Monday, May 25, 2009

Schools that Learn Response

The book “Schools that Learn” is engaging and keeps you thinking about the pros and cons of our current educational approach. It touches on a lot of issues faced by educators and attempts to take a realistic stance. To a large extent it is successful, while it does neglect some problems faced by educators. I think many of these realities, testing, time crunches etc. can be overcome with a little creativity and vigor. I guess I can’t help but feel the book is a bit idealistic. For instance fostering creativity by pushing our students’ inner passions is a great idea. I have many students that are saturated with ideas and have found things that they are passionate about, even at a young age. This is often missed by educators and this treasure trove is overlooked. On the other hand I also have many students who either have not developed such passions yet or are unwilling to relate them to school. It begs the question; will this work on the most difficult of students? Is the most unmotivated student going to assess their own strengths and weaknesses? Will they strive for personal mastery? I hope so!

Sage can’t help but get you thinking about changing the structure of education: by using strategies such as team learning. I think this is a challenge but do find that even the students who are the least interested can find ideas or topics to relate to on some level. This will ignite passion for the topic and foster creativity.

The power of group learning is very important and is what we at team use as our foundation. Doing away with the production line method of education and developing a learning community can be successful in the future. To a great extent our educational system places a great importance on standardized exams. This seems to be the wrong path. Students need to have the freedom to explore questions and develop a passion for learning.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Salon #6 Passport to Digital Citizenship:

The key question of how great the gap is between those who grew up with technology (digital natives) and the idea of teaching this properly. Mike (Ribble) explores this idea in his article “passport to Digital Citizenship”. He focuses on what is appropriate behavior in his “nine elements of digital citizenship” such as “digital etiquette” and “digital communication”. These are issues faced by people using technology with their students. This year, I began blogging with my students, and I was faced many of these issues. My students were used to a certain mode of communication that is often not appropriate to an educational setting. The nine elements are supposed to prepare them to help tackle this task of facing this new digital world. This world is changing around us, and we need to evolve to face new challenges in using technology. While teaching proper ways to use technology can often be pushed off as a parent’s job that is not always the case. Many parents are simply in the dark in terms of the technology. Teachers need to step up, help bridge this gap, and teach the proper way to use technology when a teaching moment fits into a lesson being taught. If this is started at a young age, it will become second nature for new digital citizens.
I have some issues with the article in general. I cannot help but wonder if I am a full participant. What does this constitute? Many of my students are immersed in the digital world far beyond what one would have imagined just a few years ago. Is it good? Many of my students simply forgo the outdoors to spend time on the computer. They have a hard time putting down their phones and have to be constantly told not to send text messages in class. While it is great to stay in touch and in many cases technology does foster greater education, it also impairs many aspects of people’s lives. Instead of meeting face to face we communicate using social networking, instead of speaking; we text, instead of going outside in some cases, people are glued to their technology. I think this can have more than simply a physical impact on people. It makes them rely on technology and become disconnected from the “real world”.

Salon #4: Digital Technology and the End of Social Studies Education (Bill Tally)

This salon (#4) was based on the article by Bill Tally titled “Digital Technology and the End of Social Studies Education”. In the article, the author touches on the realities that are often faced in education. He poses questions that need to be considered while stating that technologies do have a role in social studies education. They add vigor to the material, and complexity while grounding the content in real issues that “matter to students and their communities”.

While I am not a social studies teacher, I found this article and our salon discussion invigorating. It was interesting to envision the use of technology beyond the scope of simply a tool; to do the same thing already being done with yesterday’s technology. This brings up how once chalk boards were the main visual focus, then white boards, and now Smart Boards. While this is the case, there is a lot of potential that can be used to bring students into the history and promote a greater understanding of any subject that could be learned about in society, history or (in my case) science.

The quote "Technologies as tools that amplify and extend fundamental human capacities to observe, understand and communicate about the world” has great meaning as a science teacher. While this article is geared to social studies, it is also extremely true as a science teacher. Science is based on the idea of understanding our world through observations.

In general the whole idea of fostering creativity and to “slow down” or “dig deeper” is great. The problem usually lies with the way the curriculum is structured. This is dictated by the policy makers. For example, one of the two state tests (8th grade ILS exam) is in the beginning of May. That means I am forced to omit almost two months of material that may or may not appear on the exam. At the same time, I am expected to review 6th and 7th grade science as the exam is cumulative. This is a daunting task to say the least. My two Regents classes have 12 months worth of material crammed into 10 months which leaves little time. Most of my creative work is related to work done as out of class assignments. I find that, with my students, I have to manage them more closely than I would like because at this age (13-14) most of the students simply will not take the task and run with it. I often get stuck managing them closely using rubrics, which are not that far from filling in a worksheet, and they have to gather information etc.

The Museum Box Project was very interesting. I love the idea of gathering information, then taking it, and presenting it to others in this out of the box way (ok I could not resist!). This is something that I try to incorporate and find very affective. It is great to have the ability to get learners excited about a concept and Museum box does that. It is interactive and allows you to represent you ideas, events etc. in any form you choose. This is definitely something my students would find worthwhile and engaging. As educators, we need to keep an open mind and try new things. Every attempt does not need to be a smashing success, but if we do not try we are selling ourselves and our students short.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Brenda Dyck Discussion:

My favorite point during the discussion centers around teaching students to be “digital citizens”. Students need to have appropriate skills and an understanding on how to communicate using technology. Where are students to gain such skills? We want our students to be life long leaders and learners. As educators we need to pass on some basic skills. It doesn’t have to be something that is a specific lesson but can rather be something we apply to an array of applications. Plus there are also many limitations. This might be a copyright issue or access to a program or the internet. I have personally gotten plenty of support from the students and their parents. Some may have been apprehensive but when they realize the benefits, they get onboard. I think that as education and technology continue to intergreate we need to press this issue and continue to help sutdents investigate with technology properly. Let students have freedome and simply teach them the skills so they can handle the risk of the unknown.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Module Response: Developmental Psychology

When students tackle abstract problems they should build on fundamental and basic ideas before tackling more abstract questions. Technology can be used to help explore abstract problems and build toward better understanding. As the knowledge of our brain, its functions and how leaning takes place it will lead to new ways to better foster creativity and understanding of abstract ideas. In the video on learning the brain the notion of mentioning stimuli that are unrelated can be used to foster increased creativity amongst students is a great example of using new understanding to foster greater education.

On the other hand according to Vygotsky’s socio-cultural perspective, learning doesn’t follow a progression simply based on traveling from on stage to the next but is dependent on cultural factors. Some of this can be applied easily within a classroom. If students work in collaborative groups (as mine do) students within a group can be at different stages of cultural development. Some members of the group will be more advanced based on their experiences. They can assist in guiding others to develop socially and grow individually. By mixing the groups accordingly, difficult problems can be solved. If the problem is still beyond the scope of the group they can use technology to research the problem, communicate, and reach out to others who are slightly more culturally developed and increase cultural exposure. This ability to communicate with the “world around them” is a great asset. This can be accomplished by using message boards, instant messaging, phone conferencing etc.

In the case of Piaget’s organization, students should be pushed toward some level of disequilibrium in order to test what they know to be true. This is accomplished by giving them information that does not fit there existing scheme. Why do objects fall? Most students know that they fall because of gravity, depending on age and development. But when asked what would fall faster a bowling ball or a feather, most students would choose the bowling ball. This is the teachers chance to create some measure of disequilibrium. According to Piaget this problem should be solved by reliance on pears at a similar stage of development. To further create confusion, students could be presented with this problem suing technology. They could be shown a vide clip of this actually taking place, where a scientist uses a vacuum and demonstrates that they fall at the same speed. The students would then be asked to solve this problem as a group, leading to concepts that have not yet been learned (wind resistance). The teacher is posing the problem with what is known and guiding the students toward greater development. In this case of the three types of knowledge students were engaged in an interpersonal nature though not culturally per say. It would be difficult to address this issue in many science lessons, but outside of school by using blogs, Pod Casts, instant messaging, video conferencing/communication, Skype and other technological means others with similar cultural backgrounds are a click away. To test this knowledge problems could be posed differently again forcing students to solve new problems such as why hang-gliders and parachutes work or even using this newly learned principle to design a glider.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Module Response: Complex Cognitive Processes

There are many challenging topics in the Earth Science curriculum. This can become transparent when dealing with younger students (8th grade as apposed to 11th grade) trying to learn complex and abstract concepts. Having the ability to solve problems is skill needed to be successful. They have to relate topics and understand different prototypes correctly, while seeing if new ideas fit using exemplars.
One such topic that comes to mind is that of climates. It is a topic grounded in basic and pre-existing knowledge. It is also challenging for students. In Bruner’s Discovery learning this topic can be approached by providing basic questions and ideas as a jumping off point so students can find the fundamental idea even as a concept becomes increasingly abstract. How does weather and climate vary around the world? What causes these variations? How is the weather different near the poles and near the equator? Now how do these differences in climate relate to the model they created? By having only one continent what affect does this have on global climate? This would be a great way to start before creating the model that then is used to organize their climate types and lead to their discovery of the interrelated nature of each factor. An advanced organizer can be used to relate images associated with specific climates.
According to Ausubel's exposition teaching this topic needs to be introduced with a statement that organizes the information. A perfect example would be to start with a color coordinated map of the United States broken up into climate regions using symbols. Simple questions could be posed for each area relating to prior fundamental knowledge obtained from earlier grades. Most students know what a desert is, can relate images to deserts or that a tropical region is warm and rainy. Visuals could be used to represent key relationships cues with each type of climate such as a picture of a cactus for deserts or an ice berg for a polar region. What students may struggle with is the deeper understanding of the driving forces behind these conditions. Is it hot because of its latitude, global wind belts, ocean currents, latitude or altitude? In a science class this can be incorporated into a lab where students create an imaginary earth with one continent as apposed to the way they are familiar with. As they add each complex feature onto their simple model they will reinforce their prior knowledge with actual reasons for each specific climate type and ratio. The students will have to use problem solving skills as they are dealing with an imaginary planet, this will make them identify key principles and apply them to the new situation. They can graph temperature ranges, rain fall and other climate factors to add greater depth to reinforce each climate factor.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Metacognition and Self-Regulation

The idea of metacognition brings back memories of philosophy classes taken years ago. The notion of thinking about thinking is a key role in the practical world as well as simply having a theoretical basis. As discussed in the reading there are two types of learners, novice learners and expert learners. As students go through the educational system they should with experience become an expert. I find with my students most of the students (8th grade) are novices. They know they need to study and that substantial time is needed but in many cases do not have an effective plan to approach the studying. I personally wouldn’t say that I was truly and expert until my senior year in high school, upon learning these skills I immediately noticed a vast improvement in my performance in school. As Halter notes by taking time to thinking about learning and is able to adjust their behavior based on their results. The learners need clear and challenging goals that help them not just evaluate themselves but also to have a point to progress toward. This idea was stated by Woolfolk and Schunk in the reading.
I think that these ideas are both necessary and important in the development of success full students. While the goals need to be realistic and time management comes into play we all need to thing about not just thinking but learning in general.
There are many approaches to applying these ideas in the classroom. Often students learn best from other students. By utilizing technology students can have easy access to what their peers are doing and gain insight into their own behaviors and how to overcome obstacles in order to reach their goals. An example would be to set up a reflective Blog where students can voice their opinions on assignments, give advice on how they study etc. Another way to help guide students would be with teacher directed questions. These questions could be asked as part of a survey or simply in the form of an in-class discussion or debate on learning or a specific topic of some controversial basis that may spark interest. This will bring new insight for many and help to narrow the gap between expert and novice learners.
As educators the process of thought and learning about learning is a cornerstone for success. The sooner students can reflect on this process the better chance they have of meeting the ever increasing goals, in both the short and long term.