12 January 2012

Here we go again

I have no idea if anyone actually gets anything out of what I'm writing, but it's time to start learning again, which means writing/reflection. I've taken about 6 months off from school, but I'm back in class taking it to the next level. This time it's Trends and Issues in Educational Technology.

For class, I've been reading The Cambridge Handbook of The Learning Sciences (R. Keith Sawyer, Ed. 2005). I've just started, but the first part of the book is fantastic!

It begins with a bit of educational history, starting with the early years of Public Education in America and the concept of instructionism. While I write this, my computer says that instuctionism is not a word, but you are all familiar with the concept because it's how you were taught in school. There was a lot of wrote memorization and factual learning, but not a lot of critical thinking or application. It did a good job of preparing students for the "industrialized economy of the early 20th century" (Sawyer, 2005). However, in today's knowledge economy, this won't work any longer. Students cannot continue to be taught fact after fact. They cannot continue to be taught the same way they were 100 years ago, because the world is not the same place as it was 100 years ago.  We have to teach students how to think. Thinking is a skill. In order to teach it, students must be put in the position of practicing that skill. The only way they will get better is to practice.

Before picking up this book (on my new Kindle), I'd never heard of the Learning Sciences. I guess I had a vague understanding of what they were/are, but didn't know them by that name. However, beginning in the 1970's and ending in the 1990's, scientists and researchers began to word towards a consensus on the way in which students need to learn to be successful in today's society. Those are:

  • It is important for students to gain a deep conceptual understanding. Many of you can probably recite Newton's 2nd law of Motion, but could you apply it to a situation?

  • In addition to teaching better, some focus needs to be on students learning better. Great teachers are so important, but if the student (or teacher) doesn't have some grasp on how they learn, it may not do much good. Passive learning is no longer acceptable. Students must take control of their learning and begin to construct their own body of knowledge. (I know, Piaget has been saying this since the 60's!)

  • Schools must create an environment where learning can occur. Facts are okay, but teachers and schools need to put students in situations that encourage thinking deeply about concepts and there must be some real world application.

  • Successful learning comes as a result of building on the learner's prior knowledge.  Again, no passive learning. Students come in with prior understanding (or misunderstanding) and often only learn enough to pass a test, but their learning in no way affects the way in which they interact with their world.

  • Reflection is important. That's why I write here. It's not so anyone can read. It's so I can process. This blog is a place for me to actively analyze my state of knowledge. What did I know before and what do I know now? How are those different? How will what I've learned impact me? Will it? If not, why not?

**bold sections: The Cambridge Handbook of The Learning Sciences, (R. Keith Sawyer, Ed. 2005).

Next week, I'm doing my "final" professional development session with public school teachers. I say final only because it's the last commitment I made while a State Dept. of Ed. employee. I'm supposed to talk about Problem-Based Learning. The early part of this book, while not explicitly so, talks about Problem-Based Learning.

Students need to engage in inquiry, beginning with a driving question and proposing a hypothesis/solution. They need to use complex representations to communicate and collaborate. They also need to use models, represented in some visual format. That's basically what my presentation is, in 3 sentences. If you are a Yukon Public School teacher, don't bother coming to listen. You just got the nutshell version!

Finally, there is a situativity perspective. This means that knowledge is not static. Knowledge is a process. I think of it as a sieve. When you interact with the information, you change what is there and it changes you, as well. It goes beyond simple knowledge acquisition and moves into a fundamental change in the way in which learners collaborate. This change comes as a result of the collaboration.

Bring it on. This is going to be a great class.

In case you are wondering what's going on here, here's a little intro video I made of myself for class.

No comments:

Post a Comment