Tag Archives: learning

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

Most educational games teach skills, not thinking

Jordan Shapiro said:

The majority of [learning] games fail because they attempt to teach skills rather than thinking. They focus on retention rather than understanding. They miss the whole reason we should be excited about game-based learning in the first place: because it offers the potential to change the common way we approach teaching and learning. Games can help students improve their critical thinking and problem-solving capabilities while offering clear assessment data that could eliminate our dependency on regurgitation and memorization-based evaluations.

Expressing a similar concept, mathematics learning experts often make a distinction between “procedural fluency” and “mathematical thinking,” or “number sense.” Procedural fluency is just what it sounds like, being competent at executing mathematical procedures – like a human calculator. Mathematical thinking has to do with conceptual understanding. . . . simply put: computers can now do most procedural mathematics and individuals need to focus on learning number sense.

via http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2015/04/27/stanford-study-shows-dramatic-math-improvement-from-playing-video-games-just-10-minutes-per-day

How many of our questions can Google and Siri answer? [SLIDE]

Google and Siri

How many of our questions can Google and Siri answer?

Download this slide: .png .jpg .key .pptx

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

Are they learning or just parroting? [SLIDE]

Parroting

Are they learning or just parroting?

Download this slide: .png .jpg .key .pptx

Image credit: Parrot’s portrait, Patrick Bouquet

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

The problem with ‘any time, any place, any path, any pace’

Any time, any place, any path, any pace

In most online courses and/or ‘adaptive learning systems’ …

  • Students do low-level work at times that are convenient.
  • Students do low-level work from places that are convenient.
  • Students do low-level work on their own, unique path.
  • Students do low-level work at their own, unique pace.

But it’s still low-level work. 

Digitizing, chunking, and algorithmizing worksheet-like learning tasks doesn’t move them out of the domains of factual recall and procedural regurgitation. The modality doesn’t change the substance of the learning task. Until we are willing to address the kinds of work that we ask students to do on a day-to-day basis, not just the delivery mode, the any time, any place, any path, any pace mantra isn’t going to change a thing…

The U.S. has more memorizers

Maths

Jo Boaler said:

data from the 13 million students who took PISA [math] tests showed that the lowest-achieving students worldwide were those who used a memorization strategy – those who thought of math as a set of methods to remember and who approached math by trying to memorize steps. The highest-achieving students were those who thought of math as a set of connected, big ideas.

[wait for it…]

The U.S. has more memorizers than most other countries in the world.

via http://hechingerreport.org/memorizers-are-the-lowest-achievers-and-other-common-core-math-surprises

Image credit: maths, Sean MacEntee

Filling up versus drawing out

Pouring water

Geoffrey Cohen & Sara Goldrick-Rab said:

Many people think that educating a child is akin to filling a cup. Open heads and pour in knowledge, skills, and virtues. This metaphor is seductive because it calls on deeply-held stereotypes that paint poor and minority children as not having enough drive and smarts.

But the original meaning of education is “to draw out,” not to “fill up.” . . . [we] need to create classrooms that draw out what students already have inside them. Often times, current performance underestimates potential.

[We need to address] the dearth of opportunities for teenage students to feel like [they are] respected and valued in the asylum-like settings of many middle and high schools

[We need to address] curricula that prioritize busy work over reflective thinking that awakens students’ curiosity

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/19/what-psychology-tells-us-about-student-achievement-and-how-it-is-ignored

Image credit: mandykoh

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