2/6/2016 1 Comment
"In our view, the kind of learning the will define the twenty-first century is not taking place in a classroom - at least not in todays classroom. Rather, it is happening all around us, everywhere, and it is powerful".
This quote seems to be a good summation of the argument Thomas and Brown begin to unfold through chapter 1. At first it seems like a sort of, "adapt or become ineffective" attitude toward traditional classroom teaching, but later it becomes clear that the authors want to champion change in teaching pedagogy to not miss an opportunity to take full advantage of the tremendous power that new technologies are continuously bringing to education. That's something I can get behind. Though I do find myself disagreeing quite a bit with a lot of the premises the authors put forward in the their examples through the following chapters.
Does having access to tools that can facilitate learning mean that kids are indeed learning without the aid of a teacher? When I look around at the students I interact with (high-school students) I don't see them "messing around" on games like Scratch or Mind-craft. I see them sending selfie snapchats and playing Madden. When I was in elementary school, I played Oregon Trail. I think I was supposed to be learning about things like economy of material, the barter system, and the hardships people faced while traveling west by wagon, but in reality I remember just thinking about how lame the game was. If I had been given the choice to play Oregon Trail or Super Mario you can bet I would have chosen the later every time. Here's the thing. I learned a lot playing Mario. I learned about arcs (trying to jump from one thing to another) without even realizing. I understood that if I ran faster (increased my momentum) I could send Mario further with the same jump. I learned that sometimes games have glitches, like in the last level you could swim under some of the smaller ships as long as you kept pressing A. I was learning concepts in algebra, physics, even programming. Here's the catch - I had no idea I was learning.
In my clinical practice I've made a big effort to take advantage of technology to increase student engagement and learning. Through that experience, I'm sold in the idea of adapting classrooms to take advantage of what technology has to offer. here are two caveats to that:
1 - Sometimes technology specifically designed for a classroom setting lags far behind technology used by teens outside of the classroom. In other words, it looks really lame. 2 - I've seen technology burn my students out if I use it too much. I use my computer, iphone, and ipad every day, Monday through Friday. But, I also give myself long, extended breaks from being attached to these devices. I think students need the same breaks in the classroom. I sometimes intentionally plan a lesson that only involves talking to each other using old school technology like paper and pencil.
My "AHA!" moment while reading this chapter came as I read through the real life examples of people who were learning holistically with technology. I realized that the question is not should classrooms be adapting to the new culture of learning; rather, what will be missed if they don't?
"learning should be viewed in terms of an environment—combined with the rich resources provided by the digital information network—where the context in which learning happens, the boundaries that define it, and the students, teachers, and information within it all coexist and shape each other in a mutually reinforcing way."
I chose this quote because it makes a very important point about the how classrooms ought to be adapted in order to talk advantage of the new culture of learning. Rather than follow what the authors claim is a traditional model of teaching, classrooms should become environments where learning takes place through exploration.
What is the primary role of a teacher in such a setting? My belief is that the best teachers lead from behind. They facilitate and encourage rather than control. This requires a very adaptive and flexible personality. My experience so far is that students make the best connections through self directed discovery rather than teacher directed learning.
I'd like to find better ways of creating project based lessons in my classroom. It's been challenging because students abilities vary widely in terms of how quickly they can pick up more abstract concepts and have realizations that carry them to some next step. I haven't yet found a balance between challenging students that pick things up quickly or while not leaving others in the dust.
I'm not sure I had any new realization myself while reading this chapter. It did reinforce things I've already been thinking about in regards to my own classroom.
"Change motivates and challenges. It makes clear when things are obsolete or have outlived their usefulness. But most of all, change forces us to learn differently."
I chose this quote because it made me stop and think about how change in my life recently has forced me to learn differently. I would say, rather than forcing me to learn differently, it has forced me to learn again altogether. I think that's the real power of change - it's outcome is often growth, whether in understanding or awareness, or both.
How can I create a continuous atmosphere of change in my classroom in order to force students to be more adaptable learners? That's something I'd like to really work on. If I can create a constant sense of healthy discomfort through being introduced to new situations on a regular basis, I believe my students will benefit.
One way I've been doing this so far is by constantly re-arranging my desks. I have the luxury of a small number of students which make this easier. I try to think of the best possible seating arrangement for the specific lesson we're working on that day. It's often the first thing the students comment on as they enter the room. It prepares them to be uncomfortable and adapt right away. I should add that for the most part they can choose which seat they want every day, so that helps to balance and give them some comfort.
Students should be having new experiences as often as possible in the classroom. Not hearing new concepts - having new EXPERIENCES. Whether it's talking to someone new for the first time, expressing understanding in a completely new way, or exploring a topic using a new tool, regularity and routine has to be injected with a measure of unpredictability and chaos.