Committed Reflection {04.09.12

I need some way of keeping myself accountable for my teaching. A natural part of what I do is to go back and take a good long think about how well I did my job – helping kids learn. Most days I am happy and some days I am not. The good days are the days when I spend no time at all thinking about my teaching leading to a pitfall down the road. The pitfall is not about ego or arrogance but the pitfall is thinking I am doing fine when I very well may not be. This status quo kind of thinking is dangerous because I am not thinking critically about what I did to help kids learn. So, thinking I hit a home run day after day leads to disingenuous thinking, learning and teaching.

The flip side of this are the not so happy days when I know my teaching was atrocious. I think back to how I explained ideas, my tone of voice, and my interactions with kids. I cringe on these days as most of us may do. The only option is get back to it and improve the next day.

Today was fairly good. I had great discussions with my 8th graders as we contemplated where the Internet might be going in the future. Ideas ranged from the Internet going completely away to an Internet that was one large neural network. I could see the thoughts behind their eyes as they freely explored and shared their ideas with their peers. As ideas were shared the other students jumped in with amazing ideas. My 6th grade classes went well today too. They are beginning to see how the Internet can improve their lives and what changes may be coming in the future.

This blog will happen daily as a way for me to hold myself accountable by sharing my reflections on my own teaching. My hope is that if you read this you may find good ideas and ideas to stay away from.

Learning how to learn

I had a great 3 minute conversation with a colleague about whether or not kids, in this case 6th graders, should be able to use Twitter. Naturally, the conversation moved quickly away from Twitter to social media at large. Social Media will continue to be the growing, and, I dare say, the preferred method of learning for kids.

I think about how I like to learn and I do not like to learn sitting in front of a textbook or other static medium. I prefer the hypertext and hypermedia, let me dig into it on my own, kind of learning where I am free to explore without boundaries about passions I have in life. I am inclined to think students feel the same way today. They may say, “Give me the iPad, iPod, laptop, tablet or whatever and let me go play with it to learn what I learn.” Having taught technology to 6th and 8th graders last year proved this and they were comfortable to get out on the Internet and do what they do to learn what they learn. Is it better to have kids sit at a traditional desk? I think not.

This leads to a much larger discussion though. How will I, or we as teachers, help my kids learn how to learn. Do I hold back on teaching how to interact with Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Storify, or a host of other social mediums? Do I see them as eager but not yet mature people who do not how to behave on the Internet? Sure, there will be this kind of “bad” behavior, but shouldn’t I be teaching kids about digital citizenship? Isn’t it better to teach how to do it well than to hinder? If I was sitting in a seat and looking at a teacher I know I would be thinking, “Can’t you just tell me what you are looking for so I can go learn to create the end product?” (this is me though).

Getting back to the original thought. Learning how to learn starts with clear modeling of how to do this which means I, as a learner alongside kids, model for them a method that helps them take an idea, theory, or thought and explore, and while exploring, curate the information in a logical way that makes sense. Of course, curating is an organizational method that allows me to organize my thoughts and doing this takes time, effort, and brain power. Learning how to learn means meta-cognitive processes and reflections forcing me to continually go back and think about how I learn.

I may be a bit off on all of this. Any further insights to help me clarify this?