25/guest-opinion-the-sorrows-of-young-palo-altans

Option 3: Actually USE the smartphones

Door sign: Cell phone prohibited

Murphy & Beland’s recent study is making the rounds online, particularly among those who are eager to find reasons to ban learning technologies in classrooms. The economists found that banning mobile phones helped improve student achievement on standardized test scores, with the biggest gains seen by low-achieving and at-risk students. Here are my thoughts on this…

The outcome measure is standardized test score improvement. Is that all you care about or do you have a bigger, more complex vision for student learning? For instance, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving are difficult to assess with a standardized test. Most schools I know didn’t adopt their learning technology initiatives for the sole purpose of test score improvement. (if they did, how sad is that?)

The accepted dichotomy in this study and the media seems to be 1) doing low-level knowledge work while smartphones are banned, or 2) doing low-level knowledge work while smartphones are present (and, presumably, distracting). Neither of these two options addresses the fact that decontextualized, low-level work isn’t very interesting or engaging to many (most?) students, particularly those who already find that traditional schooling doesn’t meet their needs very well. So, faced with the opportunity to do something else, many students do. Youth today aren’t any different than when we were young and adults made snarky, woeful comments about us. They just have different opportunities and resources. How many times were you bored in high school? Lots, so admit that if you’d had access to a smartphone or your friends on Facebook back then, you would have turned that way too. I know that I sure would have. Let’s stop blaming students and/or demonizing technology as an evil succubus and address the real problem, which is disengaging learning environments. The solution to that problem is not to try and force students to pay attention to and comply with our boring lessons. That’s not teaching students ‘grit.’ That’s an indictment of our failure to differently imagine learning and teaching.

How about a third option, that of doing higher-level learning and USING the smartphones to help with that? That sounds pretty good to me. Why isn’t this ever brought up as an option to be considered?

Image credit: Cell phone prohibited, SmartSign

Test prep works

Bubble test

Sarah Blaine said:

ten years into private practice, I don’t draw on my two months of intensive bar test prep to advise my clients or manage my work. I don’t rely on essay formulas to craft my briefs, and of course I have never encountered an MBE-style multiple choice question. But the thing is… PMBR and BAR/BRI worked. Test prep works. Test prep taught me to immerse myself in the logic of the test-makers, and how to effectively game the system to achieve my goal: a passing score.

The fact that test prep works is what scares me as a public school parent, because as a parent I know that my child’s standardized test scores tell me virtually nothing about whether she’s actually mastered the academic skills she needs for a successful future.

My two months of bar test prep taught me that mass-produced bar prep can successfully raise scores: my MBE score skyrocketed when I left my inquisitiveness, curiosity, and thoughtfulness at the door, and instead immersed myself completely in the test-makers’ logic. I was willing to engage in two months of intensive test-prep because the stakes were so high: I could have lost my new job for failing the bar. Test prep was a means to an end, and it was an end I wanted (passing the bar so I could begin my career as a litigator at a large law firm), so I was willing to spend (my firm’s) money and my time on the commercial test prep courses. Thankfully, though, our (generally tenured) law school professors focused on preparing us for the practice of law, and not on preparing us for a soon-to-be-forgotten standardized test.

But what will my child gain from devoting 9 of her 13 years of public education to test prep? She might become a genius at immersing herself in the logic of the test makers, but will she learn to write purposefully and well? Will she learn to creatively attack a problem? Will she learn empathy and art appreciation and history and how to work as a member of a team?

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/24/why-its-so-scary-that-test-prep-works

Image credit: Bubble World, Benjamin Chun

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