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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Conversations about Teaching, Blocking, Motivating with Dr. Garcia's Students



Spent some time today answering questions from Dr. Garcia's class about teaching.  Below are some of the questions and links to the blogs of the students that asked them. Please consider going to the blogs below and leaving your own thoughts. Inspiring conversation shows the power of our new interconnected world so bring these educators in with your thoughts and conversation! All of the students are listed on their wiki and I'll try to get to all of the conversations, but am not sure I'll be able to.  Would you help me?

Dr. Garcia is also posting a summary and I'll definitely respond to that as well.

Thank you.

These students were asked to reflect upon the edutopia video of my classroom that they filmed last year.

Maureen C asks:

"Did you face any challenges in your teaching practices? For example, were there any times that students had trouble figuring out a task on their own and "shut down" instead of feeling empowered to learn more?"

My response


This is a great question! 

1) Did I face any challenges in my teaching practices?

Teaching is a challenge. Every day is a challenge. However, I will say this, that once I truly understood my teaching philosophy and the aims of my technology education program I can "program" the students to understand WHY I'm doing what I'm doing.

If students know that there is a reason behind things and why I don't jump up all the time to help them with every question.  We talk about "helpless handraising" early in the eighth grade and I give them the rule (ask two then me) and talk about how teaching others allows them to truly understand. Also, how my purpose is to help them be "technologically fluent" so that no matter what programs and software they use over the next sixty or seventy years they will feel confident that they have the ability to decode and learn new software and technology because they have been taught how to learn.

2) Do they want to shut down?
Of course, we all want to shut down and as a teacher it is my job to a) look every student in the eye and greet them by name when they walk in the door (this gives me an emotional read on the students) and then b) watch the emotional queues from students to intervene before "shut down" occurs.

IN response to Dr. Garcia's comment here (and I applaud Dr. Garcie for commenting and responding - I see so many professors that have their students blog and don't leave comments -- applause!) -- the lower-level tasks should be sort of a basis that you build upon first.  But once you cover those, you shouldn't have to cover them again. 

My students and I always are kind to the students who transfer in and explain to them on the first day that "we speak another language in Mrs. Davis' classroom but you'll be speaking it in about two weeks - we are all here to help you, but you have to learn to ask when you're lost because we won't know." Inevitably the transfer students have, without exception, been able to "catch up" and "catch on" and truly, learning how to ask questions is part of that process!

Thank you so much for involving me here. 

A couple of tips on this blog post:

1) You should hyperlink to things people may want to know more about (i.e. Digiteen - http://www.digiteen.net and Flat Classroom - http://www.flatclassroomproject.com.

2) The reason I found your blog was a tweet from Dr. Garcia - if you hyperlink to my blog - I'll find you and comment. Likewise, authors and many amazing people on the Internet follow links to their blogs - so hyperlink and open up conversation!



Maureen M asks:

"Do you ever worry that sometimes the students will fall into the wrong areas of the world wide web? In one of my other classes, we have been reading about becoming information literate and teaching students how to navigate through and evaluate websites. The reading brought up some controversy about blocking websites. What are you feels on the matter? Should there be blockage or should there not be?"

My response


Maureen -

1)Do I ever worry the students will fall into the wrong areas of the world wide web?

I have a son who is about to be sixteen and no matter the training I give him and the drivers ed courses he takes, I believe that the next four or five years of my life will be spent staying up late while he is out praying for his safety.

How does this relate to on-line safety?

Well, it relates directly in that drivers ed courses are shown to improve the safety of drivers. Likewise, there is an Excellent study out of the U.K. [pdf linked] that demonstrates that students are safer when allowed access to social media tools at school rather than in an environment that blocks everything.

We have to talk about these things with students and also experience them. Do I worry? Of course, all of the time.  However, if I do nothing. If I speak nothing. If I say nothing. WHEN something happens, I will blame myself every day that we didn't talk about on-line safety in my classes.  As it is, we talk about it all of the time, with the Digiteen project we talk about it daily, and I'll know that we worked to help them make up their minds and to make wise decisions.

Just as with the automobile, it is likely that one of my students or more will be in a wreck during their lifetime - likewise this generation will experience identity theft, privacy issues, and all that comes with living much of their life on-line. We cannot block it - it is the torrent of change and the tide of their lives.

We can, however, prepare them to be ready so that they know how to protect themselves and make good decisions on-line.

As I work on losing weight now, one point is that I do not gain weight from the things I DO NOT eat. Likewise, privacy cannot be taken from kids who do not post the information on-line - it is their privacy to protect! They need to know how to make their own decisions.

That being said, I do have a filter at school but sometimes unblock facebook when there is a need. I think that we can be friends with our filter as they can help us keep out dangerous content and malware, however, over filtering and the lack of policies that allow teachers to request that specific URL's be unblocked is a problem.

2) Should there be blockage or should there not be?

Yes!

There should be filtration with the ability to unfilter things that are mis-categorized by the firewall or that have a valid academic use in the classroom.

Schools shouldn't be baby-sitters and let kids just "pass the time" in non academic time-wasting pursuits - however, just about every tool out there has a valid academic use.

So, use computerized firewalls with human input!



Matt asks:

It seems that your style of teaching empowerment would prevent students from resisting to learn, but I want to ask, have any of your students ever resisted you by not participating in the learning environment? If yes, what was your response? 

My answer:

Resistance!

This is part of every teacher's struggle. I was watching Tony Danza on the Today Show today talk about his year as a 10th grade literature teacher.  He "lost it" when he was teaching away and looked up and saw one of his students building an origami, totally oblivious to what he was trying to do in class!

I can identify!  To think that all of my students are always motivated or that I'm always motivated for that matter is an unrealistic picture of teaching!

That being said, expectations are set on the first day.  The school year is often determined by the first few weeks. Do I have my lessons well planned? Do I have an organized classroom and routines that the students know and understand that let them turn in work and receive feedback? Do I have high expectations of them? of myself? 

Do they understand WHY I'm doing things in my classroom?  Do they understand my teaching philosophy and where we are going? Do my words reflect empowerment?

When I get frustrated am I just with the student involved so that others (who are watching) see that I'm fair?

These are the questions we have to ask ourselves as teachers to get through to excellence.

When I find students who are resisting, they become my mission.  I made a promise to myself very early in my teaching career that I would never walk into my classroom unless I could honestly say I loved each and everyone one of my students.

Love? Are we allowed to say such a thing? Yes!

I will admit that even this year, I had one day when I had a problem with a student, and I asked the principal if he'd step into my class for a moment so I could walk to catch my breath and adjust  my attitude with a student.

Students are normal - they are just like us. They have good days and bad days. Some days they are motivated and other days they are distraught because their pet died or their parents had a fight. Often, I've found, most resistance has at its heart the pain of living and if I can understand that students do things for a REASON then I can better reach them.

If students know I care about them, then I can reach them when they resist.

This is the human aspect of teaching that I think makes a great teacher but is often not spoken of because it is so intangible.  With the teachers that have no self-control and have inappropriate relations with their students we have to caution, especially younger teachers, from using such terms as "love" because they will be misconstrued by a public conditioned to think that many teachers are not the nobility that most of us indeed are.

However, if you love your students, they will know it and they will respond. And it is through that caring and empathy and desire to do whatever it takes to reach them that you can go past resistance.

And this, Matt, doesn't really have a doggone thing to do with technology and a whole lot to do with plain old human nature.

Thank you for the great question and the knowledge implied that you know teaching is a bit tougher than can be shown in a brief video!



OK, I have a lot to do today - a keynote for a technology conference (via virtual classroom)  to tweak and practice and a photo shoot this afternoon to update my age-old photographs for my blog and book.  Don't have any more time to answer these great questions, but hope that many of you will jump in there and visit these blogs and share your thoughts.


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