My take-away from the article and the different videos is pretty simple: everyone knows we are educating wrong, but everyone is staying very theoretical about how to solve this problem. Our disciplines (subjects) are important, but they are stifling. Our education system educates out creativity, but creativity is needed to be successful. We need people to be willing to be wrong, but we created a system in which an ‘A’ are everything. People are only motivated intrinsically, yet the education system does not offer intrinsic motivation.
It is very clear to me what our education system is doing something wrong. Apparently, it is very clear to everyone. Now, here is the tough part, how do we fix it? As long as teachers jobs are based on test scores and college admissions, how are we supposed to “unschool” our students and keep a job?
President Obama released a video in which he discusses that he believes the American education system is “testing” too much. He agrees with Mobley; teachers need to inspire, motivate, and move children forward. Yet, he still feels that there should be some kind of test or standardization. This video was released three weeks before Massachusetts, the strongest ranked state for education in the Union, decided to drop the Common Core and the standard state assessment that went with it. We need to do something to change, but the country’s most recent innovation is clearly failing.
I don’t know how to change policy, but I do know how to change my classroom.
Traditional Learning: I agree that traditional methods don’t work, on the other hand, my middle school students are not yet empowered enough to drive their own learning. I find that a combination of frontal and project based learning creates an environment where they can look to me as a guide, but they know that I don’t have all the answers. If they want to know more, I can help give them the tools to enable them to find out for themselves.
Creativity: I don’t think we need to “unlearn”, I agree with Ken Robinson that we are training students to be non-creative thinkers. I find that when I leave assignments open ended, students come back with the most interesting ways to demonstrate their learning to me. I gave an open ended assignment where students needed to tell me the theme of “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, with three supporting examples from the text. They could not write a paper or create a slideshow. One of my students creates a 3-D “Theme” Cube, with quotes and explanations on various sides. Another pair of students, whom I usually consider weaker in reading comprehension, created a Jeopardy game. They were so fluent in the text during the game that I was blown away.
Permission to be wrong: Finally, I find that giving students the permission to be wrong is so important. In order to do this, you must be honest with them about your own mistakes and failings. One of the common sayings in my class is that, “Even teachers make mistakes.” I feel this creates an environment where they know it is okay to experiment and try new things. I recently started using Quizlet to give our weekly Vocab quizzes. On week two of the new quizzes, the pre-made quiz I used had the answers hidden inside the definitions. I didn’t proof it close enough and gave it to the students. They were fascinated when I explained that I had made a mistake. I wanted to try this new format, but it was clear that I would have to be more careful in the quizzes I chose for the future. In doing so, I empowered them to take a chance, try something new. In order to create a synthesizing and creative mind, we must be willing to explore and experiment. It may not always work out, but you won’t know unless you try.
In this lesson I reviewed, entitled “Google Docs in the Classroom”, Google Docs is being used in a high school English class to create a collaboratively written paper on a text. It is clear that students are engaged, communicating, and focused on finish the task at hand. It is a dynamic and 21st century classroom, but the Technology is only Augmenting a previously existing technique of group work. The lesson is not very “forward” thinking. This case highlights something very important for me. Yes, technology is a key component of a 21st century class, but it does not always need to be center stage. The highlight of this case is clearly Collaboration, which is an essential component of a 21st century class.
This lesson uses 3 of the 4 Cs: Collaboration is clearly a very strong component of this lesson, Critical Thinking is necessary to write the paper, and pivot your thinking per the groups discussions, and Communication is also very key for creating a strong collaborative environment. While it is not a very creative lesson, this is clearly a 21st century classroom that can easily be replicated in any secondary English class. In my middle school class, I use this style of a lesson each time we finish a novel. I would give this lesson a 4 out of 5.
This week, I explored three different WEB 2.0 sites per our ICARE document: Pinterest, Delicious, and Diigo.
I have been a Pinterest use for two years and I am a huge fan. It has a dynamic user interface, it is very intuitive to use, and it has a very precise search feature. I use this often to plan projects for classes. My username on Pinterest is Devorah Avrukin.
Diigo and Delicious: Epic fails. I did not like the user interface of either site. Delicious feels like an old school reddit, which I do not use and have no interest in using. Diigo was too complicated to explore and lost me from the gate. I am a "simple" user, and if there are too many instructions, I am not going to be a fan of you site. Why would I use Diigo, when I can just use Pinterest? My username on both sites is dkavrukin.
Deepening my curriculum: Teaching Up
“Syllabi, examinations, and university admissions criteria were changed to encourage thinking out of the box and risk-taking. Students are now engaged in project work and higher order thinking questions to encourage creativity, independent, and interdependent learning.” Ng Pak Tee from Singapore’s National Institute of Education (Darling-Hammond 185)
In order to have a classroom which embodies the type of educational environment described above, I must deepen my curriculum. I must create projects which foster the creativity and and higher order thinking. What is the best way to do this? In researching, after I just asked myself this question, I discovered a workbook on Edutopia, which encourages teachers to ask three higher order thinking questions per lesson. That is a way that I can begin to build a different kind of classroom. I can then base projects only around these higher order thinking types of questions.
There really isn’t enough time to properly collaborate with my co-teachers. Our school meetings do not allow for the proper engagements, but they are more of the “hit and run” variety spoken of in the section entitled “Use of Time for Improving Teaching” (Darling-Hammond 201). I need to find a way to encourage our meetings to be more collaborative in an effective way. Making to time to encourage teachers to really collaborate, step into each other’s classes and understanding our peer teachers’ curriculums will help us to work together better.
In order to really change the classroom, I have to give my students more ownership. I have to learn to teach them confidence, build their self-esteem, and encourage them to think and not just say what they think I want to hear. If I learn to trust my students, this will help the classroom to change into a more forward thinking, higher order thinking, engaged classroom.