The experience of simultaneously reading The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner, building my PLN on Twitter, engaging with my principal and colleagues at Vista Visions Academy in a complete redesign of our school, being dropped into a 3D Gamelab experience for EDL 621 (which turned me into a highly engaged quest monster), and recycling stacks (and I mean stacks!!) of ridiculous worksheets that my 2nd grader brings home daily, has created in me the absolute, undeniable opinion that we need to #schooldifferently. I don't have the answers as exactly how to do that yet, but I can feel the ideas percolating. I've decided that I am in the Incubation stage of the creative process, which is actually a fairly uncomfortable stage, as many times it means one has passion and energy, but the ideas are still abstract and disconnected. But that only means that soon I will emerge into the Illumination phase, and that is a glorious phase of EUREKA! and the smooth ride of FLOW. So I'm hanging out in my discomfort for now, knowing it will be the catalyst for change.
Chapters 3 and 4 of The Global Achievement Gap focused on the important topics of testing and how to reinvent the teaching profession. These are important chapters because they are interconnected. As educators, we have to now redesign the teaching profession because of testing and the ridiculous emphasis that was placed on it in the last decade especially. Actually, standardized testing redesigned the teaching profession when NCLB dominated the profession. Now we just need to remember what our goals are and remember how to teach.
In chapter three Wagner refers to the work of David Conley who lists the core "habits of mind" that are needed for students to be successful in college: "intellectual openness; inquisitiveness; analysis, reasoning, argumentation and proof, interpretation; precision and accuracy; and problem solving." Unfortunately the high school experience for most students doesn't target and teach these skills. Instead, much of high school curriculum consists of decontextualized content taught in isolation, and the links to those skills and "habits of mind" that Conley wrote about are not made. The teaching to the test has created a method of teaching that doesn't help students make connections or help them dig deeper into ideas to practice honing those important habits of mind. Instead, teaching to the test has isolated concepts from the large interconnected world for students- isolated the concepts to the four walls of individual classrooms in individual disciplines. Clearly this needs to be changed if students are going to acquire the skills necessary in our interconnected world.
Chapter 4 focuses on how the profession of teaching needs to be redesigned, as well as how teachers are trained for the profession. It is pointed out that teachers are trained in much the same way high school students experience high school: by taking a bunch of classes with little connection with each other. That kind of training does not a connected teacher make. Wagner reiterates in chapter four that the most important skill today's students need is the ability to ask the right questions. Teachers need to be taught how to model that and teach students how to do that. Teachers need to be taught how to teach the important competencies and skills, rather than just the content- because much of the detail of the content can be easily looked up online. Facts are at our fingertips nowadays. Many times the facts become secondary to the ideas, questions, connections, problems, and solutions in the real world that surround those facts. In order for education to right itself, teachers, new and veteran, need to learn how to become leaders of change and how to look past the specific details of their content momentarily in order to refocus on the larger picture- the competencies and skills that students need to be successful in the world and lead a meaningful life. Then teachers can return their gaze to their content, but this time through the lens of the competencies, the content should appear differently. It will require a different approach and focus to teach when looking through the lens of competencies. It is time for a different approach. It is time to school differently.
Learning to surf!
99% of the feedback from my peers and instructors suggested I learn to surf for my 20% project. Most of the reasoning offered was that this project, besides being something I find completely interesting, will also nudge me out of my comfort zone and involve some authentic learning. I value that observation because we ask our students to venture out of their comfort zones all of the time, and I think it will be good for me to do the same.
I am excited and nervous to learn how to surf, but once I commit, I commit- so here goes!
I've started to gather some online resources to get me started. Here's a list of what I've come up with so far:
Links to blogs and websites:
Mushburger surf blogs
Surfer Magazine blogs
The Inertia: Surfing's Definitive Online Community
Club of The Waves (surf culture)
A You Tube video playlist of instructional videos for learning to surf
So cool. For Edl 630 we were asked to choose a topic, something we are passionate about wanting to learn, and go learn about it.
My initial brainstorm of ideas looked like this:
Learn to play piano (Specifically Against The Wind - Bob Seger)
Learn how to knit (a scarf)
Learn to surf
Learn guitar (not sure which song)
If I choose guitar, piano, or knitting I know I can find plenty of information and support online, and I have a guitar, a piano, and the knitting needles and yarn that I need to learn. I have had these three things on my dream list of things to learn for a long time.
The project that keeps luring me, though, is learning to surf- mostly because it involves overcoming a fear I have - of waves and of not always being in control out in the ocean. Like the other project ideas on my list, learning to surf is something I have always wanted to do. I have always admired the grace and ease in the relationship that surfers have with the ocean. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to feel that comfortable out in the sea. I am very drawn to it. Choosing this as my project isn't quite as practical as the other options, because in order to engage in the physical practice of surfing I have to leave my home and go do it. But if I commit to it, then I will do it. That's just the way it will go down. I am thinking I can find technique videos online, research some surfing blogs, peruse resources like Surfline, and use my son's GoPro to capture footage of my surfing (or attempted surfing) that I can watch and analyze. So I'm going to flesh out the details of the surfing project, and then I'll be looking for honest feedback from House Pelagic on whether this is really a good idea, or if one of the other options would make a better project.
Learning To Surf: 10 Authentic Questions:
1. What does it feel like to stand on a surfboard and ride a wave in?
2. What is the best type of board for a beginning surfer?
3. What other gear or equipment will I need?
4. What do I need to know how to do before I get into the water with my board?
5. How does a surfer know whether the surf is "good" or not?
6. What is the optimal wave height for me to surf?
7. What are the various weather occurrences that affect swell?
8. Will I be able to overcome my fear of waves?
9. What do I need to learn about the unspoken rules in surf culture so that I don't offend anyone or make anyone angry out in the water?
10. Are there different techniques for learning to surf?
11. Where are the best surf spots in North County for beginning surfers?
12. How many waves does the average surfer catch in an average length surf session?
What Will Success Look Like?
I will consider myself successful if I can catch a wave and ride it all the way in- not just once, but multiple times in succession within a single surf session
I've watched a few of Michael Wesch's videos and talks, and I really appreciate how cognizant he is of all sides of his area of expertise. We definitely see him as embracing media and technology and all it has to offer, but in this particular talk he demonstrates the darker, more ominous side of media as well. He takes us to New Guinea where a community of people seems to be thriving quite harmoniously until new media in the form of books is introduced. Once books and a census are introduced, he explains that the relationships within the community began to change drastically. Life as experienced by the people in the community changed drastically as well, and it turned out not to be positive change. Wesch uses this example to present the unspoken reality of media: that we use media, but media also uses us, and that media changes society and relationships.
When we look at those realities about media with our students in mind, it demands that we embrace those realities when considering our learning experiences with students. I particularly love the descriptor Wesch coined regarding the types of students we need in this media climate: open, caring, daring, creative, collaborative, self-motivated, and voracious as learners. That is such a beautiful way to see our students. These are great descriptors because they emphasize that our goal is to guide students in being curious and aware. Students not only need to have the interest in what they are learning and exposed to through media, but they also need to be aware of,as Wesch called it, the "razor's edge" that we walk along with media. We have to guide students to be aware of how media is used and how media uses us. Students have to learn to be aware of how media affects relationships, (because media will affect relationships), and be able to ascertain whether those changes are desired or undesired. As an educator I would hope I can guide and inspire my students to want to be those types of learners. As I reflect on my student experiences over the past few years I can say that it seems I have fostered students to be open, caring, and collaborative, but daring, creative and voracious as learners I haven't inspired yet. Yet.
In fact, since I've begun this journey just a few short weeks ago, my conversations with my independent study students have begun to change. I am finding myself allowing my students to steer the conversation. I find myself tailoring their projects to better suit their interests. Kyle, an energetic and positive 11th grader, is not positive and energetic when it comes to his English class. He looked at me with suspicion when I offered him the opportunity to scrap my module topic in favor of one of his own choosing- one that he might be more passionate about- in which he can do some research and apply our course concepts to a text and concept he chooses. "Really?" That was his question. That made me smile, which made him smile, and I hope he takes me up on my offer. I also received a persuasive speech last Friday from another 11th grade student who wrote about how teachers should begin to teach students how to write in ways that resemble the kinds of writing students come across in the real world. As I read her speech with her, I realized she was talking about digital writing- she was trying to articulate that the flat, 5-paragraph essay (which, she acknowledged, does have a place in the world of communication) is not the only effective academic way to communicate, and that it doesn't look anything like the types of writing she interacts with in her everyday life. She articulated that the writing she comes across on the internet oftentimes contains links to more information, pictures, videos, infographics, etc. That was an exciting interaction for me as instead of assessing that "final draft" effort, slapping a grade on it, and moving her on to the next module, I found myself taking the conversation deeper with her, discussing her awareness of her audience, and helping her to articulate exactly what she meant, ultimately coming to an agreement at the end of our appointment time together that she was going to continue revision on this speech, developing a few areas, and rewriting a few sections to address the needs of her audience.
For the first time in awhile I am listening to my intuition about what will engage students individually and take them individually deeper into their own learning. Wow. So simple and so powerful. Those interactions were authentic and interesting. The bewildered smiles of those two 11th graders as they left my office let me know they were more engaged- intrigued that I might be interested in their interests and interested in helping them explore those interests in a meaningful way. For me it feels like a tiny step toward Open, Caring, Daring, Creative, Collaborative, and Self-motivated. Maybe not quite Voracious... Yet.
TEDxNYED (2010, April 12). TEDxNYED- Michael Wesch [Video]. Retrieved September 9, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwyCAtyNYHw&index=7&list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp
Michael Wesch presents an important concept in education- actually, what I think is The Most Important Concept in education currently in this TEDx video titled "From Knowledegable to Knowledge-Able." He talks about how with today's media we really have a global conversation happening, and how today's students have the opportunity to be part of that conversation. He argues that that is where their learning should be taking place- through global experiences that effect real change and affect real relationships across the globe. He suggests that a good question is one that "takes us on a quest," and that a question on a scantron test doesn't do that. His main point is that helping our students to become knowledeable isn't really helping them. Instead we have to help them to become knowledge-able.
I agree with Mr. Wesch. Our charge as educators is to guide students toward tools, connections, real-world problems and ideas, and relationships. We have to help them learn to use those tools and help them learn how to connect within relationships effectively and in a manner that matters and seeks to help solve today's global problems. The realization that people such as Michael Wesch have been talking about this for a number of years now (this video is from 2010 and clips that he shared from his other video are from 2007) doesn't do much to make me personally feel great, because it seems we are still, by and large, teaching as if we are the givers of knowledge rather than facilitators within a global conversation. But I won't allow myself to become too disheartened. The fact that I am here now, engaged in this reflection on this topic, along with others in my graduate program, is a good sign. I am beginning to learn what I can do to better lead my students to knowldedgeability, and so are others like me. I guess I am the little bird in his Aztec analogy about the world on fire. I am just beginning to do all that I can.
As for ideas on how to put this in practice in my classroom, well, the ideas are coming in connected streams- flooding really. I need to have a device or pen and paper with me at all times right now, because being exposed to the ideas and inspiration of Wesch and others with similar ideas has opened up something in me that is profound and important. That is to say, I am being changed by what I am being exposed to, and I am on fire for what is possible. I'm feeling rather impatient with these ripe ideas, as I want to change everything - NOW. But I have to start slowly. I have lists of ideas that add up to this - my students need me to offer them:
The specific projects and ideas for curriculum are slower to come, but I know they will. I'm in the big idea stage. To say that I am excited about what I am learning and delving into right now is an understatement. I haven't felt this energized about my craft in a very long time, and it feels good to be energized again. I know my students will be better for it as well.
Wesch, M. (2010, October 12). From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able [Video]. Retrieved September 8, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeaAHv4UTI8
When I used to teach solely English Language Learners, I would share in their excitement the first time they would run into class and say, "Miss! I dreamed in English last night!" For those students, that marked a transition from being a Visitor in the English language, to being a Resident in the English language. Most of them will always remember that day, or that dream. It marked a major transition, especially because they were trying really hard to make that transition. They wanted, even needed to reside in the English language. My favorite conversations involved dreams they had that were part English, and part native language- as I liked to think that meant they saw their bilingual capabilities as something of value. But I digress... I bring this up because I had a difficult time remembering the details of my early experiences on the internet. If I remember correctly, my first online experience involved a dial-up connection to AOL in order to check my email. So exciting! After that, though, my memory fails me. I don't remember when I applied for my Visitor Visa for the internet- that is to say, when I realized the world wide web as a collection of tools in an "untidy toolbox." I don't remember when I began to think of the internet as a solution or an answer or an inspiration or a space in which to extend relationships or connections. As I watched Dr. White's lecture on the Visitor/Resident theory concerning the internet, I was quick to label myself as a resident, but unlike my ELD students, I don't remember that moment - when I moved from Visitor to Resident. It just sort of happened.
Through most of Dr. White's lecture I could see myself as completely resident. I am social within social networks and definitely enjoy the connection and ability to extend my relationships with people. I live part of every day online in some significant way. Then he got to the part where he brought up Andy Powell's commentary regarding Twitter, and how, to paraphrase, one can be taught how to use Twitter, but that doesn't mean that one will get Twitter. That's when I realized that, yes, I am a resident of the internet, but I am not all the way down at the far end of the spectrum with the landowners. Maybe I rent space, with the intention to settle down and buy soon. I feel completely comfortable on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, etc. But for some reason, even though I know how to use Twitter, and I do use it, I don't completely get it. I don't get what's so great about it. When I go through my feed of probably amazing tweets, most times I stop on a few tried and true sources to spend a few moments with, but mostly I see far too much for me to possibly read- and I think, "What is the point?" I think the other reason Twitter is not my favorite venue is that I am limited to 140 characters! (I just laughed out loud) That's ridiculous for this wordy gal. There is no room for adjectives!
One question I have is this: I have several friends who are quite tech savvy, utilize the web frequently as a tool, and have multiple social media accounts. BUT- they call themselves Lurkers. They lurk- they rarely post- maybe out of shyness or maybe because of privacy preferences. Would these people be considered visitors of the internet?
I read Will Richardson's book titled Why School in a fragmented way, as I read most things since becoming a mother 13 years ago. You know, over a salad at my desk at lunch, sitting in my car waiting for one of my boys at school or football practice, or lying next to my 7-year-old son on his bed as he reads of the adventures in Captain Underpants, allowing me to digest a sentence at a time between his questions about what 'triumphantly' means, or 'salivating.' I've never really gotten used to reading in this broken up way. I usually have to reread sections to remember what I was reading about, or remind myself of context. But seriously, reading Richardson's ideas was such an engaging experience, even my jumbled reading sessions didn't quell my building energy around the ideas in this critical look at the way we do school.
Richardson offers the idea that we can do school either Better or Differently. I agree. Right now most of the focus in education is on how to do exactly what we do now, but to just do it better (i.e. add technology and group work). Of the two models, I can promise you I could have skipped reading the "Better" section of his book (no offense to Mr. Richardson) because as an educator I live and breathe that model every day. I'm living it and practicing it. I know what the new push for "better" looks like. Richardson's ideas to do school Differently (emphasis on capital D), though, that's good stuff. Not even bedtime questions regarding Captain Underpants can disrupt my flow on that topic. By Differently, Richardson means DIFFERENTLY. Take all of our current practices for how we prepare and deliver lessons, and scrap them completely because those old methods and ways of thinking about students and learning are antiquated, and will not prepare students to navigate the world in which we live. He suggests that the world we live in now has new demands and a new set of rules for navigating it. The world we live in now demands a new definition of literacy. Richardson quotes psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy, "the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." [Incidentally, Richardson also mentions Michael Wesch, professor at Kansas State University, in his book, and over the weekend while working on another project I stumbled across this You Tube video by Michael Wesch, created in 2007, that dramatically depicts why our schools aren't suited to our students' needs anymore.]
Richardson goes on to explain six unlearning/relearning ideas for educators to embrace so that we can help students prepare for a world with different literacy demands. His six ideas, when listed together, look like an odd, and maybe alarming, set of rules in a kindergarten classroom: