Maker Mindset

Pause to reflect…

Jackie Gerstein at UsergeneratedEducation pushes us constantly to think through the educational mandates and silver bullets to focus on students and their learning. What will best guide students to become thinking, caring, productive persons?

The first thirty-eight slides of her presentation [ below ] provide thoughtful background theories and key questions to consider for our classrooms.

 

Slide 8: Something to do. We lost this when state standards developed in the 1990s. We removed the authenticity of doing and replaced it with intangible verbiage, which would have been the learning had we continued with the doing.

Slide 22: The most important question for classrooms – because doing is learning.

Slide 27: Love this question. After all, aren’t we trying to make the world better?

Slide 29: The Soft Skills – the process of planning, searching, gathering, sharing, collaborating, listening, debating, revising. The skills we learn through doing and doing together.

With each of these first thirty-eight slides, I say – that’s what what we need to consider! That’s our goal… I appreciate that Jackie shares these slides and continues with examples in the latter part.

Jackie’s Thinglink provides more information to consider:

Refer to the work of those who focused on learning as opposed to standards or skill objectives. Review the work of Dewey [and here], Vygotsky, Bruner, Papert [and here]. For Language Arts, see the work of James Moffett [ and here ].

Play to Learn…

Consider these ideas and questions. Consider the students in your classroom. When did we lose the doing? We learn what we need while doing something. We learn the strategies as we go, with support from our collaboration with peers or colleagues. Every time we do something, we build on what we learned before. That is the power of project-based learning. Students today are fading out in classrooms, bored with the posted objective; they want to learn what is of interest to them — or a question, an issue that piques their interests. With information readily available, it is the questions asked about that information that leads to learning and understanding it; it is what we want to do with the information that allows us to learn deeper. It is the sharing and collaborating with a shared purpose that propels us to do more and better to discover an answer and produce the results for others to contribute; this is learning. It fits in any classroom.

How will we as educators bring the power of the question and the doing back into our classrooms?

dewey_doing


Source of Quote

Dewey, John. Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. New York: Macmillan, 1916. Print. p. 181

 

Cross-post

Reframing Henry

Pause…

Change the way you think about it.

Thanks to Paula for this bit of wisdom.

That’s my goal for reframing the focus on skills / test prep to include  Authentic Projects.

Play…

I’m going to turn around my last post about blaming Henry Ford  and think again about community of learners in the classroom, like when I taught writers and readers workshop.

Communities are messy; they aren’t the perfect working machine; they change and flow from one need to the next. And they get stuck in ruts. They need to “Change the way you think about it.”

I’m going to start by asking my students what “work” they want to do — as readers, researchers, and authors. Perhaps, we’ll change our way of thinking about our skills together, as a community of learners.

It’s actually starting from them now. We just finished a short iSearch project in which students learned questioning, research, collaboration, analysis, interpretation, presentation, speech. Two students asked, based on their chosen article [ Drama VS Bullying ], if they could create a video about their learning. Their work will be my first model for the others… They have changed the way they thought about their research. I love that.

Blaming Henry

Pause…

How do we change our thoughts on grading so that we are teaching and assessing for learning with feedback so students can improve? Teaching for learning does require patience, reteaching, kid-watching, and engaging tasks that require thought. I don’t want to catch kids — I want to inspire them to be more.

Play…

I’d like to also to change our thoughts on assignments that focus on one objective. People don’t learn to ride a bike by 1) practicing pedaling, 2) practice steering, and 3) practice braking before 4) putting them together. No, we get on and ride. Shouldn’t we dive into good books? Write about what know and read about? Then get feedback on how to do it better, based on the real work being done?

I blame Henry Ford for breaking things into pieces and organizing assembly lines. Many of our schools with students who need more positive experiences are just like assembly lines — not places where we actually “do” stuff together, and learn to get better. Students enjoyed the work, did better on more skills, learned more, and liked school with authentic projects — something that required integration of skills with mini-lessons and flexible grouping to help. We created posters, brochures, skits, models, memoirs, video-memoirs — filled with our learning and all requiring reading and writing. When I’m told to post my objectives every day, it seems that we are focused on the parts and not the whole; we’re teaching the bits and not understanding the world of authors, scientists, historians, etc. We’re pushing the pedal, but not steering towards anything authentic.

What do you want for your child? Objectives for Test Prep or Authentic Projects ? Tell your school board today, and tomorrow, and the next day.

 

John Dewey: Open Minds

Probably the chief cause of devotion to rigidity of method is… that it seems to promise speedy, accurately measurable, correct results. The zeal for “answers” is the explanation of the zeal for rigid and mechanical methods.

But there is a kind of passivity, willingness to let experiences accumulate and sink in and ripen, which is an essential of development. Results (external answers and solutions) may be hurried; processes may not be forced. They take their own time to mature. Were all instructors to realize that the quality of mental process, not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less than a revolution in teaching would be worked. John Dewey

John Dewey on Open-mindedness…

Pause to think about this: “quality of mental process is the measure of educative growth.”

Play with it to realize that standardized tests can never measure true learning.

#zerotohero Comment to Post: A Reflective Conversation

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So. Our challenge, Day 16, for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge is to read many and comment on two others’ post from yesterday’s post on a writing prompt [ find prompt here ].

Pause…

I started with my new favorite food blog, because it was breakfast: Made by Steven I enjoy seeing what interesting Japanese, Indian, or other delights he created this time and decided it was time I let him know I appreciate his blog and work:

I love reading your posts and viewing your images; everything looks divine, and the design is pleasing. I especially love your header image — I could reach in and try one, but which? Ah. too difficult to decide. I will one day discover one of your dishes to make. Glad you decided to blog about your passion.

Be sure to follow his blog for delicate delights for your taste buds.

Next, I learned a new word: spraff: to talk a lot about nothing. That’s the blog I read: Incidents of a Dysfunctional Spraffer

I enjoyed the post and agree with your words. “Everyone has different reputations decided by different groups of people,” is so true. And I appreciate learning more about how your music and art are important to you, and part of how you share yourself. I like this line also: “Maybe people would get on with their lives slightly more efficiently if they weren’t worrying about reputations.” So your spraffing today revealed some gems for us to ponder!  Thanks!

He [corrected from She, sorry ] said what I wanted to say — it’s so good to read other’s ideas because their twist of thought sometimes sparks your own, and their way of saying it helps clarify your own. It’s like a conversation in pauses; we learn from each other perhaps more readily because of that pause — that time to reflect that is perhaps deeper than face to face.

And, finally, I discovered a school reputation post from flash fiction author Rob Ross‘s blog Rob’s Surf Report. I could identify with those feelings through the students I have and the sons I raised, who helped me understand the spirit within each child. I told Rob: his post showed

“the spark that rebelled causing a bit of trouble for you in school. I see you survived very well — your blog is interesting, well-designed, and full of diverse postings. I imagine you’ve created a life that is the also full of spirit and interest.

It’s a difficult task for teachers to honor the spirit and also rein it enough to focus on the learning. And it’s an even more difficult task to encourage that spirit to grow in a way that guides without controlling. In today’s schools, teachers are mandated to improve scores, not to nurture nature and help students develop their talents, which, in turn, would lead to success in any area the young person would choose. Since my own boys were those with a reputation, I understood the soul behind the scenes, and always looked to begin conversations with those kids before their year with me — what were there interests? what was it that captured their imaginations? how could I use that to bring them into the learning community, instead of skirting the edges? How do I build in movement and humor? These are the questions I would ask and consider, so “that kid” would find a place in our class. But again, teachers are watched and paced and managed to teach to those test scores; and time is taken that would otherwise be the conversations and activities to honor the spirit of each kid.

Thanks for the reflection; it inspires me to continue the quest to honor each spirit.”

We have many students in our schools who follow different paths, and the current testing frenzy does not honor their spirit, talents, nor intellect. And in my research today I found this post by @EDUCareNow Learning as Belonging. Teaching and learning are social activities as we learn within a learning community for which all students are honored for who they are. It’s a great read and links to a document entitled, The School as a Community of Engaged Learners. Now that’s a goal to achieve. So thanks, Rob — you sent me searching for more support for a different type of education reform.

Play…

So as we post our own thoughts, we also read others, and in both those paused reflections and the continued followed or researched links, we discover a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. And I am thankful for each connection.

Now, if only we could see this as learning, and build these connections and personalized journeys into our schools so each student becomes what is within.

Day 3 #zerotohero First Posts Jump In the Middle

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Pause…

What’s on my mind? What was I thinking about writing when I started this blog, or started this blogging challenge?

That’s our assignment today for the #zerotohero WordPress blogging challenge.

I’ve written my reasons here and here, but wondered what my first post presented. Jump in the middle...  fits with this task, as it refers to:

“Beginnings are always messy.” ~ John Galsworthy, English novelist and playwright

and explains a strategy we use in our writing classroom: just jump in the middle — starts writing, and go back to fill in the before and afters. So I’ll jump in the middle of that first post and continue:

I talked about the beginnings of our school year with this:

“…from Teaching Unmasked by John Spencer:

‘Still, in the middle of May, I always feel that I should have done more. I should have given better feedback on work. I see some students and think, “I hardly know you.”’

I so identify with that. It’s a sinking feeling because I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student. I should have slowed down, taken one more day for sharing, one more day for writing/conferences, one more choice project each quarter. Each of those would meet objectives and meet the human requirement of personalized learning.”

What happened? We did take pictures of parent involvement, but they didn’t make it into a portfolio, although they easily could.
Why not? Because no matter how I try to slow down, I’m always faced with “I let the fast pace of forced objectives obscure the time needed to know each student.”  It happens every year, and now — teachers are also tasked with documenting everything to prove what they do.  And all of these mandates are based on “research.” Today I read Ira Socal‘s post about research. It’s a long read, and an important one. He quotes Peter Høeg:

“When you assess something, you are forced to assume that a linear scale of values can be applied to it. Otherwise no assessment is possible. Every person who says of something that it is good or bad or a bit better than yesterday is declaring that a points system exists; that you can, in a reasonably clear and obvious fashion, set some sort of a number against an achievement.

“But never at any time has a code of practice been laid down for the awarding of points. No offense intended to anyone. Never at any time in the history of the world has anyone-for anything ever so slightly more complicated than the straightforward play of a ball or a 400-meter race-been able to come up with a code of practice that could be learned and followed by several different people, in such a way that they would all arrive at the same mark. Never at any time have they been able to agree on a method for determining when one drawing, one meal, one sentence, one insult, the picking of one lock, one blow, one patriotic song, one Danish essay, one playground, one frog, or one interview is good or bad or better or worse than another.” – Peter Høeg Borderliners

We are all points on an imposed scale.

And improving those points, that scale, on those tests demands that we work towards those goals, rather than towards the learning needs reaching out from the eyes of the students in front of me. We’ve lost our true purpose of education — to draw out the strengths, to lead the person learning — from where each is to where each dreams to be.  Sad, isn’t it?

Over break, I wrote a poem and sketched a book entitled, “Know That You Can” [ link when available] for The Sketchbook Project.  A verse encourages:

Whatever they try

They hear that, “We can”

Together, learning they could

And knowing they can.

The expectations and mandates of teachers, principals, and schools today do not encourage a positive, nurturing, engaging, yet challenging environment. The only focus is on those numbers because the consequences for not achieving those scores are devastating: school takeovers, school closures, teacher firings, negative community images, more intensive skill-based focus without art, music, drama, etc. The reality of how we learn is ignored.

There’s tons of research on how we learn, how we are all so different and do not learn at the same time in the same way. Here’s just a bit from Larry Ferlazzo’s blog at EdWeek.org :

“…Research by Rosalie Fink…Different students have different interests. Teachers can be most effective not by forcing students to learn from one standard curriculum, but by helping them to discover what they are passionate about, what they are especially interested in. Then learning becomes a natural activity for every student.”

It just makes sense, but the focus — in politics and by those who don’t work in schools but make the mandates — is not about students and sense, but is about sensationalism and scores.

So, even though I need to work with my student’s passions and curiosity, as soon as I get back to school I’ll be expected to teach the standards that supposedly teach to the test (and that’s another story). Our school is filled with dedicated teachers and paraprofessionals and a principal who want the best for students to lead them to the opportunities we don’t even know they’ll have. But we’re tied to mandates that teach to today, no matter what the student’s vision is.

However, we have one addition to our curriculum: Genius Hour, which is a time for students to follow their own strengths through coding, art, computer science, their interests. [ More Genius Hour ] It’s a small amount of time, but it’s a start.  [ Personalized, Connected Learning: Here and Here ]

Play…

Progress [ Genius Hour ] has occurred. And I’ve written this post, which shows 1) that change occurs slowly and 2) I’ve got other passions [ writing and drawing ]. Clearly, I know how and as a child I knew how to “play school.” But if you read Ira Socal’s post, you’ll see why learning, and school, is not the same for everyone; so each school needs to be different — one size does not fit all [ nor does one curriculum nor one test ].

What do you think? Have you accepted the negative view of schools, or will you dig into your school district and support schools that focus on helping kids find their strengths rather than focus on tests? The change comes from you — the people.

What’s next? I’m going to jump into the middle of a blog that holds things I consider worth looking into, but I never get to [ So Consider ]. That’s the source for ideas, and an idea for you to try, if you get stuck for ideas. Join Twitter, follow hashtags of interest to you, and send those especially noteworthy to a blog for you to peruse later for further writing.

So, although my original intent was to “jump.. in the middle of an idea, pausing to reflect, and planning how it will or how it could play out in the classroom community,” this new beginning has been a bit messy, but I do want to branch out. This post presents a glimpse into the broader implications of our school system’s current status and brings it back to working around the dilemma through Genius Hour.

What about you? How do you learn? When do you learn? Is it like school is and has been, or do you learn differently? How would school today need to change to accommodate your learning needs? Does your standardized test score from your school years reflect your success today?

Jump anywhere in the middle of this blog, and extend the ideas.  That’s what blogging is all about… extending the conversation. It’s OK if it’s messy; we’re all still learning — because real learning takes time.