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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

BOOK REPORT - Part 12 - So What Do You Do Now?


TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY

Eleven suggestions to begin the subversive activities in your classroom. As I reflect on this book, with one chapter remaining, I can't help but see that many of the things have become tools in many classrooms. The current strategies, described in this 1969 book, are either a result of teacher prep programs or "best practices" that have been shared through the years.
 
That said, these strategies are 40 years old now! They need to be updated. It has been amazing to me, though, to see how predictive the authors were in the vision of their future. This is a result of one of the strategies discussed in chapter 12.
 
The 11 suggestions:
 
1- Three questions to review everyday: a) What am I going to have my students do today?, b) What's it good for?, c) How do I know?
 
2- Avoid telling students any answers. Two articles on learning.
 
3- Listen to students for a day or two. Learn to listen to students to discover their views of what is relevant. Use "What's Worth Learning" chapter for list of questions to get students talking.
 
4- Present a problem and have students create list of questions to which answers would provide a solution to the problem. Teach kids how to ask good questions.
 
5- Identify why you give students the grades you assign them. Suspend and delay judgements about our students.
 
6- Convince yourself that your students are the smartest in the school. "Self-fulfilling prophecy" concept.
 
7- Promise and give the grade of 'A' to all students so they have no worries about a grade. A few will view opportunity to good off, but so what?, how many who previously tuned out may come back is the real question.
 
8- Provide future-oriented questions on exams or in discussions.
 
9- For most units or lessons the question - In what ways are media affecting our society? - I see this as especially important in web 2.0 world of personal journalism.
 
10- Some old measures may be necessary at times, but overall the goal herebis to create a methodological and psychological shift in emphasis in the role of teacher and student, and nature of the classroom environment.
 
11- Ask yourself how you came to know whatever things you feel are worth knowing. It likely did joy come from someone telling you something. Rediscover why you became a teacher.
 
Good chapter to provide practical application to the theory, ideas, and possibilities of the prior chapters.
 
 
iPhoned
 From R. Murry

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

BOOK REPORT - Part 11 - Two Alternatives


TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY

I have taken some extra time with this chapter because the book is getting to the practical application of the theory.

The two alternatives to an Inquiry Method approach are provided: 1) Student-constructed questions with teacher guidance to higher-level critical thinking, and 2) games which require real-world scenarios.

A quote from Frank Miceli -

Teachers don't work with materials.  They work with what they have in their heads and with what students have in their head. When the schooling process breaks down...we can almost be sure that the origin of the failure is in the fact that the stuff in the teacher's head bore an inadequate relationship to the stuff in the learner's head (p. 171).

Miceli's article goes on to provide a "class setting" in which the gathering of questions and the organization of those questions is demonstrated.  Not only do the students learn what questions they can ask, but what makes a question "valuable" to provide the kind of learning they really would like to experience.  There is a skill in learning to ask questions that matter.

This article, updated with a situation more current than the 1960s, is an excellent starting point for any teacher wanting to get a glimpse of the work required  in the Inquiry Method based on questioning.  My particular curiosity is to create this atmosphere in a middle school setting, that can adhere to the benign standards I must present, and not make the process seem contrived (to me or my students).

My absolute favorite statement in the book thus far:

If more and more students become less and less interested in what we have to offer them, we will...begin to discover by default what our profession is all about, and what it should have been from the beginning: the study of how students learn by asking and being asked relevant questions.  The student must be central in any curriculum development.  Not central to the limit that we bear him in mind as we construct our intellectual houses, but central in that our curricula begin with what he feels, cares about, fears, and yearns for [emphasis mine] (p. 179-180).

My personal philosophy is born out in this statement, and probably demonstrates why I am so frequently frustrated by the way we "do school."  Now we start with an ineffectual, who really cares, set of standards created and dictated by a few "someones" who were likely not very successful with students, but perhaps successful in the system of "education."  Our students, all of them, must be pigeon-holed into becoming "standardized" under limiting, yet (under NCLB) vital criteria. It is, as the quote from Lean on Me, a vicious effort "to maintain a permanent underclass."

The second alternative, games, was discussed at length, with several examples of college-level "games" that worked.  The advent of computer gaming makes the claim of using games even more realistic.

"Games" of the kind we have in mind can be used at any "grade level" and for learning any concept (p. 181).

The games should be designed to "put individuals into decision-making posts so they can experience what it's like to operate [in a real-world] system," said Dr. Guetzkow, (p. 186).

Two chapters remaining.  I'll have them completed very soon.  Next Book Report - Sir Ken Robinson's The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's First Act - Call To Serve & Remake


I plan to use not only the Inaugural Speech tomorrow (we had a snow day today - but no snow).  Since the kids are all excited about the new President, I thought I would take his words to make them "better citizens."  The words in bold are really the only part of the legalese that is the action of the Proclamation.  Or perhaps I am missing the point - is this call just for January 20, 2009.

[Taken from the official blog of Whitehouse.gov]



NATIONAL DAY OF RENEWAL AND RECONCILIATION, 2009

- - - - - - -

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

A PROCLAMATION

As I take the sacred oath of the highest office in the land, I am humbled by the responsibility placed upon my shoulders, renewed by the courage and decency of the American people, and fortified by my faith in an awesome God.

We are in the midst of a season of trial. Our Nation is being tested, and our people know great uncertainty. Yet the story of America is one of renewal in the face of adversity, reconciliation in a time of discord, and we know that there is a purpose for everything under heaven.

On this Inauguration Day, we are reminded that we are heirs to over two centuries of American democracy, and that this legacy is not simply a birthright -- it is a glorious burden. Now it falls to us to come together as a people to carry it forward once more.

So in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, let us remember that: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.

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Wordle Cloud of Obama's Inauguration Speech


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Wordle Cloud of Obama's Inauguration Speech

http://www.wordle.net/thumb/wrdl/451878/inaug_speech

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Monday, January 19, 2009

It is snowing in North Georgia


Click here to download:
Cam-2009-01-19 17-04-56.mp4 (1306 KB)

iPhoned
 From R. Murry

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Doing Right - Coming Full Circle?

I watched King (Tom Brokaw's documentary on MLK) on the History Channel. I'm watching it again as I write this.

I am also reading through my feeder. Serendipity, it's called. David Warlick is returning to the basics, and Vicki Davis reminds us too. Here are their quotes:

Warlick - In response to "What is the purpose of education?"

Today, I have a new answer. My old one is still good. I’ll continue to use it. But if you ask me, “What is the purpose of education?” today, I’ll say,

The purpose of education is to make the world a better place!"
Davis - In a personal "crisis" is inspired by a quote from Tom Brokaw (yep, same one in King) on a Starbuck's cup.
It will do us little good to wire the world if we short-circuit our souls.
There is no delete button for racism, poverty or sectarian violence.
No keystroke can ever clear the air, save a river, preserve a forest.
This transformational new technology must be an extension of our hearts as well as of our minds.
The old rules still apply..."
-Tom Brokaw, American Journalist
Vicki won't mind, not sure about David, positive that King would agree...But what education needs is a revival of religious proportion.

I'm not saying teach the Bible in the schools, although I'm not saying don't. To quote King in his Letter From A Birmingham Jail:
As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."
Traditionally, revivals are about encouraging people to get back to the basics, the "first love," the foundational reason for existing. Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing.

We (meaning tech-savvy teachers) have had so many distractions since the Internet entered the conversation, and especially Web 2.0 tools. We have said, "It's not about the tools; it's what the tools allow you to do." But, really, what do they truly allow us to do? We haven't answered that question except to say that we can publish, collaborate, and have others respond to our work to make us "feel good."

But what difference are we really making with these tools?

Have we influenced the minds of the Palestinians and Israelis that their 4000-year hatred of each other is affecting the world in ways that are no longer acceptable?

Have we really changed the underlying racism, poverty, and discrimination still infecting our own nation? Yes, we have an African-American inaugurated tomorrow, and statistically it is now true that a Black man is nearly as likely to become President (1 in 44 - 2.2%) than to become a Head Coach in college football (3.3%). My point, there is still a systemic discrimination.

In my own school, I have students whose families live on less than $15,000 a year with students whose families make $15,000 a month. Will these kids grow up understanding that people in our community really want it to stay that way?

Global Warming, rainforest destruction, desertification, and the like do not really concern me in the face of "Man's inhumanity to Man." It seems to me that to focus on these "environmental" issues are a way to deflect attention from the real problem of the human condition.

In order to "make the world a better place" it must be done by changing the hearts of people, and how they treat each other. Remember, we do not teach subjects - we teach children.

From MLK's speech after the "Mississippi Burning" deaths of three young men trying to register Blacks to vote:
It is not WHO killed them, but WHAT. And in a strange sense, when we discover that, we find that it affects all of us in a deep way.
It still does affect us all. It is not who is killing whom. It is not who is keeping opportunities from our students (by "standardizing," "testing," and "dictating" curriculum), but WHAT is it behind the decisions made to require this standardization. Is it to maintain a permanent underclass by taking away the dreams of the young and making everyone who goes through public education "equally" unprepared?

Sir Ken Robinson has said that public education systematically removes the creativity of the children.

I say public schools are in the business of stealing dreams.

Until we have enough teachers (the overwhelming majority of whom were educated in the public schools and colleges) who realize that they have been duped into becoming dream-stealers we may not truly Overcome.

I have a Dream - that we shall Overcome - That we shall overcome the tyranny of public education - That we shall overcome the hesitancy to do right for the right reason - That we shall overcome the fear that we could be dismissed for low test scores - that we develop the courage it takes to be a real teacher for our students. Yes, I have a Dream today.

---------------
Note:Publications of professor-marvel.com or associated works (unless specifically labeled with another copyright notice) are licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
The views expressed here are my own and reflect only my opinion.
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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Great SlideShare - Shows All The Tools Blocked At My School

I have used them all. I am prepared and able to use them with students. BUT, they are ALL, yes ALL blocked at our school. Have tried for over 5 years to convince authorities that these tools are important to our students' success. First it was "Student Safety and Privacy" now it is "Bandwidth." Anyone know what the next excuse will be?

Friday, January 16, 2009

STATING THE OBVIOUS


I hear this morning that President Bush will leave office with the lowest "approval rating" since Nixon.
 
That would make him a sucessful Rap Star, wouldn't it?
 
Anyway.
 
Why Barak Obama will have a high approval rating. PREDICTION
 
In all previous presidencies if one disagreed with the presidential policies ,one was labelled a "liberal" or "conservative."
 
As these labels polarized, people took great pride in the label they were given. Careers on both sides have been created based in these labels; polarizing narrow thinking ( on both sides) in our country even more.
 
Obama will make decisions that should be criticized. If he doesn't, he isn't doing the job of President.
 
However critics will not be labelled "conservative" or "liberal," they will be labelled "racist." And no one can afford that label.
 
Therefore, there will be little public criticism.
 
Just my prediction.
 
"It's perfect to be a pessimist. Either you are always right, or you are happily surprised." [George Will - loosely quoted]
 
Thoughts?
 
 
iPhoned
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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

BOOK REPORT - Part 10 - New Languages: The Media


TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY

The media is the message. There is a need to study the media of the day in order to understand how to communicate to modern students.
 
There is a good, brief history of the transformation from speech, to writing, to print, to photo, recordings, radio, television, etc.
 
"One of the facts that invariably emerges from any study of human communication is that anxiety, suspician, and pessimism accompany communication change" (p. 162). This truth has not changed, yet confusingly, it is the educational community which treats the new media of the Internet and cell phones as suspicious and with disdain.
 
 From another perpective, the method of communication should support the message. For example, reading Shakespeare makes little sense, since it was many to be heard not read. The authors argue that the greatest invention of the 19th century was the invention of the method if invention. Uncovering the process of how to invent new things provides a blueprint of replication for new ideas, as well as invention.
 
Finally, if education is to be meaningful to students it must replicate the "real total-field world" in order to gain the attention of the students. If we want to talk about the "new education" we have to learn new languages to prevent talking ourselves to death (p. 169).
 
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

BOOK REPORT - Part 9 - City Schools

TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY



I find it necessary to quote from this chapter; to do otherwise would do a disservice.

A very short chapter, but still ringing true(r) 40 years later.

Although it seems easy to disparage the observation that teachers with conventional middle-class attitudes cause most of the problems that they themselves deplore in schools, the testimony provided by students, both verbally and behaviorally, requires that this criticism be met. In the case of white teachers and Negro [any minority now] students, the simissal of this criticism merely requires the dismissal of reality (p. 155).

To say these words now is considered so inappropriate, no one has the courage to say them. Many teachers in our 75% minority school ask the question (thinking it will be taken rhetorically), "How can I be a racist? I teach in a school with more minorities than white students." However, as I have maintained for years, the greatest place for the "racist" teacher is in a minority school. Where else can a middle-class, white person hold so much control over a person of a different race, color, or creed?

Students who are "disadvantaged" many times either drop out, or are forced out when they reach the age when it is legal.

These "failures" do not disappear. They remain in the community, and they comprise an endless and growing population dedicated to "getting even" with the society that has reviled and rejected them in the school. The cost - just in dollars - we pay for dealing with these drop- or push-outs far exceeds virtually whatever cost would be entailed in modifying the school environment so as to produce attitudes and skills in these young people that would help them to become participating and contributing members of the community rather than its enemies (p. 156).

Kids joining gangs is a result of feeling "reviled and rejected" by the society in which they live. The number of kids being "trained" by their parents (the previous outcasts) grows exponentially with each generation. Since we have not truly attempted to correct this situation, schools have reaped only that which they sowed. More hostile students. In response to the hostility, schools have reduced their expectations of behavior instead of creating a climate wherein all students learn acceptable behavior when in public. It is the young persons "job" in growing up to discover the limits of acceptable behavior, and schools consistently have reduced their expectations so as to not appear "racist." In doing so, and allowing minority students to behave without correction, the behavior of students progressively worsens. Then teachers, admins, and society can say, "See, they have no home training."

Enough of my bully pulpit.

The authors continue the chapter by explaining a way in which students get involved with the real life of the community by providing services to the people, and learning how the business of communities work. Not only is there a social advantage, but a political one as well. Schools as "social-political instruments" (p. 159) instead of what they have become, propaganda instruments for maintaining a permanent under-class.

Heavy chapter.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ganas & My View The Teaching Career



Yesterday, I had the honor of a surprise guest in my classroom.

Rocio, a former student, 7 years ago, and former runner in track and cross country, is on break from Mercer University. She, and others like her, is the reason I teach.

Rocio was born the fourth of seven children. Her family is from Michoacan, Mexico. Her parents moved her family to the United States when Rocio was 11 years old.

She arrive at our school knowing no words in English. She was in 5th grade for 3 months, then it was a new school year. She was in middle school. She was in our Language Academy, a sheltered environment for English Language Learners. Her teacher, Mrs. Jones, was the only teacher she had, until I was privileged to be one of her first English-speaking teachers.

She would come into my Computer Applications class, and I would point to things on the screen, then she would point, and use facial expressions, until she felt she could trust me, that I would not ridicule her lack of English. I spoke with Mrs. Jones several times a week as to how I could do the best for this "little girl" who had a sparkle in her eyes, that I could not determine was fear or brilliance (or both).

I know what it was now.

Rocio had "ganas" - the drive to succeed.

Knowing no words of English at age 11, by her 8th grade year (age 14) she left our school with the highest GPA in the school. In her words (yesterday as she spoke to my current ELL students) "I was not the smartest, but I did have the drive to be the best I could be."

Through middle school and high school - for 7 years - she made no grade below an 'A'. That is ganas.

She is currently a student at Mercer University in Macon, GA. The cost is about $40,000 a year. My students asked her how she paid for it, she (and I) helped the students understand that she paid for Mercer while she was in middle school and high school. She earned the Gates Millennium Scholarship, worth about $30,000 and she has numerous other scholarships that cover all her expenses. She did not get paid for making good grades while she was in our school system like other systems are trying (what a joke, IMO). She delayed her gratification to get real money, and a quality education.

Rocio is inspiring to me...and she was to my students.

By the way, her older brother is in grade school in economics, a sister in medical school, another sister studying psychology, Rocio studying international affairs. She has two brothers still in our school system, and a 5-year-old sister, I can't wait to meet her!

Her parents, as I understand, did not attend college. They are among those I would consider heroes.

Rocio is my hero. I wish I had her drive, commitment to always doing my best. To overcome adversity with grace.

I WONDER how many kids come our way, who are exactly like the clouds, stars, sun, and moon in the video. They are in our scope of vision but for a few minutes, if we pause long enough to not just look, but to SEE them, would we be inspired by their presence? I think so.

How about you?

Thank you Rocio. May God richly bless you and your family. Never let insecurities enter your thoughts, except that they help you maintain your humility and love of your fellow man.

You inspire me, and always will.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

BOOK REPORT - Part 8 - New Teachers


TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY

Where will we find teachers for the "new education?" we can't use those who are so entrenched in old ways. They won't change in the necessary ways. Some might, but most won't.
 
That means teacher prep programs must change but the colleges who prepare are most likely to be unwilling to change.
 
This presents a sticky wicket, yes?
 
There is a need to unlearn in order to learn. Josh Billings quote - "The trouble ain't that people are ignorant; it's that they 'know' so much that ain't so."
 
Watson's summary of learning had several items. My take for my students was how "ready" a student is to learn something new includes the adequate existence of experiences. One can only build on what one has experienced. Another was what I have paraphrased as we learn what we want to know.
 
As the authors list Watson's 12 items for learning, I wondered if our culture or demographics have changed to negate some of the "truth" found here.
 
Instead of teaching a subject, teach how to DO the subject. Teachers model the behavior of DOING social studies instead of teaching social studies.
 
I enjoyed the discussion of the "uselessness" of administrators in schools. Totally new concept for me. Almost humorous in the portrayal.
 
Educational Technology's Goal - Help learners learn new strategies for survival in a changing world.
 
Still true - I think.
 
 
iPhoned
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STUDENTS HAVE TO RESPOND


Today in class, I showed a video of health, environment, and impact of war in Africa. The video was provided by the GA DOE at a session on our new standards. It was produced by SCIS. [I'll provide links in an edit.]
 
Anyway, students in all classes, but one class specifically, responded with questions of is that for real, why don't we do something, and what can we do?
 
Sometimes their innocence is refreshing, while at other times their naive, self-absorbsion is frustrating. This response was more than refreshing. It was palpable.
 
My 5th period went to their 6th period class, told the teacher (who is across the hall from me) they wanted to do something. They wrote a plan, came back to me and said, "We're doing something even if you won't help us. Here's our idea. You have to talk to the science teacher if you want to help."
 
AWESOME!
 
I gave a couple of students the word Darfur to research on their own this evening. I've received three emails this evening...again, asking if this is for real.
 
So I am asking my Twitter friends to help me encourage my students tomorrow during class. We meet at 1:00 EST (USA). If you are able to send anything, I'll be using my iPhone to receive the messages (Twitter is blocked on the school network) and show them that others care too. I'll keep everyone informed as to our process of learning and helping.
 
Send Twitter message to @rrmurry
 
Thanks friends.
 
iPhoned
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Monday, January 05, 2009

BOOK REPORT - Part 7 - Languaging


TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY

A lengthy chapter of a symantics study. Actually, an "entertaining" chapter.
 
Beginning with statements like "we see things not as they are but as we are" and "we do not get meaning from things, we assign meaning" give a sense of the content of the chapter.
 
Kinds of semantic awarenesses are discussed at length.
 
There are closed systems (knowables are fixed) and open systems (knowables are decisions, choices, and/or solutions.
 
I am working on the premise that if a question has a single answer doesnthat mean it doesn't make a difference (p.119). This comes in the context of a statement I do agree with: "...there are fewer and fewer closed systems that have relavance either to knowledge or to life."
 
Open systems allow for one to change or grow perceptions. Therefore, the ability to learn becomes a function of one's capability to change perceptions.
 
The chapter closes with several quotes from divergent sources to support the assertion that language is the mediator of all human perception, and therfore learning.
 
iPhoned
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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Book Report - Part 6 - MAKING MEANING


From TEACHING AS A SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITY
 
Interesting chapter in a mind-stretching way. Up front, I am compelled to say that the pluralistic relativism of the "making meaning is a personal perception" is counter to my upbringing. Not in the sense that people cannot see the same thing and draw different conclusions, but that this concept leads to the belief that there are no absolutes in the world.
 
I will have to struggle with my own perceptions of that reality. Is it possible, or prudent, to hold two views that oppose each other? Or does the belief in absolutes and the belief in relativism have to be exclusive? Not just in a theological sense, but in an educational sense. Is there nothing that is absolutely necessary (like knowing the alphabet, numbers, multiplication tables, the ability to read).
 
Adelbert Ames, Jr. - work on perception and how the individual makes meaning of what they see was valuable. "We do not get our perceptions from the "things" around us. Our perceptions come from us." Whatever is seen is filtered through a personal nervous system. Thus reality is perception as much as the newer advertising slogan that perception is reality.
 
If (or since) one makes meaning on a personal level, then one's ability to be social (which is a newer requirement than the publishing date) is contingent upon one's ability to see the other points of view. Empathy becomes a necessary trait where absolutes do not exist.
 
Empathy becomes even more important as the authors state "the meaning of a perception is how it causes us to act." Since perceptions cannot be "wrong" only less "approriate" we find ourselves faced with options that are not always productive for everyone.
 
For Example --
 
In our 21st century world, where the perceptions of good and evil come down to religious delineation (Islam vs. Jewish, Christian vs. Islam, Hindu vs. Islam) as seen in Mumbai (2008), New York/Washington D.C. (2001) and again in Gaza (2009), there is little wonder why governments would want standardization of curriculum.
 
Based on the actions of others, based on the perceptions that one religion is "better" than another, I understand why scientist and others have tried to lead the world out of religious commitment, but that will not happen, nor should it.
 
Why?
 
Because of the later "joke" about the 5th grade teacher asking how many legs a grasshopper has. The "grim Negro boy" in class replies, "I sure wish I had your problems!" it is likely that science will not solve his problems, or provide answers, in the way a religious experience will. To say the "mind" is better than the "heart" is to deny the claims of the chapter.
 
My favorite line, and most substantial to me, "...in an inquiry environment, the lesson is always about the learner. [The learner] is the content." Learning is about the possibility of modifying and extending the meanings a student already has in their heads.
 
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Friday, January 02, 2009

Is Old Schooling Really Bad?


Just wondering. Did all the educational - technological - 21st Century educational leaders attend schools, and have teachers, like the ones they criticize in their blogs, tweet, and conference sessions?
 
If they did attend these schools then the schools must have done something right for them to produce today's leading thinkers - right?
 
If they did not attend one of these schools, then how do they know these schools and "old" methods are wrong?
 
As I said, just wondering?
 
iPhoned
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Paying Attention - Work Ethic 2.0


This is a must-read.  http://www.internetnews.com/commentary/print.php/3793561

I think it is always interesting when there is "new" information sources that fully contradict each other.

On the one hand - our students are masters at "multi-tasking."

On the other hand - They have no attention span.

This article would argue that one of the truly necessary 21st century literacies would be to teach students how to pay attention.

2 great quotes:

"Control of attention is the ultimate individual power," he wrote. "People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them."

and

In a world in which entire industries bet their businesses on gaining access to our attention, which value leads to better personal success: hard work or the ability to control attention?

A person who works six hours a day but with total focus has an enormous advantage over a 12-hour-per-day workaholic who's "multi-tasking" all day, answering every phone call, constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, and indulging every interruption.

It's time we upgraded our work ethic for the age we're living in, not our grandparents' age. Hard work is still a virtue, but now takes a distant second place to the new determinant of success or failure in the age of Internet distractions: Control of attention.

Hard work is dead. Are you paying attention?


What's funny (haha & strange) to me is that the ability to pay attention is not only Work Ethic 2.0 - it seems to be that the "hard work" IS "paying attention."

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Simplify Man...Simplify

Too frequently, when trying to FTP from Blogger to my own host, it simply doesn't work. As I maintain, technology is only good if it makes one's life easier.

Well, to make my life easier, I have decided not to publish to my own site any longer. Some will say, and probably correctly, that my host is the problem. I'll take care of that at a later time, but for now I have 250mb of lifetime free server space.

There are a few things that made this decision difficult.
  1. Blogspot is blocked at my school, and likely thousands of others. However, so are most blogs if there is a way to determine they are "personal webpages." [Yep, that's the category name that flags bad information.] The 21st century book-burning continues in full force. Remember, information is a dangerous threat.
  2. Many readers will not subscribe to a generic (blogspot) blog, thinking it is unprofessional, or beneath their standards of value. Their loss. :-) I don't have that many readers anyway.
  3. I will no longer be able to use my blog as a way of giving instruction to my students while they are in the school building. UNLESS I allow the to use their cell phones for the mobile version.
Overall, I made the decision to move because it will make my lie easier. I am doing much more blogging (thought not this one) from my iPhone. I send it to Posterous, which distributes everything to my blog, Twitter, and my posterous account. And it is so simple, even I can do it.

So I hope my readers will let me know they have found me...again.

Have a happy, prosperous, and simplified New Year.

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Image: Taken by me from the TV commercial.



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Note:Publications of professor-marvel.com or associated works (unless specifically labeled with another copyright notice) are licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
The views expressed here are my own and reflect only my opinion.
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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Book Report - Part 5 - What's Worth Knowing


Chapter 5 of Teaching as a Subversive Activity
 
The authors obviously believe that what is worth knowing is subjective. Not saying this is necessarily a bad approach, but I can see possible malpractice in a teacher, or even a system, deciding what they will teach based on faulty assumptions of what the school demographic. Prejudice has been known to be a part of our history, and could easily be assumed in a classroom situation.
 
The authors argue for allowing students to ask questions to guide the curriculum. Yet there is a statement, "We can, after all, learn only in relation to what we already know." It seems to me there must therfore be room for a basic knowledge set in the curriculum on which students can build - a standardized curriculum of basic knowledge, so to speak.
 
Later in the chapter the authors state, "the only place one finds such "standards" is in a school system." Then, perhaps the best phrase in the book so far - standards of learning are distinct from standards for grading (which is what is usually meant by standards of any kind -- though today standards for assessment would be more current).
 
Alan Watts saying - THE UNIVERSE IS WIGGLY - is an outstanding phrase. The meaning is that when good questions are asked within a discipline, other disciplines are needed to answer the questions, thus blurring the lines among subject areas.
 
I have tried to find the right words for years as to why I do not think blanket standards are a good thing. I have said that students are not standard across the country, state, or even schools. We have made an incorrect assumption that all students are college-bound, yet many high schools no longer offer any diploma programs lower than college prep. I now have a better argument.
 
In the illustration of the dismayed admin whose staff had prepared a wonderful curriculum only to discover that the "wrong" kids showed up. "The trouble withbthe old education and its functionaries: it virtually insures an endless and increasing number of "wrong" students.
 
As I like to say, TEACHING IS AN ART, NOT A SCIENCE. Focusing on curriculum first is treating the teaching/learning process as a science rather than an art. Teachers must know their students better than their curriculum. Since most do not, the wrong students always show up. The students are said to be ill-prepared for their grade level. And because we continue to shovel curriculum into the closed mouths of our students we will continue to see more wrong students in the future.
 
Final takeaway - question asking and answer finding go hand in hand. This is when the text books, Internet, newspapers, and other information distribution sources are to be consulted.
 
Good chapter.
 
iPhoned
 From R. Murry

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