If a question has a correct answer, is it worth asking?
If something is "Googleable" why would we spend precious class time teaching it?
When we ask students to summarize, do we actually want to know what's important to them?
What do you suppose students think they are supposed to be doing when we ask them to analyze?
Do you ever ask your students questions you don't know the answer to? Why not?
Here's a TEDxCreativeCoast video - The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice - that answers those questions and showcases the power of a PBL / design-based approach to learning. Turn curricula into design challenges, classrooms into workshops and teach students to think like designers.
While you watch it, try to think of a meaningful career that looks like filling out a worksheet.
It’s back to school time. Get ready for that opening day faculty meeting where you sit and listen, while wishing you could be getting some actual work done in your classroom. Here’s few disruptive questions you could pose to subvert the status quo in your school. Let’s begin with who’s learning, who’s not, and what are we doing about it?
Test prep courses, admissions coaches, private tutors. … So what I saw around me were great kids who had been trained to be world-class hoop jumpers. …They were, as one of them put it herself, “excellent sheep.”
We have a crisis of leadership in America because our overwhelming power and wealth, earned under earlier generations of leaders, made us complacent, and for too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place.
Several years ago, after I brought in tulips from my garden, my fifth-grade students wanted to plant their own. I learned that few students in my school’s high-poverty community had ever planted anything, so we planted tulips (not in the curriculum). In the process, one student found part of a rusted horseshoe, so we studied the history of the neighborhood (not in the curriculum), discovering that a farm had existed there 90 years earlier. Then, because of the proliferation of questions about the artifacts we’d unearthed, we studied archaeology (not in the curriculum). With the new push for common core standards nationwide, perhaps no student in any fifth grade in the United States will plant tulips, explore the history of his or her neighborhood or learn about archaeology ever again.
Clive Thompson wonders “Why Johnny Can’t Search” (Wired Magazine Nov, 2011). I note that schools contribute to the problem in two ways. In an effort to protect students from offensive online content many schools respond by sequestering students behind an information firewall. That sets Johnny up to fail in our “wild west” of information. Every day he walks into a sanitized information landscape with the expectation that anything he finds behind the school firewall is acceptable.
Schools inhibit the development of critical evaluation skills in another way – the relentless (test prep) focus on mastery of facts. Johnny can assess the validity of information because he’s awash in a sea of text without context. Critically evaluating sources requires a deeper understanding of author and purpose. That’s developed with an inquiry-based approach to learning. No time for that – we have to “cover” content for the test. In the relentless march to the exam, Johnny gets well acclimated to quickly stuffing his head with facts. No wonder he’s willing to take up Google on the bet that “I’m Feeling Lucky.”
When it came to time to study the debate over the ratification of the constitution, my students didn’t have to ask the question – “why do we need to study this?” They realized that they were looking at “Round 1″ of an ongoing debate over how strong the central government should be.
Most of our students get a steady diet of force-fed information and test taking strategies. We’re giving a generation of kids practice for predictable, routine procedures. Here’s thoughts on how you can begin to “be less helpful” and give students practice in “figuring it out” for themselves. That’s where the real learning will take place.
A march for: Equitable funding for all public school communities. An end to high stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation. Curriculum developed for and by local school communities. Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies
Corporate music, publishing and film were transformed from below. Do we expect education to be spared the forces of the digital revolution? Unlike the vanishing local newspaper, schools won’t disappear entirely. After all, someone has to watch the kids. While it may be difficult to replace the custodial function of schools, I suspect that education’s “top-down” approach will eventually be breached. Or perhaps life will just become an “open book test” and we’ll no longer notice how our information moves through it.
What an uncanny prediction – digitized information being force-fed into bored students. Looks like one of those miracle test prep programs guaranteed to bring up the scores. But I’m not sure – is that Bill Gates or an overpaid teacher unwilling to give away his collective bargaining rights? Part of series of images (circa 1910) attributed to French artist Villemard in which he predicted Paris life in 2000.
I am proud of my life-long career in public education - especially the 25 years I spent as a teacher. For nearly 30 years, I have worked with school districts, state DOEs, leading educational organizations and companies to improve the quality of teaching and learning. I provide training and consulting services across the United States and internationally. I'm exploring the instructional power of interactive texts and helping to foster the next generation of teachers as adjunct faculty at School of Education, University of Portland.
My multi-touch iBooks: DBQs for Inquiry and Critical Thinking
My iBooks are filled with videos, audios, posters, art, pamphlets, letters and long lost ephemera. "Stop-and-think" prompts based on CCSS skills guide students through analysis of the primary sources. Essential questions foster critical thinking. All documents include links back to the original source material so that students can remix the content into their own curated collections.
Download a free sample and experience the future of the textbook.