Thom Markham challenges teachers in the US to act as interconnected individuals that prepare students for our increasingly globalized society. I think he makes some valid points about what teachers in the US should focus on to match the rapid innovation that is seen in top performing organizations.
“Appreciate the power, beauty, and challenge of the present.”
Markham, T. (n.d.). Redefining Teachers with a 21st Century Education ‘Story’. Retrieved December 08, 2016, from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/02/11/redefining-teachers-with-a-21st-century-education-story/
A high school teacher's short study discovers some glaring issues with typical school days that our students experience. The rigors of daily student life may have been forgotten by educators who have spent a great amount of time in front of the classroom. With my history in nature education, I was already well aware of these issues in formal education as something that I would like to solve for my students. Each of this teacher's key takeaways are met by many lessons from nature education -
Wiggins, G. (2014). A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned. Retrieved December 07, 2016, from https://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/a-veteran-teacher-turned-coach-shadows-2-students-for-2-days-a-sobering-lesson-learned/
This TEDx Talk by John Cohn highlights something that I feel isn’t looked at nearly enough within a traditional secondary school setting - playtime! His talk borrows from the ideas of the Maker movement - that is, the movement that promotes do-it-yourself projects of any shape or fashion. Naturally, the driving factors combine well with the ideals of STEAM education and will find their place within my science classroom. Cohn peppers his talk with many anecdotal pieces of having worked as an engineer for many years and how he treats play not just for the purpose of relaxing, but for generating creativity and bliss. As an educator, know I can harness this within my classroom to not only created students that are invested in the tasks at hand, but have some fun myself!
Some may say that I subscribe too much to the idea that fun is critical to one’s well being, but my conclusion stems from the fact that without actively having fun or playing in everything I do, I tend to develop some degree of misery. For my teaching, I want to spread this to my students beyond that of being a genuine, bonafide fun-haver; I want them to enjoy being in my class and be able to play with the concepts we cover in pursuit of life science. Just the other day, my anatomy students had finished a dissection earlier than expected and they asked, “Is it time to clean up?” when we really had another ½ hour before that point. I told them, “No, don’t clean up just yet. Let’s… uh… (thinking on the fly here) I want you to find one section of the kidney you’re dissecting, some part that you find interesting. Something you want to look at under a microscope.” Rather than wrap up, they suddenly had freedom to explore and tinker, to play and discover on their own, beyond my instructions. It went terrifically. The students raved about the different structures they were seeing and we ran out of time.
I have to admit, part of what appeals about Cohn to me is that he is a striking individual - rainbow lab coat, a multicolored pulsating LED headband, the classic crazy scientist hair. He’s a character that seems pulled from some children’s cartoon. What would happen if you were to throw a character like him in front of your average high school science class? Would their stare in awe or would they sneer with disgust - OR would they sneer in awe and stare with disgust? Would they hang on every word or ignore the LED-studded maniac? I believe it’s more of the first. I believe that characters and big, showy presentations have wonderful place in high school to not just impress, but involve many students. The trick is pairing these larger-than-life experiences with reality. Giving your students the opportunity to create something that seems larger-than-life.
Cohn, J. (2013). Retrieved November 28, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-NT1-BdOvI
Shawn Cornally takes on the problem of students not enjoying school - referencing student celebration for snow days. His approach screams of the ideas of “project-based learning” that can be found in many alternative education centers - locally represented through High Tech High. I admire his approach to student projects, letting them express their interest/problem to solve and giving them a host of supports that effectively act as the curriculum through which the student completes their goals. Indeed, within my future life science classroom, I hope to employ a similar interest-driven approach though focused on the content at hand. I think the power behind Cornally’s approach is letting the students come to the school with a desire to do something, which is such a shift in dynamics from the standard school system.
What makes interest-driven learning so viable is that it does not require any “buy in” from the students and breaks the traditional mode of teacher-centered information delivery. Using personal interests to investigate real-world questions, students can affect real change in their communities and contribute to the dialogue of humanity in real ways. I would love to learn more about Cornally’s school and what takeaways there could be for a more focused approach. Not that I think Cornally’s goals for a completely freeform, interest-driven school aren’t terrific, but what if you created a similar program but specifically for the lens of say… Sustainability? All students create and contribute to projects that are wholly based on the theme of creating a more sustainable community. This is definitely more my bent as environmental outreach means a great deal to me, so perhaps this is an avenue I could pursue sometime down the road. How could environmental outreach centers gain from implementing project-based programs? It would be exciting to see students get involved with local groups that are fighting to maintain the few undeveloped environments in the San Diego area.
T. (2014). Retrieved November 17, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aldMBgT6u-4
Casey’s a cool dude, no doubt. Has some great insights to the wide world around us and how our lives intersect technology. With his vast social media presence, he has developed some terrific ways to interact with the various mediums of social media and I think what he goes into with Instagram is, on the whole, valid. He outlined some guidelines for its usage and they reflect well with the photographic medium that it is - don’t flood the world with images, just provide a themed approach once or twice a day. Fast forward 4 years and it’s plain to see that Instagram is still going strong, but perhaps the fervor has died down some.
I’ve been an Instagram user off and on the past couple years, as most of my photo sharing was done with the jack-of-all-trades Facebook. However, as my bio says, I found it a place to share images of “Critters from big to small that creep and crawl. Magical places from this weird and wonderful world.” Nice snippits of the things I had seen while out exploring. There are 10s of pictures of insects I had found on hikes, including some macro shots using some of those snap-on lenses for smartphones. Along with these there are scenes of the oddball roadside attractions I like to visit. Instagramming these little things became another hobby that I was collectively engaging with with a huge amount of people. I follow artists I like and friends from Facebook; this however, describes my personal use of it, not how I approached it as an educator.
There was a funny moment within my assist period early on in my clinical practice. The students had dispersed around the classroom, working on digital chemistry problems. Some of the students asked me to come over to their table for help on something - a request I had to oblige. Before I realize what’s happened, one of the students has grabbed my name badge and informs his comrades that my first name was Grant. “Crums and carrots!” I thought. I had been duped! They found my personal Instagram account - not that there were any inappropriate photos on it, but I keep it fairly personal between myself and my friends. As a response, I created a new Instagram specifically for profession as an educator; it would be something that my students could follow and fellow educators could pull resources from.
C. (2012). Retrieved November 07, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GacoqdKjVyE
Boy howdy, can I resonate with this! Learning from failure is one of the key parts of scientific inquiry and one of my goals within my classroom is to expose students to a healthy attitude toward failure. There were many times where I have failed and used the opportunity to reflect upon the experience and improve upon whatever it was I may have failed in. Within the video by Derek Sivers, he outlines 3 reasons for failure:
Sivers, D. (2011). Retrieved November 04, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhxcFGuKOys&t=2s
``First off, I have to say - what an impactful talk that truly addresses some of the issues of standard educational systems in this time of rapid technological evolution! I think Wesch hits home when addressing how his university students don't find the topics in class relatable(zing!). It makes perfect sense that students today, who are so easily connected to information that they would feel the impetus to be involved in that interconnected world. The cold, disjointed and solitary classrooms of yesteryear seem archaic in the wake of open media, social media, and the genuine interactive drive of Web 2.0(and 3.0). I will say though, that this talk seems dated to me. Even within the past 6 years, the web has evolved dramatically and tools have changed beyond the types of communication Wesch describes. Students are increasingly familiar with the internet and with the proliferation of smartphones, we have seen a meteoric rise in applications for student involvement.