It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we’re talking about educational philosophy. We’re charged with the daunting task of educating students in heady stuff: character education, Common Core standards, digital citizenship, critical thinking.
We’re challenging ourselves to be innovative as well.
On top of it, the educational system isn’t really designed to be innovative, to encourage or reward innovation from its students and its teachers, or to allow for it in the hallways of public schools. What’s a teacher to do?
The purposes of education, originally were utilitarian–keep kids off the streets and out of the factories and mines. If we can’t put them to work at such a young age, and they’ll resort to savagery on the streets left to their own devices, we should put them into schools where they’ll spend some time learning things that we need them to learn to be functioning member of society: to read a little, some numbers, perhaps the start of the trade. And, because your family was probably in the factory or mines, then you had to learn things that couldn’t be taught at home: some basic work in carpentry or machinery, some basic homemaker skills.
Today, while we don’t look at it in the same terms, the ends of the educational system, in its traditional forms are much the same. We still use schools as a physical space to care for children while their parents cannot because of work. We believe there is a certain amount of material that they need to be competent in to be functioning members of society.
However, everyone recognizes that the system isn’t working. And, the debate is why? Some will blame teachers. Some will say we need to have more rigorous standards. Some will say we need to change the entire system by placing more authority and power into the hands of those that the system is designed to serve: children.
It’s this last perspective that I’ve become the most intrigued with and that I think has the most accurate reasons why our kids are undermotivated, our schools underperforming, and our teachers feeling burned out and disgruntled and underappreciated.
Our purposes in education should be to connect students to their capacity to learn, to create a citizenry of empathetic, driven learners who want to design
I’m not saying anything new here. I’m synthesizing the reading of blogs and books and discussions and TED Talks. People who pay attention to educational conversations will recognize the threads.
So, how am I trying to innovate?
I make no claims as to the authenticity of my innovations. First, I wondered, is there a rubric for innovation? Can I quantify my moves towards it? Then, I figured, if there’s a rubric for it, it’s not really innovation? Second, do I just pay good lip service towards innovation, and am I really doing it.
However, here are something that I think that I’ve done in the past several weeks to shift things back to students and to put them into the position as learners.
- I’m no longer reading directions to students. Instead, I’m pointing or repointing kids to resources where they can find the information. I’m giving space to time to read and process directions.
- I’m no longer answering any questions where I’ve written the answer on a handout, hyperdocument or place where students can find it in resource.
- I’ve stopped answering questions that can be found through a Google search, or can be found in the Help Menu of a web-based resource. For example, here’s a conversation I had early last week:
Student: “How do you change the margins?”
Me: “Why don’t you look in the help menu?”
Students: “What’s that?”
Me: “Here, I’ll show you how to access it”
- I’ve stopped answer questions that other students in the class know the answer to. For example, in my Media Maker class, I’m having the students learn about QR codes as a way of sharing their blogs. I shared some resources and let them go at it. But about ten minutes into class the following discussion occurred:
“Mr. Pedzich, can you show me how to do these QR codes?”
I turned to the class, and said, “Who’s got the QR codes down?” Several hands went up, and I said, “Ok! Go see them.”
- I’m recording direct instruction as screencasts (as fast as I can. I’m not always able to keep up with the technology integration as fast as I need to). When there are readings, I’m giving them time to read, to use Docentedu as a way to do close reading and answer text-based questions, and then focusing lessons on application.
As I think about some of these small moves, part of me is motivated and dedicated to continue. And, part of me is sad. Should it be innovative that we give kids time to work towards and to explore their own interests and passions? Should it be innovative that teachers blog and share their experiences and build connections? Should it be innovative that we have students share their thinking, their writing in the classroom and that classrooms are breeding grounds of self-expression?
Beyond this, I’m thinking big too. In a later unit in my English 101 class, we do informational writing. I want my students to create blogs that will inform people about issues important to them, to use social media to promote those blogs, to create connections between their blogs to develop their own PLNs, to create media that can go on those blogs to help further the information sharing. I want them to be assessed not only on the quality of their writing, but also the reach of their connections and sharing, and the depth of what they’re learning about the issues.
Also, a couple of department members and I are in discussion about new furniture. We’d like to throw out the rows of desks and chairs. Fill spaces with modular furniture, cafe style seating.
In the IMMOOC, we’re all inspired to action by what Couros and Burgess are having us do, but wouldn’t it be great if we had a culture of learning where such radical notions weren’t radical but part of the common vernacular and practice?