Monday, May 2, 2011

I don't know

The emotions sometimes created by the words "I don't know" are terrifying. Yet I find them to be tremendously powerful too. To admit that we don't know something gives us a vulnerability that exposes us to others. It means that perhaps we have a weakness or shortcoming. Frankly, I see this as a willingness to admit what I don't know and an openness to learn.

But how does this play out in a classroom? What if the teacher doesn't know the answer? Will that make them look less qualified to teach? Less qualified to guide the learning of students? Less of a teacher? No it doesn't. It means that they are open to learn, open to explore, and open to engage. This is where learning begins. Having the teacher as a mentor and a guide is a very powerful approach. Shifting to this perspective is where students become invested in their own learning. Ownership of learning is in my opinion an essential element to further learning.

This happens through conversations - online and offline. This happens by following an idea to see how it connects to others' ideas. The notion that students need to come to school as empty slates is just not relevant anymore. Even five-year-olds come into Kindergarten with a wealth of knowledge. Teachers have the opportunity to teach students how to make connections. They can show them the relationship between ideas and take them further into analyzing how they relate to each other.

I don't know is powerful. It is an invitation to learn.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Constructivist or Not?

Where do you fit in? Objectivist or constructivist. Fancy terms for teacher-centered versus student-centered.

I like to see myself as a constructivist. I think that it is all right for a teacher to tell students they don't know an answer to a question. I think it is good for students to question. A mutually respectful dialogue is good for everyone. Students learn how to present ideas, persuade others to their viewpoint, and that people can disagree and still be friends. This furthers the idea of civil discourse and demonstrates that some of the polarizing ideas with the U.S. are not essential to our society.

Of course this could be perceived as placing the teacher in a vulnerable position. So many people have the expectation of the "sage on the stage" for teachers. How would you feel about your child having a teacher that doesn't have all of the answers? I'm perfectly fine with this idea, but some people are not. Not knowing can be viewed as a weakness. I see the ability to admit that you don't know something to your students as a strength. A teacher can easily open a discussion and let students discern the answer or look up the answer together.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Some Opening Thoughts

My first post on my first blog. I must admit I feel a little silly about not having a blog until now. I have read and subscribed to many. I have referred others to blogs as well. I have supported blogging among our students. So I figured it was about time.

No promises of great insight or inspiration. Just some thoughts from my corner of the world about education and technology. Some ideas for using technology with students and some comments on meeting students halfway between the generational worlds.

I think about technology and education in the context of an Albert Einstein quote:

"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science."

While I believe that education is more an art than a science, most schools are tied to test scores, achievement ratios and other statistical elements that are supposed to show learning. I would ask the following: at what point do we step away from knowing the answers to questions and begin to teach students how to ask questions? This is where the art of education can flourish.

I came across a few days ago. I learned that you can text any question to ChaCha (242242) and get an answer. No smartphone required. Just a simple text. I tested this by asking when the red M&Ms came back. (Yes, I'm old enough to remember when they took them away. I was devastated.) In any case, I got the answer in the matter of a few minutes. I didn't need a computer or wifi access. Just a text.

In a world where services like ChaCha exist, students need to learn how to answer questions that go beyond rote answers. This means that they also then need to learn how to ask questions. ChaCha illustrates this brilliantly because if you don't ask a clear question you get vague answers or at times simply a useless response.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this in the future. For now though, when did red M&Ms come back?

Thanks for reading and your comments are welcome.