Teaching: The Opposite of Magic?

» 26 August 2015 » In Commentary, Teachers » No Comments

The Great Levante in Wellington, 1941

Like all youngsters, I went through the phase of wanting to be a magician - got a how-to book, assembled a few props and began to practice my “illusions.” I even put on a “show” for a few (younger) neighbor kids. That phase didn’t last long, but I learned that magicians rely on secrecy and redirecting the audiences’ attention.

Magician didn’t work out for me, but I’ve had a long career as a teacher, now teacher educator. As I finalize plans for my social studies methods class, I find myself thinking that good teaching is the opposite of magic. Unlike magicians, teachers draw attention to how thing are done. Teaching is thinking made visible. And if that’s true how do you teach how to teach?

My methods course is based on the premise that it should model the instruction we hope to see these pre-service teachers using in their classrooms. So, for example, it’s not enough to talk about PBL or student-centered learning. We have to use it in our methods instruction.

We know that students need a more authentic audience for their work than the teacher, so our methods course assignments have a public product. Our work has received recognition - including this shoutout from one of our inspirations – Sam Wineburg of the Stanford History Education Group. #humblebrag. 

My methods students are participant observers. They don't simply following my lesson, they experiencing the learning as a “student” and then put on their “teacher hat” and reflect on “how did he set that up?” Unlike the magician, we make the thinking behind the lesson planning visible.

This year our University of Portland program is transitioning to edTPA. There's much for all of us to learn and I'll be doing that right along side my students. 

Here’s a visual intro I prepared for my students. It illustrates the three goals of the course and examples of how they are taught.

  1. Learn to think like a historian (or other social scientist).
  2. Become a skillful instructional designer.
  3. Develop skills for reflection, growth and professional networking.

Click to view intro mediaClick to view intro media

Image credit: National Library NZ on The Commons
The Great Levante in Wellington, 1941
Opera House Wellington, The Great Levante … Hows Tricks, 1941, Chromolithograph, Printed Ephemera Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: Eph-D-CABOT-Magic-1941-01

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5 Ideas for Teaching in a Digital World

» 22 April 2015 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, Events, Presentations » No Comments

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Life’s become an “open-book” test. So what does that mean for schools? Last week I gave the keynote at 5th Annual Ed Tech Summit on the beautiful Southern Oregon University campus in Ashland, Oregon. I offered 5 suggestions for teaching in the digital world.

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If A Pig Wore A Wig And Other Tales of School Reform

» 07 October 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy » No Comments

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In “The Plot Against Public Education: How millionaires and billionaires are ruining our schools” Bob Herbert details the failed hit-or-miss reforms driven by corporate America’s assault on public education. Smaller schools, charters, on-line schools, and big testing have yet to deliver significant improvements in student performance. Why should a small group of America’s richest individuals, families, and foundations be allowed to exercise such overwhelming—and often such toxic—influence over the ways in which public school students are taught?

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Invaders Came from the North: French Attack on Upstate NY

» 17 September 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's » 2 Comments

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Over 300 years ago the French sent the largest army ever seen in North America to attack the Seneca Nation of the Genesee Valley of Upstate NY. The expeditionary force set in motion a series of events that would ultimately result in the French expulsion from North America.

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Students at the Center of the Learning

» 08 September 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Tech, History / DBQ's, How To, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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I learned to be an instructional designer – an architect of learning environments. I designed lesson “spaces” where the thinking was being done by my students. By “flipping” a few instructional components and providing a student-driven evaluation, my students will be at the heart of the lesson. I’ll be floating at the periphery. Here’s how.

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The Bots are Coming! Better Re-think My Lesson Plans

» 17 August 2014 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Strategies » 3 Comments

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The video’s thesis is simple – robots are coming for our jobs. That begs the question – what skills should we be teaching to students who will have to compete against the bots for employment?

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Learning to Think Like a Historian

» 03 June 2014 » In Commentary, History / DBQ's, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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I’m joined by other educators who comment on “Teaching History By Encouraging Curiosity.” Ideas on how to create a more engaging history classroom that teaches students the foundations of historical thinking. With links to more resources and a podcast.

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5 Rules of Infographic Excellence

» 14 October 2013 » In Commentary, Visualizations » No Comments

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xkcd’s brilliant mockery of the explosion of “info-junk” should remind us that the best infographics should efficiently combine quantitative data, prompt pattern recognition and cogent visual storytelling. Perhaps aspiring infographic designers would do well to revisit the work of the Edward Tufte, the guru of the art form. His five rules of “Graphical Excellence” are detailed and illustrated with an example he considers “best narrative graphic of space and time.”

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PBL: I Come to Understanding by Making

» 11 September 2013 » In Commentary » No Comments

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Watch this short video as Matthew Shlian talks about himself, how he learns and the role that curiosity plays in his work. Then think about the kind of classroom that would foster Matt and learners like him. He states, A lot of my work is about curiosity. I come to understanding by making. If I can see what something’s going to look like when it’s finished, then I don’t want to make it. That would be like filling out a form.

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Get a iPhone 5s Or Switch to Android?

» 06 September 2013 » In Commentary » 7 Comments

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With my iPhone 4s about to go off contract, I’m wondering should I go iPhone 5s / iOS 7 or Android? I pick up a Nexus 7 to test how I’ll move my content from iCloud to Google and stay in sync with my Mac desktop. And I offer some comparisons of programs running on both platforms.

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