Grant Wiggins recently shared a post from the New York Times “Can I Use the Same Paper for Multiple College Courses?” that speaks to the complexity that is academia. The essence of the article is addressing this question:
When I was in college, I’d sometimes write a single paper that would satisfy assignments in more than one course. For instance, I once wrote a paper on how “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” expressed satire; I submitted it for assignments in both my poetry course as well as my completely separate satire course. I did not disclose this to either professor. When I share this with people, half call the practice cheating, and the other half call it genius. My niece told me it would certainly be grounds for expulsion at her college. In my mind, I was adding a level of intellectual complexity to my studies. Was this an ethical practice, or was I cheating? JOE, CONNECTICUT
This topic resonates with me from the perspective of blogfolios and a question I raised with our teachers: if a student decides to write a single blog post for both English III and US History, what would your reaction be to the student having one post for two assignments?
The initial reactions and subsequent topics vary, but there is an overwhelming excitement about student showing this level of transfer. Just think, for decades, we’ve tried to structure cross-discipline thinking and here students are doing it on their own. Is it for efficiency more than for cross-disciplinary views? Perhaps… okay, probably. However, this doesn’t dismiss the fact that it is happening.
So what say you about one product for multiple classes?
If you’ve worked with teachers on creating content delivery videos for students or yourself created such videos, one point of debate is often the length of the video. For the most part, the pendulum swings closer to a minute for minute exchange of face-to-face to video.
While there are various recommendation based upon personal experience, most of my discussions focused on what has long been the target of any sort of lecture: keep to a mini-lecture size chunk of no more than 10 minutes. However, this too didn’t offer much more than outdated “research” and personal experience.
That is why I’m intrigued by the initial findings of Philip Guo, a University of Rochester assistant professor. His findings suggest that six minutes is the ideal length of a video-based lecture. While I want to see the full research behind this, it is great to see these studies emerging.
If you are rethinking the delivery of content, “Flipping” (however defined), or creating some form of video content whether for young or adult learners, how are you determining the length that is best for students?
This morning I spent time at my daughter’s school as part of a Maker Faire for students age 3-5. I can’t help but love this idea and what it means for my daughter as well as all involved. The question for schools is why aren’t we doing this for all ages? If her school can do it, why can’t elementary schools? middle schools? high schools?
As Stager and Martinez identify in their tremendous book Invent to Learn, “Making is a way of bringing engineering to young learners. Such concrete experiences provide a meaningful context for understanding abstract science and mathematics”.
Don’t get me wrong. This day would never be confused with engineering as we know it. However, it is empowering to be exploring, constructing, failing, and remixing ideas at such a young age. It creates foundational contexts for future growth.
And I have to say, it is important that girls throw tools, electronics, and chemicals around the room even if at a rudimentary level. Starting points…
Building a Tinkerer Disposition
What most excites me is that this experience is one of many that will foster a Tinkerer disposition. When Fae arrived at home, a number of things reinforced this belief:
- she was excited about what she built (a halloween candy holder and game – she wanted both so we mixed two ideas into one) but talked mostly about the process she took and the things she did
- she went into her room and wanted to build a different bed (she is still trying to articulate why but something was sparked in her that she could solve a problem)
- she asked to see the tools in our garage
- she wanted to take the hammer and digital connectors home with her
Stager and Martinez said, “Schools would be well served by nurturing polymaths. Tinkering is a powerful form of learning by doing. It celebrates the best of what it means to be human.”
I’m proud of Fae’s school because they are showing efforts towards this ideal. I hope they continue growing this beyond this event. I hope they grow it beyond a few templates. But mostly, I hope they continue embracing the essence of what it means to be well educated today.
If we open our eyes, we see example after example of students doing amazing things when empowered to explore their driving questions. If we open our hearts and minds, we know that sparking interests and igniting passions are at the core of what we need in today’s educational system.
Jack Andraka is one of those teens and 199 folks encouraged him through their rejection letters. One empowered him. Schools need to be that one letter of empowerment.
Despite this romantic ideal about failing, I have to say that failing isn’t fun. It isn’t desired. It isn’t cool.
In fact, failing sucks (excuse my language).
If you are striving for something magical and not incremental improvements, you’ll experience it. If you are like me, you’ll experience it a lot.
But don’t let that fool you. It doesn’t get any easier the more you do it. The question is whether it will drive you or confine you.
Failing isn’t good. Failing sucks. Rising from failure to reach the next level doesn’t suck at all. It is bliss.
Less than two months in school, my son is bored. At least, this is the impression left by my parent-teacher conference this evening and with my conversations with him.
I expressed it is my fault. We’ve spent his life exploring and tinkering. We’ve spent our days in buzz of maker spaces and the beauty of the outdoors.
We’ve gotten lost in microscopes, magnify glass, paints, Legos, theater, and storytelling. Books, iPad apps, sports, outdoor plat, and video games span hours of the day.
While we’ve fueled curiosity and wonder when boredom emerged, we’ve also embraced boredom as moments of pause and conversation.
This isn’t pat us on the back. Finn demands this world more than we provide it. This isn’t a knock on the teacher.
But my son is bored two months into the year. Why? The world that is his learning doesn’t exist in school so he isn’t motivated to explore deeper.
Right now, he has nearly mastered each goal of kindergarten. With six months to go, the standards and goals are complete. She seems great and Finn likes her a lot.
So he socializes, he looks to tinker, and he makes up his own ways of learning.
For example, the year long goal is that each child can count to 100.
Finn does that all the time and is playing with going backwards now. When the teacher asks him to do it, he got to 29 and decided to go 39, 49, 59… because it bored him.
It is frustrating that there is this reality that those students like Finn are left behind just as much as others leaving him two realities (ok, probably more):
1. Be bored most of the day
2. Get into trouble for not sitting there being bored.
In kindergarten, number 2 flies. As he gets older, not so much. I know… I was Finn 31 years ago.
I’m sad and torn by what to do…
Tonight, my five year old is in the midst of 30 minutes of homework. Both of them are required to use a digital space to complete their work.
What is His Homework
Finn is working on counting up to 20 via a digital workbook of sorts. After 10 or so problems, this is what he looks like completing a problem.
He has drifted away from wanting to get the correct answer to understanding how the system works. There are 40 problems to complete and he is no longer focused on the act of counting. Instead, he is using visual markers on the screen to figure out the total number.
What Does This Mean
Honestly, I don’t know but I’m curious by what I am observing.
- he can function on a laptop just as well as a tablet. I thought his generation might be tablet or bust but I’m not sure. When I asked which one he likes better (remember, he has been on my iPhone since he was barely crawling), he shrugged and said “doesn’t matter”
- he gets bored quickly with a digital workbook/textbook. I do think this is partially a product of his iOS app experience that is much more immersive. It is also the first sign of boredom from repetition after mastery. How can we add the feedback loop that will cut down the one-size fits all approach?
- he continues refining a tinker disposition. This leads to traveling outside the expected work and a desire to understand what is making this stuff go. How can we stoke this disposition?
- he sees the award system as a game. This is perhaps his youth or simply the fact that it is a new screen; regardless, he does enjoy the award system because it feels like a video game. What will teachers do to embrace this gamer mindset?
- he sees the tech world and the physical world as blended. What will this mean for classrooms that haven’t embraced this world?
This is not a criticism of the teacher, the assignment, or technology use. I don’t know what the teacher’s long-term intentions are here, so there is no need to pass judgement.
I’m just loving the experience of watching this generation enter public school and see how public schools adjust.
I spend my day longing to get into classrooms because the cognitive and social workflow changes are fascinating now that we’re 1:1. While I’m failing in my goal to take it all in, our teachers sharing their experiences via social media gives me new opportunities to connect.
One of these recent connected experience came through a tweet from one of our PE teachers, Jessica Roby, pointing to her blog post on shifts occurring in the classroom:
In the past along with demonstrating the steps, I would have provided worksheets and videos for my students to “memorize”. Providing a venue for manipulation and creativity gave more meaning to the content thus a greater connection to it. Without our Chromebooks and a 1:1 environment, this lesson would have been teacher directed…something I am trying to move away from in my own teaching.
What stands out here is how she is shifting her course from teacher-centered experiences (memorizing content via worksheets and videos) to student-centered experiences (creating and manipulating content via a digital notebook). I also love how she is embracing combine our devices where students are using their smart phones and their Chromebooks together to create the best of both worlds. While these could have been filmed using the Chromebooks, bringing in personal devices in combination with the Chromebooks seemed natural. This was central feedback from students when we piloted tablets and Chromebooks: “we already have mini-tablets with our phones so the Chromebook makes more sense to us”.
And this is what we are striving to achieve – learners acquiring their learning within an environment rooted in cognitive and social engagement. It isn’t easy. It doesn’t just happen. However, experimenting, playing, and sharing will get us there!
Be sure to follow this great educator’s journey. Keep it going, Jess!
Schools need to discuss these questions in “Children are suffering a severe deficit of play“, make a choice, and align their actions with their beliefs:
[C]ampaigners for more conventional schooling and more tests want children to be better prepared for today’s and tomorrow’s world. But what preparation is needed? Do we need more people who are good at memorising answers to questions and feeding them back? Who dutifully do what they are told, no questions asked? Schools were designed to teach people to do those things, and they are pretty good at it. Or do we need more people who ask new questions and find new answers, think critically and creatively, innovate and take initiative, and know how to learn on the job, under their own steam? (Peter Gray)
It isn’t either/or but it is about which one is driving the direction of the school.
What does it mean to be educated today? What are the experiences we hope to engage our students with throughout their time with us? What do we hope they leave us knowing, doing, thinking, being, and acting? Are we building and supporting compliance or engagement? Are we driving a singled definition of success or encouraging multiple pathways of success based upon interests and passions?
You can’t teach creativity; all you can do is let it blossom. Little children, before they start school, are naturally creative. Our greatest innovators, the ones we call geniuses, are those who somehow retain that childhood capacity, and build on it, right through adulthood. (Peter Gray)
Are we teaching students or are we growing genius?