Tag Archives: learning

The dangers of a single story

Nadia Behizadeh said:

If a child does not perform well on [one timed large-scale assessment essay], there will be a single story told about this student: he/she has below basic skills in writing, or maybe even far below basic skills. Yet this same student may be a brilliant poet or have a hundred pages of a first novel carefully stowed in his/her backpack. However, when a single story of deficiency is repeated again and again to a student, that student develops low writing self-efficacy and a poor self-concept of himself/herself as a writer. . . . [T]he danger of the single story is the negative effect on students when one piece of writing on a decontextualized prompt is used to represent writing ability. (pp. 125-126)

via http://edr.sagepub.com/content/43/3/125

Thinkers v. producers

Think sign

In How Children Fail, John Holt makes the following distinction:

  • producers - students who are only interested in getting right answers, and who make more or less uncritical use of rules and formulae to get them
  • thinkers – students who try to think about the meaning, the reality, of whatever it is they are working on

A great question to ask ourselves: What is the ratio of thinkers to producers in our school(s)? In most schools, I’m guessing the ratio is fairly small, even for our high-achieving students.

Another great question to ask ourselves: What is an average school day like for those students in our school(s) who ARE thinkers?

Image credit: Think!, florriebassingbourn

Replication or empowerment?

Let go

We’ve got to decide if our vision for educational technology is around replication or empowerment. And if it’s about empowerment, then guess what? We’ve got to give up the things that we do that feed replication. We can’t hang on to all of those and get to where we’re trying to go.

What are we going to give up? 

Image credit: Let go, Andrew Mitchell

60 apps in 60 seconds

[In honor of whatever educational technology conference you next attend...]

30 fantastic free apps for pre-readers! 38 of the best elementary learning apps for students! 40 iPad apps for science! 60 APPS IN 60 MINUTES!!!!

60 apps in 60 minutes? Pshaw! WAY too easy. I proudly present… 60 apps in 60 seconds!

How many sessions like these have we seen at educational technology conferences? (fess up: how many have we delivered?!) Teachers attend, they scribble notes madly, they ask for the slides afterward because “they missed some.” The long-term substantive impact of these spray-and-pray workshops on teachers’ day-to-day practice? Zero.

If we want people to start taking instructional technology seriously, we have to stop doing this to ourselves. How about one app – or perhaps a very small handful in combination – presented thoughtfully and deeply, with numerous applications to rich, robust student learning outcomes?

This presentation? I guarantee the same classroom results as all of our other firehose sessions…

Music credits: Rock 12, by dron

‘World-class’ teacher preparation

Shelley Krause

When I work with educators, I get asked on a regular basis, “What about the universities? What are they doing to prepare educators who can facilitate technology-infused learning environments that emphasize deeper cognitive complexity and greater student agency?” Unfortunately, I don’t have much to offer them.

I’m not up on all of the thousands of preparation programs that are out there but, as I think about the shifts that we need to see in schools (and the new building blocks that we need to put in place), at a minimum any teacher preparation program that wanted to label itself ‘world-class’ would be able to affirmatively say the following…

Our graduates know…

Project- and inquiry-based learning

  • how to operate in student-driven, not just teacher-created, project-oriented learning environments
  • how to facilitate inquiry-based activities like ‘passion projects’ or ‘FedEx days’ or ’20% time’ or ‘genius hour’
  • how to facilitate students’ development as creators, designers, innovators, and entrepreneurs
  • how to integrate communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills into these types of environments

Authentic, real-world work

  • how to organize student work around the big, important concepts central to their discipline
  • how real work gets done by real professionals in that discipline (practices, processes, tools, and technologies)
  • how to find, create, and implement robust, authentic simulations for their subject area
  • how to facilitate and assess authentic performances by students

Standards-based grading and competency-based education

  • how to write and implement a ‘competency’
  • how to help students thrive in a standards-based grading environment
  • how to facilitate learning-teaching systems that focus on mastery rather than seat time (or other dumb criteria)

1:1 computing

  • how to manage and support ubiquitous technology-infused learning spaces
  • how to facilitate student success with digital tools, online systems, and social networks
  • how to help students create appropriate AND empowered ‘digital footprints’

Digital, online, and open access

  • how to leverage digital and online open educational resources to full advantage
  • how to meaningfully curate digital materials in their subject area
  • how to helpfully contribute to our online global information commons (and have students do the same)

Online communities of interest

  • how to utilize online networks and communities of practice to further their professional learning and growth
  • how to meaningfully connect students to relevant online communities of interest for academic and personal development

Adaptive learning systems

  • how to integrate adaptive learning software into students’ learning and assessment
  • how to utilize blended learning environments to individualize and personalize students’ learning experiences (time, place, path, pace)

I think most teacher preparation programs probably fall short of the mark on these, but a program that could say these things about its preservice teachers would be INCREDIBLE.

What do you think? What would you add to this list? More importantly, does anyone know of a teacher preparation program that’s doing well in some / many / most of these areas?

‘Closed’ v. ‘open’ systems of knowing

Teaching As a Subversive Activity

I am rereading Teaching As a Subversive Activity, which is a phenomenal book if you haven’t read it. About halfway through the book, Postman and Weingartner discuss ‘closed’ versus ‘open’ systems of knowledge:

A closed system is one in which the knowables are fixed. Examples of this kind of system would include any in which most of its answers are either yes or no, right or wrong, clearly and without any other possibility. (p. 116)

Open systems may be thought of as situations in which there are degrees of ‘rightness,’ and in which a right answer today may well be a wrong answer tomorrow. (p. 117)

Most of what we do in school falls under the description of a ‘closed’ system. There is typically a right answer, the teacher (or the textbook or the learning software) knows it, and it’s up the student to ‘learn’ it and then spit it back correctly: Describe the water cycle. If 4x2 + 3 = 39, what is x? What is the capital of Delaware? 

In life, however, much of what we do falls under the description of an ‘open’ system. We ask questions and make choices and devise solutions that seem right at the time given the particular context: What major should I choose? Should I look for a new job? Is she the one with whom I want to spend the rest of my life? Which car is best for our family? At another time, in another context, we might decide and act differently. This is true for both individual- and citizen-/policy-level decisions: Should we try to stop Russia from annexing Crimea? Are ethanol subsidies a good way to reduce our nation’s fuel dependence? Should I vote ‘yes’ for the school district referendum? When should we place limits on free speech?

Many argue that fixed knowledge items such as ’the water cycle’ or ‘4x2 + 3 = 39’ or ‘the capital of Delaware’ are the necessary parts that form a foundation for deeper, more cognitively complex thinking. And that’s often true. But it’s a whole nother matter to treat fixed items of knowledge as sacrosanct or to elevate them to the primary desired outcomes of schooling, particularly given the increasing presence of Internet-enabled learning contexts in which such items are easily and quickly accessible. Instead of treating content retention and procedural thinking as foundational floors from which we then build larger, more important edifices of learning, we have made them into almost-impermeable ceilings that drive teaching, curriculum, and assessment.

To fully prepare most students for life – and, arguably, to reengage many of them in the learning, not just social, aspects of their schooling – they need greater immersion in open systems of learning where questions are raised, answers aren’t fixed, and solutions are often contextual. This is true for all grade levels, not just secondary. So far most schools don’t do a great job with this. Instead, what schools usually do

in effect [is] to make closed systems of largely open ones. (p. 117)

We take areas of knowledge like science or government or language or health and we set them in stone – “yes or no, right or wrong, clearly and without any other possibility” – instead of bravely facing them – as they are in real life – as open opportunities for discussion, inquiry, problem-solving, and, yes, divergent learning and knowing.

A tremendous challenge for us as educators and policymakers is to stop reducing learning to convergent, ‘closed’ models of knowing and instead embrace the power and potential of more ‘open’ systems of knowledge and inquiry. This challenge is worth taking on because

very few problems of any great significance can be answered if they are approached from a ‘closed’-system point of view. (p. 117)

And goodness knows we have innumerable problems of great significance that would benefit from some fresh thinking…

Picking right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity

Leon Botstein says:

The essential mechanism of the SAT, the multiple choice test question, is a bizarre relic of long outdated twentieth century social scientific assumptions and strategies. As every adult recognizes, knowing something or how to do something in real life is never defined by being able to choose a “right” answer from a set of possible answers (some of them intentionally misleading) put forward by faceless test designers who are rarely eminent experts. No scientist, engineer, writer, psychologist, artist, or physician – and certainly no scholar, and therefore no serious university faculty member – pursues his or her vocation by getting right answers from a set of prescribed alternatives that trivialize complexity and ambiguity.

via http://time.com/15199/college-president-sat-is-part-hoax-and-part-fraud

No wonder nobody wants to come

The ABC of Animals vintage children's book

Ira Socol says:

If your school, and your school day, is not about students collaborating, connecting, and building knowledge and understandings together, why would anyone come?

Serious question. If students want to learn in isolation; if they want to sit at a desk and work on their own stuff, occasionally checking in with an “expert,” they have no reason to come to school. They can do a lot better at home, or at their local coffee shop, or even the public library, where both the coffee and the WiFi connection will be better.

[A] vast assortment of educators, from that crusty old mathematics teacher … [to] Salman Khan, believe that kids sitting alone, working by themselves, with canned, inflexible data in front of them, is the best preparation for life in the present and future.

Somehow, these educators think the information of the world still moves via paper and pencil, that there are “correct answers” to everything, and that there is a structured cultural norm of learning behavior, best exemplified by the silent child bent over a wooden desk with a thick physical book, which must be duplicated if a student is to succeed in their learning spaces.

No wonder nobody wants to come.

via http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2011/09/if-school-isnt-for-collaborating-why.html

Image credit: The ABC of Animals

Containers [SLIDE]

Containers

Grades, subjects, and time have been the containers in schools. The Web has no end.

Download this file: png pptx

See also my other slides, my Pinterest collection, and the Great Quotes About Learning and Change Flickr pool.

Quote: Dean Shareski
Image credit: Endless, ScypaxPictures

Blab schools

Here’s a video about Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy, a direct instruction school in Colorado that uses tightly-scripted lessons:

“I was reading something about Abraham Lincoln and they said that he attended ‘blab schools,’ that all the students would answer with one voice, and it just made me chuckle because that’s what a direct instruction class sounds like.”

This is an awesome format for creating compliant followers. Yes, ma’am! Whatever you say, ma’am! It’s like North Korea…

More memorized student chanting here if you’re interested. Also compare this with the Relay Graduate School of Education video I shared last week. #dreambigger

Hat tip: David Price

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