How important are museums, TV shows and after school clubs to teaching kids science? Ira Flatow and guests look at “informal science education” and what researchers are learning about learning science. Plus, what’s the best way to keep undergraduate science majors in science?
There has to be a mind shift from the familiar traditional learning environment.
In a traditional learning environment the classroom is teacher centered and the teacher is upstage and the teacher has all the control over learning.
21st century thinking the thinking is reversed. The classroom is learner centered and what happens in the classroom the focus is on the learner and the process of learning. Good teaching grows out of the number one priority- the learner and then the guaranteed viable curriculum. First we focus on the skills that the learners have already acquired. We use those skill (habits) in the practice of learning and the teacher develops instruction to build the skill the learner needs in real time learning.
The mind shift has to focus on what the learner does with the literacy skills in the practice of learning. Teachers hone in on those skills that need to be sharpened to improve the ability of the student to learn. The teachers are the facilitators and mentors, guiding students through learning and creation in powerful ways. Students no longer come to school to receive information from a teacher. The challenge becomes to re-imagine the classroom to make it the place where students and teachers come together face-to-face to create shared knowledge. Classrooms and school must take advantage of the abundance of information and data that is being shared through the Internet. No longer is information a scarcity. No longer have the teacher and the textbook held the scarce information. Learning in the traditional sense relies heavily on the teachers knowledge and the textbook.
The Khan Academy is an organization on a mission. They are a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.
All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.
In George Couros’s post “Closing the Gap”, I have pulled this quote that he use from New Millenium Learnersregarding the “Matthew effect.”
In the long run, the existing differences between those who have and those who don’t have the right cultural capital to take advantage of the potential of technologies will increase. Hence the Mathew effect: those who benefit from a better socio-economic environment find it easier to benefit from technologies, thanks to the cultural capital transferred to them, and they thus increase their advantage and privileged situation in comparison to those who lack such an accompanying capital.
We have a growing population who are not able to have the advantage of the potential of technologies in their lives. Those who are benefiting are the middle class families like my family. I see the power of having and using those technologies is advantageous. But many times having these technology advantages does not spiral to the classroom. I can spend days watching kids using paper and pencil and the only technology used in learning is only the use of the Smart Board. Those kids coming from having these advantages enter a very different world for 7 hours a day- its a gearing down process compared to what their life might be after school hours. Many ritualistically play the game of school while others become disengaged.
Those who are a part of the techno culture are having different experiences away from school that affects their school life in a positive way where as those who are not a part of this culture school may be harder. The techno culture are learning about worldly experience via the Internet where as the opposite is not true.
Creating the Opportunity to Learn by Wade Boykin and Pedro Noguera provide a comprehensive view on the subject of poverty and race. But we do know that kids of poverty are not having the same experiences outside of school as the normal middles, family where both parent s have jobs, and both parents have time to spend with the kids.
But the true key to this and supported by research that Boykin and Noguera have laid out tells us that student engagement is the key to success school- not ritualistic engagement. Yes, so much technology is missing from our classrooms. So many learning devices that could be engaging kids- all kids- is so many new and different ways. I think this country is holding back the key to success. One day the power will be unleashed.
Over the last few days, I have been rereading parts of Carol Ann Tomlinson and Marcia Imbeau book Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom. In order to lead a DI classroom, the professional teacher must be well aware of the the learner’s needs in the classroom. I don’t think that this has changed much in teaching over the last 100 years but we know so much more about our learners from research and our observations. As the authors point out those teachers who stay in the classroom longer than a day do pay attention to individual learner’s differences and they do respond to these learners in some way, but often they may respond negatively to those learners they deem as disruptive. We have to be proactive in addressing student differences in readiness, interest, and learning profile.
Carol Ann Tomlison and many other people like her who is willing to share their work with educators around the globe. I count on numerous professional teachers around the globe to share with my in my PLN and I try to share with them. Professional organizations like NCTE and ASCD who constantly publish book and articles and make information available on the World Wide Web is phenominal. Educational bloggers who offer a glimpse of what they are learning about content and pedagogy and DI as it happens in their classroom is exciting. Then I have the network of professionals inside the walls of my district who are willing to share. From all the work that is happening in many different networks we are learn ways to address student differences in readiness, interest, and learning profile.
On page 17 in Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom, the authors address for elements and interactions that shape the learning profile of students. I want to push the card further by adding a fifth element: technology and innovation.
1. Learning style- Learning style includes but not limited to visual, auditory,tactile-kinesthetic to working alone or with groups, in a bright room or a darkened environment, sitting still or moving.
2. Intelligence preference- We have to recognize there are more than one intelligence at play and each learner in hardwired different. Some learners think differently. I have a friend who thinks in terms of musical notes and has the ability to show knowledge through music and art. We have to recognize the work Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. No Child Left Behind requires the one mold fits all to all kids and we know it does not work. You ask kids in Kindergarten if they are creative and everyone of them will raise their hand. You ask a fifth grade class the same question you are lucky to have one person raise his hand. We have citizens who are recovering from their failure in our schools because their intelligence was not recognized. The video below of Sir Ken Robinson talking about intelligences draws lot of attending to the different learners we see in our classrooms.
3. Gender- “Approaches to learning maybe shaped genetically or socially for males versus females.” (Tomlinson, pg 17) There is lot of research, studies and real classroom examples being shared in professional networks. Many schools are begining to address gender in learning academically. We still have much more to learn in this area. We realize that male and females may not learn the same way and there are certain patterns that might enhance learning, but I do feel much of this is connected to social and culture patterns that are learned through life experiences. But we cannot disregard that genetically we are wired differently. I love the example of Sir Ken Robinson uses about his wife as a multi-tasker while she is cooking. I see this in my own wife. She is able to cook, clean, talk on the phone, help do homework and text all at the same time. Where as I everyone out of the house and out of the kitchen to cook a meal. Gender should be considered when thinking about the learners in our classrooms.
4. Culture-We are all a product of the many or little experiences we grow up with in life. We make sense of the world around us by the people and community we grow up in. We recongnize how we communicates, relate to one another across generations, envision power structures, celebrate, and mourn and show respect. We have to pay attention very carefully for these patterns with our students. Teaching for 18 plus year in a community with many varied close communities. Kids from one particular community I noticed that they would never look at an adult face to face. There eyes would look off in the distance when confront these kids one on one. It was almost they were looking off to try to ignore the adult and I thought it was a sign of disrespect. These kids were taught in their community that this was a sign of respect for adults. We have to be aware of these patterns and be willing to address these learners differently. We have look to our networks for a range of teaching and learning approaches that reflect the culture of the learners.
5.Poverty-When I entered the classroom 23 years ago, I was so unprepared to meet the demands of all the learners I was charged to teach. I did recognize individual differences when he came to those students who were not the status quo of the ideal student I had envisioned in my mind. You would think and most of the time Poverty kids were so easy to identify. In the last four years in the classroom I found this task harder as the social economic began to shift. I did have to learn about thos kids who came to school physcially hungry on Mondays. I learned about those kids who had very little clothing and about their dirty clothes. I learned about those kids who were smelly. I learned about a child that had no running water in their home. I most recently was invited into a home of a family that could not speak English and had sewage in their yard- just a few feet from where their child played and their dogs drank. I learned how not having the basic needs killed a childs abilty to perform well in school and how their home life killed what was happening in the classroom. I learned how basic healthcare is so important to a well being of a young learner. I saw too how many teachers missed those signs and could not understand why such a bright child who had so much potential could not do her work. I have seen teachers mentally beat down kids because of their life in poverty.
6. Technology and Innovation-Kids born in this century were born into a digital environment and they may have older brothers and sisters and even parents who are surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Older brothers and sisters have spend their whole lives surrounded by the Internet and digit the digital world. But the kids of this century were born directly into this new world. They are our real stake holders. Just think those kids who entered Kindergarten this year will retire around the year 2070. I can’t imagine what that world will be like. Marc Prensky point out in his famous article Digital Natives, Digital Imigrants in 2001, “It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today‟s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” In this environment, as in any culture, the way they think about things may be entirely different. Some brain researchers argue that their brains wired differently because of exposure to digital as compared to those who were not. It is necessary for the 21st century educator to consider how technology (digital) affects the learner in the classroom. Old ways of teaching and learning, the one size fits all, no longer works. I wander if digital is redeveloping the way we store, process, and represent information in the mind?
In conclusion, I read this statment some where recently that kids today bring knowledge they from the outside world to the classroom and the classroom cannot relate to that world. What is happening in our classrooms have no relevance with the world outside the school. Students are bumfuzzled with the education process unless the learner finds ways or accepts the rule of school. We are challenged to approach each child as uniquely individual learners. In our learning networks we have more knowledge, support, and resources. The task is never easy. It does not happen over night. DI is not a new way of teaching or a set of strategies, but DI is embedded in the teachers beliefs about every learner that walks into our classrooms. Our learners should be challenging our core beliefs about teaching and learning. It is uncomfortable making change.
I kicked off my day visiting a high school. I have never taught in a High School and I know very little of what learning looks like in a high school. Part of my job I required to do walkthrough observations and content observation. My focus this month is to observe and learn about the five high schools in our district. I have found this to be most interesting and today was no different. I was greeted by the assistant principal and she immediately radioed the principal to let him know that Mr. Gaskins from the district office was in the building. At that moment I was worried and as a former building level person I was always suspicious of district office people. And now I am one of those people.
I explained to the assistant principal about wanting to learn more about what happens with learning in a high school and explained about my career in middle and elementary school. I re-explained myself to the principal and who was very kind and gave this awesome tour of the school. Then invited me to attend his weekly admin meeting with both his assistant principals. I sat very quietly and listened and offered nothing except thanking them profusely for their kindness and time. “If there is anything I could ever do, please don’t hesitate to contact me or any one in academic services” were the words that came out of my mouth next.
Then I was off to sit in classrooms. Never the less it was quite a contrast from elementary classrooms. I tried hard to look for grouping, differentiation with different learning styles, project based learning, and engagement. I was successful in finding kids engaged in learning.
Then I was off to an elementary school- driving fast- wanting to get in an environment that I understood and did not feel out in left field. I was relieved to find myself in a third grade classroom and watching kids engaged in conversation about learning, making a scrapbook about a science lesson, and charting what they were learning. I saw the teacher moving around asking simple to tough questions. I felt so much at home. But I was sad to see the three computers with students busy doing remediation work.
Then I had a quick meeting with one of the three instructional technology coaches and we discussed how technology should be supporting content and pedagogy. We talked about the generation piece- how our kids today are as different from the teachers as learners. Most middle class kids come from homes that are connected and they have to gear down to unfamiliar world while at school.
Because Digital Writing Matters has helped me focus on the digital disconnect between how teachers and student perceive the applications of technology. Students don’t perceive the writing they are doing in their connected environments as real writing nor does the teacher. Most teachers and adults have not been part of the connected generation. The IT coach and agree how our own children’s learning life is greater outside the walls of school. Our kids know how to learn. We have to rethink school?
Then I am back in a first grade classroom learning about rural and urban life. I am back with reality. The teacher was using great examples and she was making those kids think hard! I thought how much more those kids would have understood if the teacher has used their tools to show them the difference: Google Earth, Google Maps, and multimedia from the Internet!
A second grade teacher told me (after school) how her students had created their own slide show about community helpers. She showed them how and then let them do it! And they did it! Was it the technology or was a true show of learning!
At the office I worked on my own learning goals for my Goals Based Evaluation. I have two goals:
Develop and disseminate resources for writing and reading to learn in a K-5 ELA and social studies classroom.
Implement a professional learning community to study the impact of digital and informational literacies.
Now I have to get them approved. Then I worked on some resources for a presentation I am doing in a few weeks and now I have some reading and writing time (professional learning time) till the school board meeting at 6:30 P.M.
I got an email to boost my ego. I was cc’d a copy of an email to the executive director of curriculum in Horry County School applauding the learning experience in Writing in the Digital Classroo from a teacher in that district
A few nights ago, 18 teachers successfully completed this professional development course. This is the second class I taught this year for Horry County School District. My reflections are listed in the bullet list below.
I deemed the experience a success, but sadly I will not be able to teach the course again. Physically it is too much with my present professional obligations with another school district. We have discussed the possibility of doing a week seminar during the summer. Time will tell if that should happen. I feel a huge obligation to my school district and impacting the kids of that school district.
I started the course by teaching the tools that would be necessary for independent learning while we were separated by physical space. I targeted the writing by the use of a blog and the act of blogging. We started our blogging journey by reading and following bloggers from a suggested reading list. One teacher participant commented that jumping into a person’s blog is like jumping into the middle of a conversation. She found the act distracting but over time she hung with it to uncover the conversation.
Composition/composing is a more suitable term than digital writing. We became composers in creating podcast, digital stories, and mixing music and combining audio, images, sounds, and text into a composition. I think I prefer the term composition instead of writing digitally. Maybe a new name for the course might be “Composing Digitally.”
Through the process of blogging I think they got it. They understood the power of social media and the authenticity in the writing. Many teacher participants started digital projects in their classroom. We had a deep discussion about how the act of blogging helps the writer find their writing voice. Blogging brings out the passion of the writer. One can tell easily if the writing in the assignment is for a grade or the writing is passionate. I discovered deep passion in their writing and their love for teaching and learning.
This group of teachers has pushed me to think deeply about blogging and how that genre of writing affects learning. Shallamuth Smith writes “Writing is thinking and becomes it’s own reason, but it’s the potential audience, that imagined ideal reader, that pushes us to refine words into what we really want to say, which challenges us to figure out what we really mean, which pushes us to further tweak our words and ideas in (hopefully) a never ending cycle of epiphany.” (from her guest blog post on this blog). Blogging is writing with thoughtful passion. I will leave that thought here.
I was amazed at the digital stories they created. They found doing this fun, but taxing for most participants. Many of them jumped in to the story without the planning. That was okay since we were learning but as time went on in the course it was there lease favorite media. I thought they would like doing a podcast and many of them completed at least 2 and some did more. Some gave Voicethread a try. I should have pushed harder, but as teachers their time was very limited in completing the modules. I know the life of the teacher can be tough.
Composing for a blog post and actually using the technology was tough for more participants than I thought. It was real stretch for many with putting in many hours. Some spending up to 10 hours a more week to complete a learning module that I designed that would take about 10 hours over a month’s time. A few participants had a tough time working independently. They needed that face-to-face interaction and support.
Teaching/facilitating this has been a challenge. I am not sure I am qualified or have the right degree to teach this class. I am never really confident in myself when it comes down to it. But I do love the challenge. I like being a learner in the process.
picture copied from http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3592/3388502844_9a66c806b5_m.jpg
Monday, I spent forty-five minutes in three-kindergarten classroom in a title one school in my district. I am amazed at the work of the kindergarten teacher. They are the ones who begin the formal education of a child. Many kids come to the school as blank slates ready to filled with knowledge. They come whether they are ready or not for formal education as we know it. The teacher has a tough job. They teach them first about conforming to a community that has to live by certain rules. And rules for many are an anomaly that has to be grappled with. This was the second time this year I had been in these classroom and I noticed how far they have come in learning to be a part of the small community.
For moment think about how this is such a huge step in the kindergartner’s life. There is this moment of separation from the parent or guardian or it is welcoming moment for many in a loving and structured environment that the child may have never know due to poverty and/or abandonment.
Today I watched three teachers gracefully introduce the person Christopher Columbus to these kids life. It was such a storybook moment as they tried their hardest to please the teacher in learning about Mr. Christopher Columbus. I was so proud and honored to be with these kids as they learned about an American hero for the first time. I was with those boys and girls and these teachers who read them a story or told them a story through pictures about Christopher, his journey, and discovery. I heard these teachers as recall question and big hard thinking questions. I watched these boys and girls work hard to construct meaning for themselves or just for the sake of the teacher and the strange man watching them and constantly giving the high-fives and thumbs-up.
I was proud how they marched to their tables and engaged in making their own story book about Christopher Columbus. I moved from table to table and asked questions and listened to their small voices. They were not scared about their journey. They were comfortable to be a part of a small and caring community.
Teachers everyday do incredible thing for the sake of kids. Sometimes in our hurried life and all the accountability we miss the point. It is these small learners lives that we are shaping to be like us- caring adults. Teachers have the opportunity to transform the world one person at a time. What a responsibility and honor to be in this great profession!