Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Are You Going To Do?

"Tomorrow you are going to show up and be asked to teach French, Phys. Ed., or Math, something you are not familiar with. What are you going to do?" This was the opening question by Darren Kuropatwa (@dkuropatwa), the most recent presenter in our Internet for Educators class. Our first classroom response was looking it up on YouTube. Personally, my first thought was ask someone who knows. These responses prove a point, knowledge is not linear, it is networked. As a teacher, if knowledge was linear, we would have to learn as students learn in school today; building one concept upon another until we become experts. Instead, we collaborate with each other and experts to building a network of knowledge. If we learn this way, shouldn't we be teaching our students that way as well?

In "the system" of education that we are all familiar with today, collaboration is seen as cheating. We evaluate each student as an individual, while in real life it's more important that students know where to go to find information they need to know. To allow ALL our students to succeed individually, we as teachers adapt and modify the curriculum. Frankly, I think this is a cop-out and a way to "dumb down" the material. While students may get good grades and "succeed" at school with this mentality, I believe we are setting up our future society to fail. On top of this, I think it is ridiculous that we cheat our students the chance to teach each other and seek outside sources by calling collaboration cheating. Our job as teachers is to help students learn how to find the solution to a problem through collaboration. This is a skill that transfers to the real world.

As Darren mentioned in his presentation, changing the process of education starts with creating a classroom culture where making mistakes is the norm that everybody can learn from; this includes us as the teachers. Secondly, we must take a metacognitive approach to the classroom. This means students should spend more time evaluating given solutions and finding errors in previous works. Identifying and evaluating will allow students to become experts in the fields they are studying, with the end result being improving students' own products. Lastly, when in comes time for students to produce something meaningful to show their learning, they should be allowed to do so in collaboration with their peers. This product should incorporate a network of knowledge that students can be proud of. Publishing the product will reinforce this ownership and allow students to receive meaningful feedback from their peers, families, community, and the world. Using the internet as a tool for students to be creative in their learning products, will only increase their published work to the outside world, allow for greater networking of ideas, and increase feedback and metacognitive processes that will allow students to acquire skills crucial to their success.

These observations keep begging the question, what are you as an educator going to do? You know how you learn when you are faced with a difficult problem. Are you going to set up students for success by giving them meaningful and challenging problems, encouraging collaboration in search of the solutions, create a culture where mistakes are encouraged and evaluated, and present solutions through publishing student learning? Or, will you be a proponent of the present education system where we continue to adapt and modify the curriculum to allow for student success in the classroom, but set them up for failure in the real world.


dkuropatwa said...

Powerful writing in this post Shaun. I think you've got a great attitude towards teaching: keep pushing the envelope.

It always seemed fundamental to me: "If this is how I learn deeply, powerfully, stickily, then doesn't it behoove me to provide similar experiences for my students?"

Sounds like it's similar for you. ;-)


nathancorrigal said...

this is a good blog post Shaun. I like how you talked about how we "dummy" down the curriculum for alot of kids to succeed, and kind of go about in a unrealistic way. If you students keep learning this way, life skills, and future learning could be alot tougher. isn't are number one goal to set these kdis up for the "real world"