Friday, January 22, 2010

Growing Out of Creativity

How do educators foster creativity in students? I recently watched a very interesting video of Ken Robinson on the TED website where he challenges our education system to shift dramatically.  What is interesting is that he points out that globally, every education system focuses on the same core content subjects in the same hierarchy.  Maths and languages at the top, trickling down to humanties, and then finally to the arts.  We see this in our individual schools as band and orchestra teachers are being forced to teach study skills classes to supplement their schedule to remain full time.  Our system has shifted to a fierce academic approach, which as Robinson put it quite poignantly, is "a protacted process of university entrance."  He points out that our academic system is over inflated-- with so many people graduating with degrees, degrees do not mean anything anymore, and they are not a guarantee of a job.  The key issue here is that there are many brilliant and intelligent people out there who believe they are not-- because we focus on only a very small set of skills as being valued and desired.  He believes the key to surviving the shift is to rethink our view of intelligence.  We see this beginning in our classrooms, but I think the focus on standardized testing and the push for "academic" success precludes what really needs to be done.

I saw this in action last night in my own home with my daughter.  She registered for her 11th grade classes yesterday, and she was recommended by her teachers for four AP classes.  There would have been a time when I would have thought that was the ultimate compliment-- that it meant she was smart and successful, but over the past few years, I have been able to see how we have diluted the meaning of these classes to be something less than they once were, but with a higher status symbol.  It bothered me that her guidance counselor tried to sway her desire to take oceanography instead of AP Biology because he told she is smart. Rather than nurturing and fostering her interests, he sent the message that it was only important to take the AP classes because "she is smart."  That leads me to the question-- do we believe that oceanographers are less smart than biologists? 

Here it is in action-- what Robinson points out-- that we need to rethink our view of intelligences and not squelch their creativity. He surmises that creativity is in children from the time they are born, they are not afraid to try and fail, and that we educate that out of them in our strict, black and white, right and wrong system.  As educators, we need to begin to shift our thinking in our classrooms to nurture in our children what they are meant to be-- educate their whole being, as Robinson says.

Here is the video-- definitely worth the 20 minutes!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chickens and Eggs, Teaching and Pedagogy

I just happened upon a fabulously interesting article from the THE Journal while doing some research for my Capstone course. The article discusses this premise: "Why is a generation of teachers more knowledgeable about technology than any before it arriving in classrooms with little understanding of how to teach with it?"  Quite the quandry, it would seem, but the article makes a very good point-- without the the content knowledge, the technology is rendered useless in furthering student learning.  Fortunately, many teacher prep programs across the country are coming to this understanding, and instead of focusing on how to use specific technology applications, the focus has shifted instead to excellent teaching strategies that take advantage of education, following the TPACK method, which stands for technological pedagogical content knowledge. 

The article states it best: "TPACK says that you have to know three things to use technology well. You first have to know the content. It's going to be hard to teach calculus if you don't know calculus yourself. You also need to know the pedagogy associated with that content-- the instructional strategies that will be effective. Finally, you need to know the innovation or technology that you're going to then use."

What I like about this explanation is how it points to the inherent simplicity coupled with the awesome power that comes with being an educational professional. Statements like this quickly quiet those who say anyone can teach or teaching is for those who "can't."  There isn't anything quite the same as an educator who is intentional and committed and passionate and knowledgeable about their content and pedagogy.  When the content and pedagogy is supported by technology, they become unstoppable in the classroom, bringing student learning to greater heights. 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Diversity and Technology

When I was a classroom teacher, I spent time in professional development sessions about multiple intelligences and differentiation, and I knew what it meant to do that for non-technology activities.  Interestingly, I haven't really thought about varying technology activities to serve a variety of students, but after reading this and this, I see that there is a much broader view of technology integration in terms of providing all students with options that fit their learning styles, working strategies, and strengths and weaknesses.

I think we (I am definitely included in this club) get caught up in the excitement of using technology and trying something new in our classrooms, and we forget that all of our students come to us with a diverse set of needs that do not end when a computer is introduced.  A visual learner will be a visual learner in any situation whether there is a computer in front of them or not.  And what is even more important is that technology can provide a learner with an experience, personalized to their needs, to a much higher level than without.  It is important for us to tap into this in the classroom.

Eduscapes has a great Technology and Multiple Intelligences page that is full of links to a variety of resources.  A great place to start is about half way down the page where the nine different intelligences are listed.  The link for each intelligence contains a list of different technology tools and resources that target the intelligence.  For examples of specific lesson ideas that target each intelligence, take a look at this page to get ideas.

Not every lesson or project can target all student diversities each time, but having an awareness of how technology can be used in ways to help students learn better, only benefits the students as a whole.

ISTE NETS-T Certification

I started working on my NETS-T Certification in October-- that may explain the frenzied look in my eyes most days.  But so far, I feel that I have learned more about effective technology integration than I did in all of my master's degree coursework.  I know that from the sweat and tears (and there have already been tears), I will come out on the other side, a better teacher.

I am going to be putting some reflective posts up as part of the class.  I first thought it would be best to do that in a separate space, but I think it would serve a better purpose to keep those posts here.