Saturday, November 9, 2013

How Teachers are Creating the Stupidest Generation

     The Greatest Generation - no, not this one! My grandparents',  the one that lived through two World Wars and two major conflicts and a Depression.  This one's stupid, The Stupidest Generation,  and it's my fault, at least partly.

     During a learning opportunity last week, a well respected educator confirmed my suspicion that for most of our students, education still looks like it did for The Greatest Generation, and it's allowing them to become The Stupidest Generation. During a staff development presentation I was lucky enough to be invited to by a neighboring school district, Alan November, ed tech pioneer and dedicated educator, jokingly told us he wouldn't answer any questions you could "Google" the answer to....but it made me think, "Why should he?".
Why waste a great opportunity, a great resource, a great mind like his that way?  Every day we waste kids' time, effort, and minds, on "Google-able" stuff.  Not that Google's a great research resource, and kids have no idea how to search effectively or evaluate the results critically, but that's a separate topic for another day.
Ask yourself,  could my students Google their way through my class? Their assignments and homework?  This test?  You're enabling the stupidity.  I confess that I am too.  Hi, my name is Melody, and I have enabled my students' stupidity.  Beware, it ends today.

      Sir Ken Robinson, another educator whose insights always make me reflect on my professional practice, has this to say about education "reform"
      “Education doesn’t need to be reformed – it needs to be transformed.  The key is not to standardize education but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” – Sir Ken Robinson

     True, teaching in NY State, in a district that mandates modules makes transforming education into a personal and individual learning environment for each child is near impossible, it just doesn't allow for it.  We have to imagine the push back from parents and grass roots groups like BATs and National Opt Out have succeeded in ridding us of corporate ed reform and high stakes testing, and we can all get back to effective teaching practices like problem-based learning and using the computer hardware purchases and infrastucture upgrades done for online test prep/PARCC/SMARTER Balanced testing for quality technology integration.  I dream of that day, it's what keeps me teaching during these dark days.  Once that happens, or if you're ignoring district/admin mandates about instruction (good for you!!), how do you stop enabling stupidity?

      Start by examining your student assignments.  Are they the same ones you've been using for the past 5 years? 10? 15? Don't make me say 20..... Do they resemble the ones you were given as a student?  If so, they're probably not good, possibly garbage.  OK, they're probably crap, sorry.  Why?  Mainly because they're generated by you, not the students.  Teachers work too hard; scaffolding, designing, building, flipping and creating.  Students should be doing the work, demonstrating they've learned the material by doing.  You're doing all the doing.  Try this: you design the instruction, deliver the material.  They design and do the work to demonstrate they have learned the skill or the material.  No worksheets, no cookie cutter assignments, nothing you've assigned before.  Much harder to grade, much better for students.

       Obviously the younger the student, the more guidance you need to give, but that doesn't mean you're back to worksheets.  Choices, ideas and examples maybe.....but those small people are some of the most imaginative and creative, mainly because those things haven't been squeezed out of them yet - the system hasn't had as much time with them.

     Students are collaborative, inquisitive, creative, and social, and education beats it out them.   We design our classrooms, instruction, and assessment to stifle these natural gifts children have, and then wonder why our colleges and workplaces complain we have not prepared our graduates to be successful.

     Try it one day, in one subject, with one lesson.  The Stupidest Generation will thank you, by Tweet.

Out on a Whim,

Friday, March 8, 2013

3 Important Questions to Ask if You're District is Going BYOD

School districts across the country are saving money by rewriting, or simply ignoring existing student codes of conduct, and beginning to encourage students to use all those smart phones they were banning and confiscating just yesterday.  They may have happily announced it at a faculty meeting as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and I wrote about why you'll hate it here, but I'm sure it didn't stop them.  If your district is one of these, you have millions of questions, and once you really get into it, you'll have millions more.  Here are 3 you should start with:
  • Where's the policy?  Even if your district/school/classroom is in the "Pilot Stage" of  a BYOD initiative, there should be a policy/procedure written and approved by your board of education or school's governing body.  It should include an explanation, responsibilities, expectations and consequences for inappropriate behavior.  There should be a long "legalese" version and a shorter, one-page, real language version to go home with a place for parent and student signature. It should be posted on your district website as well. You should read BOTH versions.  Here's a nice example.
  • What's the expectation?  Ideally you should have been part of the discussion before the decision to introduce this type of innovation into your classroom was made, but let's move into reality.  You need to learn from department chairs, principals, and others who were in on the decision-making process what they anticipated the outcomes of this decision to be.  Do they expect all teachers to embrace this technology and plan for it, or just a few?  Did they poll the students and parents to see who would take advantage of this rule change?  Are the technicians in building aware of the additional strain on the wireless access in the building?  Which leads me to question 3.......
  • How much support is available?  Having enough training/support can be a big issue with BYOD, especially since this is often used as a money saving idea; what is the support plan for teachers?  Multiple different devices coming from outside the school onto the school network means kids may  need help - is it available?  Some kids won't have a device, or won't bring it, or it won't work, will there be any available?  Teachers now will have to alter the way they plan - for kids who have many different devices, or none - will there be support or professional development?  If the kids are disruptive with the devices, rather than working - what then?  Can I choose not to allow personal devices to be used in my classroom at all - and will that choice be supported?
In my last post I promised you resources when your district when BYOD, and I didn't forget.  So when you get the answers to the three questions above, start here for more info!

Out on a Whim,
Check out my website for more tech stuff:  douintegrate?