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,

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