Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blog Post #9

Teaching or Learning...Which one is it?

Picture of earth taken by the balloon camera
The question is: "What can we learn about teaching and learning from a group of experienced teachers?" I would say that it is hard to say what we have learned about learning because to every individual, learning really is something different. But, I can say that we have learned how to teach differently, focusing not on explaining but experiencing. In Mr. Crosby's video, his class was structured on learning through experiences and although his video featured a science lesson, his entire classroom appeared to embody learning through experiences and not lecturing. One could focus on the video being about the balloon experiment and everything preceding the experiment but I believe the focus was on getting students interested in what they were learning without telling them this is what you are going to learn. This should have been done for two reasons. The first is you want students to be able to come away with some knowledge gained based on their own observations. The second is, if we give students a preconceived idea about what they should learn, they may dismiss something they learned as just a fluke, because that was not the intention of this experience. Testing/evaluating also took on a new avenue as he could really see what students learned from their blog postings. Now, everyone might have "taking away" something different from that experience but we will not ever all see the same thing in an experience. Have you ever noticed when something happens and people are all looking at the same thing and each of them sees something different? This occurs with learning also and although the teacher may have a specific goal in mind when it comes to objectives being learned given a certain experience, students' responses and ideas about what they have seen may determine what they have learned rather than the objective at hand. Please know and program into your memory bank that this is ok as long as the students have learned. Our goal as a teacher is to get students to learn and I believe it is better that they learned something totally different than what we expected them to learn instead of sitting and listening to a lecture and learning absolutely nothing at all.

Paul Andersen stated one very intriguing thing that ties in to what I stated above. He said "I don't think you've learned something until you can explain it to somebody else". While he did it differently by reviewing/interviewing his students it was also done by Mr. Crosby with the blog posts. Mr. Andersen also had a summary quiz, which, while I feel it is ok for assigning a test grade, I don't feel that it is absolutely necessary for the students to show what they know. Haven't they already done this during the review session? Mr. Andersen did state that he won't even allow them to move on the summary quiz until they have explained to him what they have learned during the review session. So, is the summary quiz really necessary? The only benefit I see is for the teacher and not so much for the student. If a lot of the students are missing the same questions, maybe that objective was not clearly covered in any of the material they have gone over or maybe it is just a bad question. To really get at what a student knows we need to, as Mr. Andersen did, probe them until they can justify why they are giving certain answers. I believe a summary quiz should only be given as a tool for the teacher to know if they have covered every objective intended and it should not be keep "guessing" until you get it right. See what was missed. Marry this up to the verbal responses and go from there. If they explained it well and justified their answer, they clearly know what they were talking about. Maybe the problem is not with the students but with the questions.

Mr. Church decided to get some brainstorming going on in his classroom. Having worked in business for 10+ years, I can say that it is a very useful tool for a student's future. People need to be able to collaborate. Groups need to come up with ideas, a task, and then develop that idea into something tangible. While he had the students get into small groups and come up with ideas, the next step would be developing these ideas through research. Also, through research, collaboration, and candid discussion, these students are able to refine their idea and justify their position on such a topic while producing tangible evidence that supports their position.

Picture of student at desk with his superhero he created on his computer screen
Mr. Pane, like many of the other teachers above, decided to introduce fun into his lesson. Dealing with 5th graders, he had to show them how to use the internet safely while achieving a learning objective. He was able to get his students to engage by providing them with something that was familiar to them. It was just a quote from the movie "Spiderman" but his students knew it and were now engaged. He kept their attention by showing them how to create a marvel superhero and telling them that they would be able to create one also. This was a fun activity for them but to do it right, they had to pay attention. Part of creating a superhero and embedded in that assignment was creating a story on internet safety. So, Mr. Pane got the students to pay attention to what he was trying to do by getting them engaged from the beginning. He had them talk to each other (collaborate) on what internet safety was. He then kept their attention with the marvel superhero creation. Finally, he had them create and share some of their superhero stories on internet safety. Thus, Mr. Pane had an objective to accomplish and he went about accomplishing this objective with creativity, collaboration, and sharing with an authentic audience (classmates).

In the Project Based Learning Video I truly enjoyed how three different teachers came together and was able to show the students how all of the things they were learning worked together. If students have the chance to see how math and science is related, how Literature, Social Studies, and Information Processing are related, and how if they work together they can accomplish an enormous feat, isn't this worth pursuing? The students want to be able to see why they need a certain subject and a lot of times it is hard to tell/show them how it can be applied elsewhere. Being that I will be teaching math next year, I want to be able to show my students the math involved in science, and how they can create with math. I want them to see how it is all connected and the way the teachers did that in this video was just amazing. I liked, even more, how a student saw that they had done sub-par work after viewing another students' presentation and wanted to go back and make it better. I liked how after receiving feedback from the teachers, three students had stated that they were proud of their work when they thought they might have been done before the feedback. Students want to do the best they can and sometimes all they need is a little nudge. This nudge can come in many different ways. It can come from several teachers asking about similar things. It can come from one teacher saying "I see this, but what about that" which inspires them to dig deeper. It's all about invoking curiosity among the students. If we can get students interested in what they are learning, we can teach them to learn about anything.

Roosevelt Elementary's Project Based Learning (PBL) approach should speak wonders to teachers around the world. The statement made by one teacher that said that every child has a spark really hit home with me. This means, to me, that every child is learning but in their own way. Without PBL some of these student's may have not ever realized their potential for academic success and as such would have gone through school failing and feeling like a failure their entire life. You can see it in adults even after they have left school. You can see that we are all different and we have differing strengths and weaknesses so why are we trying to teach every child the same way? Why do we expect every child to learn the same way? With PBL, as mentioned in the video, it allows students to have a sense of ownership; PBL allows for different learning styles within a classroom and makes sure every student is allowed to show that individual spark. In the video it also spoke about one very important aspect of PBL and that is public speaking. Why is this important? It is important because as adults, to even get a job, you must be able to present who you are to an audience and prove that you are that right person for the job. You will constantly be tasked with presenting ideas/sharing your thoughts with an audience. This may be an audience of 1 or of millions but if you are confident in what you have done and have the experience of speaking in public without being ridiculed, you will be a confident and very good public speaker and I believe PBL is preparing these students for such a thing. Today a classroom, tomorrow the world!

High School Students engaged in Project Based Learning
While all of the videos incorporated different styles of PBL, one thing remains consistent in them all. Every one of these teachers gave the opportunity for their students to have a voice, to take ownership of their learning and to show what they know. Isn't this what learning is all about? Shouldn't we be teaching kids to think independently and have confidence in themselves? The question was: "What can we learn about teaching and learning from these teachers?" and I now believe I have an answer. You can learn that, as teachers, we will not have all of the answers. You can learn that, as teachers, you should not expect every child to learn the same way. You can learn, as teachers, sometimes it is not what you say but what you do that inspires your students to learn. You can learn, and I feel this is the most important, that by giving a student ownership of his or her learning they will accomplish not only what you wanted them to but more than you could have ever expected. So, my title is "Teaching or Learning...Which one is it?" The answer is both for the students and the teachers. You are teaching them to be independent thinkers and about making the world a safer and better place and you are learning how to trust your students and see them as little adults who hold the key to your future in their hands. There is innocence in every child and left untainted, the possibilities of what they can accomplish are endless. So, don't taint a child's world just because you don't believe. Guide them, inspire them, to create a new world in which they can achieve.

1 comment:

  1. "Have you ever noticed when something happens and people are all looking at the same thing and each of them sees something different?" yes. Good point!

    "So, is the summary quiz really necessary?" An excellent question!

    "Guide them, inspire them, to create a new world in which they can achieve."

    Excellent! What more can I say?