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
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