Saturday, May 31, 2008

Where Do They Find the Time?

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, explores the shift in media from television to blogs, wikis, and podcast production. It seems that people have the time to create participatory media because they aren't watching as much TV. He compares the current shift to the one experienced during the Industrial Revolution. Will these tools improve productivity or are they the new television?


Teaching as a Profession

I am currently reading Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody. Shirky makes a lot of good points and I am only on chapter 4. He talks about professionalism and the current nature of professionalism. "There is an instructive hypocrisy here. A professional often becomes a gatekeeper, by providing a necessary or desirable social function but also by controlling that function." That quote started me thinking about the teaching profession. Do teachers try to "control" the function of educating in our society? Then another quote from Shirky's book hit me, "Professional self-conception and self-defense, so valuable in ordinary times, become a disadvantage in revolutionary ones, because professionals are always concerned with threats to the profession."

Is it the nature of teachers as professionals that is holding the education "revolution," if you will, back? Do teachers have to step outside of themselves as professionals in order to move forward with education in the Conceptual Age?

Yes, I know that Shirky was not making a direct correlation between his remarks and the teaching profession. But I can't help wondering what the application is to the teaching profession.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Moment of Calm in a Student-Centered Classroom

Student-centered learning, a learning experience that engages the students completely, a learning experience that is owned by the students, is not an easier way to teach. Wait! Before you click away from this post, let me explain what a typical day in a student-centered learning approach is like.

(Enter classroom) "Mrs. Osteen, our group needs to work on X today."
"Mrs. Osteen, I worked on the wiki last night at home but ran into some trouble. Can you help me?"
"Mrs. Osteen, did you remember to bring the video camera for our group?"
Amidst the choruses of requests and statements, I manage to put my laptop, requested camcorder and books down on the desk. You see, the kids arrived at the classroom before I did.

"Ok, everybody, have a seat for a minute so we can touch base," I say. "Let's talk about where we are and what we need to accomplish." (I suppose this part is done really more for me than the students.) After a brief period of checking in, students scatter everywhere gathering materials and organizing people and tasks. As groups get started, I mingle through the room stopping briefly at each group presenting the students with an opportunity to ask me questions and presenting myself with an opportunity to make important observations about the group. I hear one group say, "Let's meet in the moodle chat room tonight and figure out this part." Another group is discussing the order their video clips should go in to make a good movie. A third group is putting finishing touches on their script for a skit they plan to perform for the class.

After making my way through the room, I arrive back at my desk to sit for a brief moment when I realize "it" has happened. Just at that moment, all seems right with the world and a peace and calm come over me. It's the period of calm that happens when students settle in and are directing their own learning with minimal assistance from me. That "moment of calm" makes all of the commotion worthwhile.

So it took me two months on and off to put together the structure for the student-centered learning experience. Ok, so I had to rearrange three other things to make it so we could have the laptop lab when we needed it. And yes, sometimes my ears do hurt from all of the noise. But in the "moment of calm" none of that matters. The peace that comes over me is in the knowledge that what is going on is true learning.

Student-centered learning, a learning experience that engages the students completely, a learning experience that is owned by the students, is not an easier way to teach. But for this teacher, it is well worth the effort.