Shift Happens

This year was a big shift for students in our class. We made a deliberate shift from textbook learning to a much more inquiry based, authentic learning classroom focus. The shift was a challenge for many students.

Overheard in the fall,

“Can’t we just do worksheets in math?”

Overheard yesterday,

“I’m so excited. Tomorrow we have a double math period!”

Perhaps the First 5 Days really takes 5 months. This is due in large part to my PLN in the Twitterverse for helping me stay the course and keeping the focus on the moral imperative.


Why Go BYOD?

Going BYOD
Presented By:

Can you teach 21C skills without technology?

Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies – it happens when society adopts new behaviours.
– Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, p. 160

So my colleague Cat Lee posted this on Twitter a while back, and it started me thinking. Right away I wanted to answer, “Yes” then thought that a question like this deserves a lot more critical thought. The question asks us to separate behaviour and learning from hardware. I’m okay with that.

With that in mind, what are the skills necessary to be a 21st century contemporary learner? There are more than enough lists to choose from and I don’t think any one particular set of skills can (or should) be ranked higher or lower than any other. Three general areas keep coming up over and over,

  • Foundational Knowledge
  • Meta-Knowledge
  • Humanistic knowledge

Students working in tomorrow’s marketplace are going to require creative and critical thinking skills, a broad inter-disciplinary base and they will need to be able to play well with others. I suppose these could all be taught to some degree of effectiveness without technology. I’m just not entirely sure that’s the best plan of attack.

If you can be replaced by software, perhaps you should be

That seems like a pretty harsh thing to say. It seems harsh until you give it a little thought. If you think teaching is just about dispensing knowledge in measure doses so that it can be measured on a standardized test, then perhaps you should be replaced by software. Let’s face it, software can do it cheaper and longer than you can. Software is available 24/7, you’re not.

The good news is that inquiry based teaching will never become an endangered species. This isn’t the information age any more, it’s the knowledge age. Information is everywhere. It’s ubiquitous. Everything I need to know is accessible through my phone or the nearest wireless hub. Teachers are need to help students with the critical skills necessary to make sense of on-demand information. Teachers help students move from consumers to creators along the path of information to knowledge to wisdom. Software can’t do that by itself.

Let’s call it a “spark” and not a “hook”

We continue to look for ways to engage all of our learners. We look to provide multiple entry points to learning in an effort to differentiate our instruction. Something bugs me about the language we sometimes use.

A spark is something that gets our attention and begins the inquiry process.

A hook is something that lures unsuspecting fish into the frying pan.

Don’t even get me started on the magic bullet.

Teaching the creativity out of students

We had a great conversation today about long term and short term learning goals. Some of us framed long term learning as unit goals, others as end of grade learning. A few even wondered about long term goals being defined in lifetime terms. It was a pretty interesting couple of minutes of conversation connecting short term goals to long term goals.

When we broke down some of short term writing goals it became clear to some that these just weren’t fun. While they may have been convenient to assess, they certainly couldn’t be fun for the student. Of course these were just samples and a skilled teacher can do wonders, even with the driest of expectations.

Students come to us as natural storytellers and writers. As a long term goal, that’s what I want these students to become. Looking at some of the expectations presented as learning outcomes seemed to do very little to promote the joy of writing.

It’s the difference between the art and the science of teaching. I think we have to keep some of those really long term goals in mind during our planning. It seems a bit short sighted just to plan for the end of a unit or even the end of the grade. Perhaps we need a few 20 year goals to remind us of the bigger picture.

Students are not a level!

I hear it all the time, “That student is a level 3”. It has now become painful to hear. Students are not a level. They are not a data point. If you insist on this grading practice, at least word it correctly.

Students perform at a level.

If you can’t see the difference then I suggest you stop whatever you are doing and read Mindset by Carol Dweck.