Death Valley Isn’t Really Dead

I started watching the talk by David Christian because I was intrigued by the title, The history of our world in 18 minutes.  I did watch the whole thing but found my mind wandering until he got to the part about his grandson.  Next I watched Dan Meyer’s talk, Math class needs a makeover.  This one was definitely more my speed and both entertaining and informative.  How lucky his high school math students are to have him in the classroom.  Logan LaPlante’s TED Talk recommended on the ED 554 blog by Stella8 was also good.

But, by far my favorite was Sir Ken Robinson’s How to escape education’s death valley.  Again, I chose it for the title, and what a wise choice it was.  When I saw it was more than 19 minutes I groaned because I had already been through more than a half hour of sitting and listening.  When he began speaking…another Brit, really?!  Then I found myself  all lol and rotfl.   Sir Ken used humor to tackle a hard problem…the education system in America.  He begins by addressing NCLB and how it rewards conformity whereas our students are naturally different and diverse.  “Differentiation”  is a term tossed around ad nauseum in college curriculum and classrooms, but how do we do that in a system of conformity and compliance?

Sir Ken said some schools, teachers, and students are succeeding IN SPITE of the educational system not BECAUSE OF it.   He compared American schools with Finnish schools.  In Finland, they have no dropout rate.  In America, if we cut our dropout rate in half we would add more than $1 trillion dollars to the economy.  Sir Ken says, in Finland (1) the teaching and learning is individualized, (2) a high status is given to the teaching profession, and (3) responsibility is left to the school level to get the job of learning done.  Sounds pretty good, right?  In America, it’s our ALTERNATIVE high schools that personalize the learning, give strong support for teachers, have close ties with the community, and broaden the curriculum outside of school hours.  So, why do we consider this the alternative and not the norm?

Well, Sir Ken, you have made me a fan for life.  Next one I will listen to, on Logan LaPlante’s recommendation…Schools kill creativity!

Stay tuned… 

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TED-Ed Said…

I am now officially a member of the TED online community.  I imagine there will be a lot of interesting things to explore, but for now my assignment is FLIPPED CLASSROOMS.  Flipped instruction is one of the latest buzz words in education. In my 6th grade student teaching placement, my mentor teacher experimented with some flipped instruction in one of the social studies units, although it didn’t involve technology.  Reading the blogs on TED-Ed about flipped instruction,  there are lots of advocates out there.  The one blog I thought very helpful was by edutopia called Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom by Andrew Miller.  It’s not that Mr. Miller was “anti-flipped instruction” but he was the voice of reason.  He explained that flipped instruction isn’t an end or a solution, rather it is a technique for maximizing class time with students.  Mr. Miller says flipped instruction does free up the teacher’s time, but “just because I ‘free’ someone, doesn’t mean that he/she will know what to do next, nor how to do it effectively.”    Once you make the decision to explore flipped instruction, be sure to read Andrew Miller’s article to learn about the Five Best Practices for the Flipped Classroom.

Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century

ImageTruer words were never spoken.This insightful quote was made by John Dewey at age 85…8 years before his death in 1952.  Not only that, in 1915 Dewey was calling conventional public schools to task accusing them of structuring the system “to make things easy for the teacher who wishes quick and tangible results.” (John Dewey, Schools of Tomorrow, New York:  Dutton, 1915, p. 18)  Nearly 100 years ago, Dewey recognized the need for schools to prepare students for the future and to emphasize freedom and individuality.

PBS’ presentation of Digital Media*New Learners of the 21st Century examines five programs across the United States that have embraced technology, integrating it and sometimes replacing traditional curriculum with it in schools. I was particularly interested in New York’s Quest to Learn elementary school.  In this segment, John Seely Brown says that the 21st century and maybe even in the 20th century has overlooked the power and importance of play in learning.  This concept resonated with me from my preschool teaching days.  Our  philosophy at VBCC was that children learn through play…compromising, negotiating, critical thinking, problem solving etc.  Mr. Brown extends this concept to the students of today.  He states that the most important thing is for children to have curiosity and a questioning spirit. With this, students can take an idea and “play” with it, tinker with it, make the idea personal and relevant, and ultimately own it. Then, the student will indwell in the idea and the idea in the student. Long lasting learning takes place here that can be applied to future situations.

I loved the way the students in the program talked about the way they learn at Quest to Learn school. Their interest and enthusiasm are evident and contagious.  I had to keep pausing the video because my mind would start wandering to ways I could implement technology tools into my teaching.

All the segments in the PBS broadcast were interesting to me and I highly recommend you set aside 52 minutes to watch the program. Some of the quotable quotes I captured follow.

 “Assessments and testing drives current school systems.  We are not going to change the paradigm of schooling and get deeper learning and learning for problem solving and innovation unless we change the test and change the assessment.” James Gee, Professor, Arizona State University

“Why do we assume that kids’ socializing and play is not a site of learning?” Mimi Ito, cultural anthropologist , University of California, Irvine

“Is someone literate if they cannot critique media, take media in, if they’re only taking in traditional text – so if a 6th grader today, by the time they graduate from college is not fluent if you will, in some of these other forms of media, I would venture to say that they won’t necessarily be considered as being literate. Nichole Pinkard, Founder, Digital Youth Network

“If we know that learning outside of school matters a great deal to kids’ ability to learn well in school, we have to pay attention to that. Katie Salen, Founder, Institute of Play

Addendum: My favorite resources from the Digital Media page are:

Howard Rheingold – packed website and blogs but especially like the virtual classroom

Edutopia – cool website and blogs on tons of topics

Stay tuned…