PLN Education Blog
My journey of learning digital literacy, establishing a personal learning network, and becoming a qualified 21st century teacher.
The TedTalk "Gever Tulley teaches life lessons through tinkering" is full of powerful messages about education. Gever Tulley runs a tinkering school, a six day immersion program where children come and build. But it is so much more. The points that are brought up in this video go far beyond tinkering and building, while those are important skills as well. However, it is the trust and failure components of this program that are emphasized and highlight how important these are for children and their education. At the tinkering school the children learn to make plans, but also have the freedom to try new ideas. They are free of the fear of failure, and as a result come to understand that failure is a part of learning and that great success will undoubtedly be proceeded by mistakes, dead ends, and obstacles. Children are able to work with their hands and see their ideas and efforts come to fruition. These are lessons that transcend content area, and are essential to life. And the children are trusted, trusted to use the tools and not hurt themselves or others, trusted to work and create and try, trusted to be creative and imaginative. With this trust, the children are able to create and explore and make wonderful products. As adults we take this trust for granted, but are ever aware when a boss or friend or coworker does not trust us to complete the task. We become resentful, but yet cannot see how we treat children can breed that same resent and possibly even contempt. Let the children fail, they need to because life will be full of failure. But when they fail, be there to help them learn and improve and capatilize on the experience. If failure is stressed as a disappointment when they are young, what kind of tools are we giving the children to deal with the world they will enevitably live in? In an education system that can have such rigid standards, expectations, and confinement (sitting in a desk surrounded by four walls), we need to allow more of the opportunities that are available at Tulley's tinkering school. We need to help our students learn lessons that will last their lifetime, incorporating those lessons into the content, because that is what they will ultimately remember and help them succeed well past their school years.
[Ted]. (2009, July 1). Gever Tulley teaches life lessons through tinkering. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvHViFc0ekw&list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp&index=17
Maybe I am out of touch. Maybe I need to work harder to understand the social media of the current generation. But after watching "Snapchat Murders Facebook" I am not only left with more questions about this new form of social media, I am also concerned about what this implies about the social interactions my future students might be having. Call me "old school", but the best part of a story is that you can visit it over and over, it never disappears. Yet I got the impression that the allure of the Snapchat story is that you constantly have to be adding because what you have done will be gone in just 24 hours. And this is where my concern crept in. The video pointed out that you are documenting what you are doing for all of those following your story, but I wonder what kind of story can you really tell if you are always staring at your phone. Great concert, from the screen of my phone. Great game, from the screen of my home. Beautiful landscape, well you get the picture. Honestly, I see the magic of social media and being able to connect with people all around the world. Sure this opens you to other cultures and other perspectives, but how is this really enriching the lives of our students if they are so focused on getting their next little clip posted. There have been too many times that I have seen people in public staring and making funny faces in their phone, no doubt using the latest filter on Snapchat. One time I saw someone on a treadmill, yes treadmill, engaging in this new odd behavior. Do these people know what they look like? Do they even know that there is a world happening around them? These are my concerns. Students need technology, and need to feel connected, I understand that. But I worry that they are loosing out on the joy of good old fashion face to face human interaction. The are missing out on the joy of putting down the phone and being fully present for an experience like a concert, game, historical landmark (yes people take selfies at the Vietnam Memorial now, let that sink in). There is a difference between living in the moment, and living moment to moment. Our students, now more than ever, need to be able to look back and look forward, not just look at the right now. We cannot afford to live in the right now, there are real problems we are facing, and we need the next generation to understand that actions to not happen and disappear in 24 hours.
Reading this blog post "A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days- a sobering lesson learned" (Anonymous, 2014) made me really consider the teacher that I am and the teacher that I want to be. One of my first thoughts after my very first experience in a classroom with block scheduling was "Wow! They sit for so long!". Of course I am not that far removed with the experience myself. It is easy to recollect that antsy feeling that would hit after sitting through far too many lectures in a day, and about the subject I love and want to spend my life teaching no less. So as I read through this account it brought to light how important it will be to look at my class and my lessons through a different lens, the lens of the student. One of the points that jumped out as a read was the idea that while there might be content that needs to be covered, what good does it do if you are relaying it to an audience that is checked-out and done for the day. Students are going through the motions, doing what they have been trained to do, and might not actually be learning. And can we blame them? I have been to many a meeting where the adults are all turned having side conversations as the speaker is presenting, but yet we expect students to sit is a chair for hours on end and be attentive and engaged at every moment. But do not dare speak. And especially do not move around. Surely I am not blind to the plight of the student, in fact I fully accept the fact that my high school education was what dreams are made of. And I do not deny that if I had been forced to sit and passively engage in my education I would not have succeeded or excelled. But this article served as a reminder to keep those thoughts at the forefront of my teaching style and lesson planning, particularly when the pressure of standards and content and testing are glaring me in the face. My students deserve my respect, patience, understanding, and empathy. Those are tools that will serve me just as well as my content knowledge. The deserve to be active participants in their learning, and it is my job to be their guide.
Anonymous author. (2014). A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days. Accessed from: https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/a-veteran-teacher-turned-coach-shadows-2-students-for-2-days-a-sobering-lesson-learned/
The article "Redefining Teachers with a 21st Century 'Story'" (MindShift, 2015) brought to light a concept about education that is often overlooked; that trends in education tend to oscillate between the hands-on inquiry to the more structured testing and performance approach. Here and there I have heard teachers discuss this idea, mostly to bemoan another change in curriculum for an undetermined amount of time before it inevitably shifts back. Personally, I am hoping that there will be a shift, and one in the direction we are headed. As a future science teacher, just now starting to become familiar with NGSS, I am excited about the focus of the standards and encouraged that they were designed with the intent of having a scientifically literate society. As MindShift (2015) points out, this is a time of great change, and we are more connected globally than ever before. It is important as teachers to recognize this change, and prepare our students for the world that is to come and not just the world as it is now.
So as I look forward, it is as important that I prepare myself as it is that I prepare my students. In the article Mindshift (2015) presents a variety of ways teachers can prepare for the changing educational and global landscape. The first being to appreciate and embrace the challenge of the changing landscape. I would be lying if I said that this is going to be easy for me, I just purchase my first smartphone a year ago and have only begun to curate an online presence through this blog, Twitter, and use of Google+. If I am going to be an effective teacher I must look at the changes without fear, and use the tools and innovations in my favor. This also means, as MindShift (2015) suggests, that I must become a collaborator and participator in this globally connected world of educations. I am not there yet, but am making strides in the right direction, and it is exciting to know that our learning communities stretch so far beyond the walls of our school sites or the district office. Innovation and brilliant ideas are everywhere, and now we can connect, give and share ideas, and collaborate globally, all skills we need to pass along to our students as the world changes in the coming years. As the world becomes more connected, so do we as teachers, but for the sake of our continued learning but also to help model what our students will need to become successful in the new global landscape.
MindShift (2015). Redefining teaching with a 21st century education 'story'. KQED News. Retrieved from: https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/02/11/redefining-teachers-with-a-21st-century-education-story/
Watching Logan LaPlante (2013), I had a slew of questions and by the end I was not sure exactly what to think. initially I chose the video so that I could finally hear from a student, and learn what a student thinks about the education. LaPlante's (2013) presence on stage is quiet impressive, period. I was hooked when he had me at happy and healthy, I could not agree more with this sentiment. There is a problem in this society, one where mental health is still a taboo and we dare not discuss it publicly. Mental health is a "family issue" something to be dealt with in private. It is time for that mentality to change, and I do believe that schools should have a responsibility in teaching students how to be happy and healthy. We know that the issues are there. Childhood obesity. Bullying. Eating disorders. Depression. Suicide. These are issues that span across culture, socioeconomic status, race. As a future science teacher, these are all topics that I think can seamlessly be woven into the curriculum, and are probably more important and pertinent than many of the standards. However, as I listened to this young man and payed attention to the examples he used, I wondered how much of his experience has been molded by his parents, and the opportunities that they have afforded his. With talk of hacking school, you have to have the support system in place to help the students thrive and flourish. But if you are worried about putting the next meal on the table, how much time can you invest in exploring alternatives to schooling that will be suit your child's needs? When I think about reform of the school system, I think of reforming for the students who are left behind. Students who don't have the parental support, due to lack of time because of work or lack of interest, might not reap the benefits from hackschooling. Those same students can reap enormous benefits from learning how to be happy and healthy. Learning about these alternative school systems really makes me wonder about the how. How are you going to guarantee that this will be equitable? How are you going to ensure that each child is given a fair shot? I love to hear the success story, but we need to keep in mind that people like Bill Gate and Mark Zuckerberg are not the norm when looking at college dropouts.... They are the exception. So when we look to radically change a system, maybe it will benefit some, but that does not ensure success for all.
[TEDxTalks]. (2013, Feb 12). Hackschooling makes me happy-Logan LaPlante-TEDxUniversityofNevada. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h11u3vtcpaY
Just when I think I am making progress and opening my mind, I encounter an idea that stops me in my tracks and really makes me think. This is definitely the case after watching Shawn Cornally in his TEDx Eastside Prep talk "The Future of Education Without Coercion" (2011). Let me start off by saying that I was absolutely engaged in his presentation, and found his passion to be palpable. And I have no doubt that his students are the beneficiaries of his enthusiasm. And I absolutely agree that students are in a system that is not best suited to all of their needs or learning styles, and that the A-F system that is currently in place is often not a fair representation of a student. But there are places that he lost me, and I am not sure if that is a reflection of me (a product of the current system) or if there are more questions that need to be answered. The idea of having student centered curriculum, and allowing students to explore and demonstrate their knowledge is a wonderful idea. But are all students really going to fit that model? I really believe that there are students who thrive in the current system, and it fits the way that they learn and are receiving vast benefits from the rewards of a good grade. There are also students who would flourish if their creativity was celebrated, and they could demonstrate their learning through products. And then there are students who do not fit either of these descriptions. A change to the system does not necessarily mean that we throw out the old and adopt something new as Cornally (2011) has suggested. You are replacing one system for a new one with a shiny new package. We also have to consider what the role of school really is, and where it fits in society. Considerations of parents and societal norms have to be considered. Comparing school grades to dollars, in my mind, is a good analogy. We get an education, often times, to improve our odds of getting a good job. Do I love learning? Absolutely! And I got an education so that I can work AND do something that I love. But that paycheck is an important driver in why I went back to school. We can give students more freedom in their education, and I think it is important for students to have the chance to pursue topics that interest them. But I also think that structure and learning that you are rewarded for hard work and sometimes you have to follow rules and complete projects you do not want to are also important real world skills. Then again, maybe I have just been a part of the system for too long....
[TEDx Talks]. (2011, Jun 7). TEDxEastsidePrep-Shawn Cornally-The Future of Education Without Coercion. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPeKdXhGcZQ
The Ted talk presented by Michael Wesch was both powerful and poignant. In it he expertly argued how the way we consume media has shifted from the time of the television to the connected media world of the internet. His explanation of the media in the television era as being unidirectional, with people having little influence, was a point I have never really considered. I grew up in an era that relied on the television to provide the most current information, and rarely considered what my role was in the process. On the other side of the coin is the ever connected internet media world of today. Wesch (2010) included a powerful example of how a "spoof" commercial led to a meeting between Green Peace and the Unilever company to halt the destruction of rain forests. What I enjoyed most about the presentation, and the point at which I really began to understand and agree with Wesch, was when he pointed out that while the internet may allow us to connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate, and publish easily this is just the surface level and it does not mean that we can do this well or in a meaningful manner. In some ways it is so easy, the internet allows for careless and reckless abuse of the powers.
The concept Wesch presents of being knowledge-able, and that as teachers we are responsible for teaching knowledge-ability, is one that I fully support. As a future science educator, with a passion for ecology, I think that there are ideas that would lend themselves well to the classroom environment. Science intrinsically requires collecting, organizing, sharing, collaborating, and publishing. The internet has proven to be a wonderful place for the scientific community. One of the greatest roles that I have as a science educator is to teach my students how and where to look on the internet for reputable sources. These are the places that all of the above actions are taking place. In addition, I think that students can learn to make their voice heard. One of the reasons I want to teach science is so that the next generation is equipped to answer the questions and challenges that we are currently facing, not to mention many more that may arise in the years to come. Students live in the world on fire, and I want to be an agent of change that can show students they can be the little bird that saves the world. This means teaching students how to question and where to look for their answers. My ultimate goal is to have students who are equipped with the skills needed to make meaningful connections, efficiently organize, expertly and respectfully share and collaborate, and hopefully publish meaningful contributions to the global conversation. Having access to the wealth of the worlds knowledge is not sufficient, it is the goal of educators to give students the tools to use the knowledge to save the world.
[TEDx Talks]. (2010, October 12). TEDxKC-Michael Wesch- From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeaAHv4UTI8
Watching Dr. White’s YouTube presentation on the Visitor and Resident theory really struck a cord. As I watched I saw him describe, almost to a t, what my relationship is like with the Internet. I can admit it, definitely a visitor. It was pretty clear as soon as he showed the words associated with the two types of people. Once he really started to describe what a resident does online, how they perceive the Internet, and ultimately their motivations, I was convinced that I am probably pretty close to the Visitor end of the spectrum. The adjectives then used to describe the Visitor, and the motivations involved with this type of person, were spot on descriptions of how I interact with the online world. It also explains why I am struggling a bit, pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. Of all the words used to describe a Visitor, I very much identified with private. I enjoy the fact that if someone were to Google my name, they are likely to find obituary after obituary. Being so public makes me feel very uncomfortable, but this could also be partially attributed to a generational gap. I have to be honest, when I was growing up the personal cell phone was a huge deal and practically no one had one (I mean have you seen the size of them?). But the video also made me reflect about how changing my attitude might help my students, a portion of whom undoubtedly are Residents. Part of my job is to reach my students, not for my students to reach me. So this doesn't mean than I need to jump head first and declare that I will do a 180 and become a Resident in the online world. What is does mean is that it might be time to start pushing myself towards the other end of the spectrum when it comes to my professional persona. With the website and Twitter I am making baby steps, and this video opened my eyes to the fact that I need to change my thinking in order to make these a successful platform for professional use. I can already tell, this is going to be an adventure.
White, D. (2013, May 31). Visitors and residents. [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&persist_app=1&v=0sFBadv04eY
After reading the essay "Why School?" by Will Richardson, I had to really take time and process how I felt about what I had just read. There is not doubt in my mind that there needs to be a change to the education system as it currently stands. In all honesty I see value in both types of school reform that were presented in the book, but would more strongly align myself with the first type of reform that was presented. While this might not be the most popular stance to take, as it is aligned with politicians and businessmen, I feel as though there is so much inequity in schools as they are now to be able to fully endorse the more individualized and creative reform model. As I see it there are still millions of students without access to internet in their homes, and so many more that lack the most updated technology in their schools. Without tackling these issues, it is impossible to make education truly an equal playing field for all. Richardson (2012) points out that is we look at the standardized test scores of just the upper-class in America, we are performing number one in the world.
This is not to say that I agree that standardized testing, or testing in general, are the best methods of instruction. But right now, rather than focusing on the individual child's learning desires, and allowing them to pursue education by finding their passion, I think we would be better served teaching are students how to become successful in the world right now. If we can change the job prospects of those who are impoverished in our nation, then we might truly be able to transform the education system. There are currently too many of our students concerned about where their next meal will come from, or where they will be staying the night for the next couple of months to be invested in the type of educational system that Richardson outlines in the second half of the essay. It is my firm belief that education is the only way to have a truly equitable society, but I fear that the second type of reform lends itself well to middle or upper class America, and could further create a gap between the classes. Certainly, I understand that all students can look up most of the information in textbooks online, and that often times textbooks are outdated. What I cannot wholeheartedly endorse is the idea that students have no need for learning dates, or that the internet is the answer for finding information. Dates have a purpose. Maybe students do not need to know the date of all wars that ever occurred, but I do think it is important that they know how far (or for that matter not so far) we are removed from some extremely significant events, i.e. The Civil War or the Civil Rights Movement.
Now that being said, I definitely agree that students need to improve critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration skills (Richardson, 2012). This is one area that I am extremely passionate about. As a future science teacher I would rather give my students articles about new research and discovery, rather than a cumbersome textbooks, that are outdated because the latest research takes years to be publish and even more time to reach a textbook. In this way I would also be constantly learning along with my students and modeling the behavior that I hope I would be able to instill in them. Along the same line I would ensure that I would be a master learner, forever improving and moving forward as our would progresses at such a rapid rate. Plus I want to make sure that I am constantly learning from my students, they are full of ideas and hold a different perspective than I might have and can open my mind to a different way of thinking. Ultimately I want to be a good role model for my students, particularly with regards to learning, and that to me is the most important change that I can make to the current system. I am not an authoritarian, but the person they can look to for guidance in this rapidly changing world.
On the flip-side, as much as we are a connected world, I think that I would struggle being so connected. I am a very private person, and like the anonymity that I currently have in the online would. So while I hope to share with my fellow colleagues, I do not think I would be comfortable becoming a part of this greater online network, or be comfortable talking to strangers. In no way do I mean to be close-minded, but these are areas that are very unauthentic to who I am as a person, and if nothing more students respond to authenticity. Also, I don't know that I could just transfer the power of learning to my students. If students are allowed to only learn subjects that are of interest to them, I feel we are doing them a disservice. Even people who work for themselves, or have their dream job, have boxes they need to check and days that are less than terrific. If we allow students to just explore what they are interested in, how will they be equipped to handle the world that adults must navigate? More importantly, while the internet does hold almost all of human knowledge, finding the good and reputable knowledge can be a painstaking process, not this everything is at the tip of your fingers internet described in the essay. In the end, I understand that what we currently are doing for the education of our children is not the best at serving their needs, I am not sure that I can fully jump on board with all that was presented by Richardson (2012).
Richardson, W. (2012). Why School: How Education Must Change when Learning and Information are Everywhere. TED Conferences. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com