Books, Worksheets, and Lecture O My!

Well as soon as I posted my thoughts last week, I came across a couple posts from colleagues I respect that challenged my thinking. I need to try and flesh those thoughts out here.
     1. There are times where lecture (or direct instruction) is necessary or even expected by the students. We can add technology into the mix like a flipped lesson, but it is still someone talking about a concept, definition, or way of doing something to others gathered around to learn.
As a matter of fact, when I reflect further, I enjoy listening to someone who can take a lecture and create an experience for learners (thanks Dave Burgess, Arrrgh).
     2. Even though I haven’t written about it in the past, sometimes a worksheet or a digital worksheet fits the bill. Our students come in all shapes, sizes, cultures, and with different life experiences. George Couros points out in his blog that good teaching is good teaching and that if a worksheet helps a learner grasp a concept better than another means, then use the worksheet.
Picture of a book.

Photo by Dave Huets *

3. If you read my blog regularly, then you might remember that my oldest daughter doesn’t like to read books from a computer screen or E-book reader. Does this mean that she is anti-technology? Does this mean that she should be forced to read text material online? Does this mean she has become a reading snob? Of course not. She is yet another reminder that some of the students we serve need accommodation.
I knew a man from Michigan who described how some students can’t wait to get their new textbooks in the Fall. They savor the smell of the newness and enjoy the pictures and the feel of flipping through the pages. These students are awaiting their learning journey and are pleased that they have that book as their guide.
Let’s not forget that many of our students will be going to college, many of our students will be taking standardized tests including the ACT. If we just turn full control of their learning over to them will we truly be helping them reach their dreams?
* Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dheuts/3811537169/in/photolist-6NP8d6-aT9to6-9K3BPW-2PgAx-97oiDM-aRxNm-fo562E-HdurS-aibaen-7Nbvbk-afoNiM-KLWAb-maAU6-amWKZg-6buevW-6GjMcy-amWKYM-amWKX6-7acJMF-8DFBf3-MLnGM-9TvtEQ-abK4Bq-dGa2xi-2U9nA-bF4Yf7-6Knypk-hss2M-61kymQ-f4HeM7-9ZVvhF-z8GaE-7p6YV5-88og6h-r7w3U-2qKgwi-9uv3gC-mcp7h-5AkV94-4vaZnL-4eXcGM-73sutS-6ae621-9qjvX5-7XKTn8-dtroJc-59THhy-7BAEiV-5RzRtp-7JKRHh

More doing, Less lecture

 2015 - 2After sitting through a day of being lectured to about not lecturing (do as I say), I found it quite fitting that I picked up a book this morning from my shelf and happened to open to a chapter titled No More Lectures. I was also paging through my Evernote files today and my eyes were drawn to this quote from the book,
From the Campfire to the Holodeck: Creating Engaging and Powerful 21st Century Learning Environments by David Thornburg “As long as teaching is dominated by the presentation of material (including that in textbook form), we risk perpetuating wrong approaches to open-ended challenges.” And I don’t believe in coincedences.
I believe that classrooms need to be learner focused places where students can’t wait to get to, but I hear too many of the following phrases;
     “We’ve always done it this way.”
     “I’ve covered it but they didn’t listen.”
     “There’s no way my kids can do that.”
I also see too many people keeping what they do inside their classrooms, using prescribed curricula, and working with little support and no evidence of networking with others. The teachers who fail to meet students where they’re at using the tools that kids use are becoming fewer in education but they still carry weight in their buildings.
My vision for education hinges upon a student centered classroom. One where students have voice and choice. Many of my colleagues would not even think of taking a class period every now and then to just talk with their students. Informal chats in class and online can lead to deeper learning for teachers and a more supportive student body.
I want my kids to be curious problem solvers, critical thinkers and creators not just consumers of factual information and in order to do this they need to have time to reflect, but it takes time to reflect on learning. Why is it that we always come up against time as a constraint to education? Many teachers run out of time in class, so they assign more work to fill up any free time students might have after school (I’m not a fan of homework)! Of course, these are probably the same teachers who lament the fact that our teens don’t get enough sleep on one hand and on the other hand will not be willing to start school a couple hours later in the day.
I’m a fanboy of using portfolios (I need to work this into my own repertoire), blogging, and social media as ways for students to connect with experts, reflect on learning, and sharing with the world their successes and struggles.
Just the other day, Dr. Justin Tarte tweeted the following, You wouldn’t go to a hospital that looked the same as it did 50 years ago, so why do we allow this with our schools? What does this quote from Dr. Tarte have to do with less lecture? Well, I swear that I have desks in my classroom that are at least that old. I’ll admit that I’m overweight, but there are kids bigger than me and I get pinched in some of the furniture I have. But even more than seating and lecture as a primary mode of instruction is the question, why are we teaching the content that we teach? Who decided that the subjects we teach our students are necessary for their future success as learners, leaders, and adults in our society? Personally, I think we need to re-think education.
 2015 - 1
What are your thoughts?

Gifts, Resolutions, and Wishes*

Picture of students learning.

My students learning

This year has been the best year for me both personally and professionally. Now don’t get me wrong, there were some very challenging obstacles along the way but those will always serve as a reminder that in the end perseverance and faith in God will win the day, er I mean year.

I started 2014 by making the decision to quit a teaching position in North Carolina. I could no longer live a 20 hour drive away from my family nor could I work in a school system where the idea of putting students first was a foreign concept. The administrative support was inconsistent and at times down right missing. For example, testing results were of the utmost importance but on the days of testing there was no one around to distribute supplies or tests or even directions!

GIFTS

Needless to say, I thankfully moved back to the Midwest. In February I was tickled pink to finally meet the person who restored my faith and vision in education, my friend and mentor Mr. Jimmy Casas, Principal at Bettendorf High School. Jimmy showed me what education, teaching, learning, and leading in the 21st Century could become. He also introduced me to a vast network of forward thinking and innovative teachers and leaders. I attended my first EdCamp and my first tweet up! I knew from the moment I met Jimmy and his crew face to face that I was in the right place working with the right people to lead educational change.

I attended the Illinois Computing Educators (ICE) convention even paying extra to sit in on sessions lead by Steve Dembo, Dave Burgess, and Molly Schroeder. At that same convention I got to meet and spend time with Paul Solarz, Joy Kirr, Josh Stumpenhorst, Garnet Hillman and George Couros. I was so inspired by all these people that I knew I had to become an active participant in the educational change conversation by creating presentations for other teachers.

RESOLUTIONS

In March I dove deeper into my studies in educational technology and assessing for deep understanding. I also began substitute teaching and vigorously searching for teaching jobs focused in the Midwest but more specifically the state of Iowa. I needed to be near the core groups of leaders and teachers that had so touched my life.

I indeed began presenting at the Iowa 1:1 Institute, then at EdCampTC, I also had a proposal to present accepted for the International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) conference but due to financial concerns I had to withdraw my presentation. However, I was fortunate enough to attend the Technology Integration Conference (TIC) in Dubuque, IA where I met keynote speakers Richard Byrne (Free Tech 4 Teachers) and Lisa Johnson (Tech Chef 4 U). I also attended one day of the Games Learning Society Conference at the University of Wisconsin Madison.

WISHES

I wanted to teach and learn in an educational community in a face to face setting (I wanted a teaching job badly). In May I got the call from the big leagues. I had my best interview ever at Iowa City Regina Jr/Sr High School. The day following the interview I received two phone calls. The first call came from a principal in Minnesota with news that they selected another candidate I was both disappointed yet also relieved. It was a very strange mixture of feelings. Within two hours of that call I was again on the phone with principal Glenn Plummer from IC Regina who offered me a teaching job which I readily accepted.

The irony in this tale is that Regina was the only Catholic school I had applied to and I was enjoying the time I was spending as a substitute teacher at a Catholic high school in La Crosse, WI. I truly believe that God had/has a plan for me. I was hired to be a religion teacher and I had been searching decades for ways that I could become more involved in the church that I loved and called home. I am absolutely certain that God has planted me in Iowa City, near my core professional learning network, in a school looking for ways to serve the needs of its students better so that I may grow to my full potential as a teacher, learner, and change agent.

The future is potential filled as are the communities I serve. Have a happy new year friends. May you live long . . . . and grow where you’re planted 😎

*P.S. I “borrowed” the title for this post from Barb Gilman @BarbInNebraska