Reason to change how you teach #487

These past few months have been extremely busy...as you can tell from the time between blog posts. Typing is starting to become a chore, but I don' t want to release a podcast of stuff because I don't think any of you wants to sit and just listen to me talk for 30 mins. So, blogging it is.

Our Technology in the Lutheran Schools social network is really taking off. At last check we have 56 members with the addition of new ones every day. I have it from a credible source that the Lutheran School Portal is looking to move toward a more "social network" look and feel and integrating more Web2.0 tools for collaboration and sharing. Kudos for the LSP!!!

Subject change....

Just yesterday I was reminded again of why it is important to evaluate the way we teach kids. A class of middle schoolers is studying the geography of South East Asia and in the midst of filling out physical and political maps, some students stumbled upon Google Book Search. They typed in their topic and...voila... they found a copy of the teacher's guide in the book search (with large chunks taken out for copyright purposes).

The immediate question: "Is this cheating?"
Not being too alarmed we (meaning the classroom teachers) soon realized that the "test" portion of the blackline masters book had been taken out (I think) and in fact, the South East Asia maps were not included. BUT other units were included, so at later times students could back and look at the completed maps.

It's amazing at how some of the kids latched onto the idea that that was cheating. I said, "Didn't Ms. So-and-So tell you it was OK to use the web for completing the maps?" After that question we had a great discussion about studying and that even if you could copy the answers and complete the assignment, there will always be "The Test!" Copying these maps was not going to help them "learn" the stuff it only helped them complete the assignment. At which point I proceeded to ask them the most poignant question I head at NECC this past year from Alan November: "Who is responsible for your learning?"

I got a plethora of replies..."Mr./Ms. So-and-So is responsible for my learning"and "Mr. Jacklin, well you are!" Only one child chimed in and quietly answered, "I am."

No matter how they found the answers to the map, ultimately they were responsible for their learning. How they learned it was up to them, bu they were the responsible party here! That's why some Math books have the answers to all the odd questions in the back.

There had been rumors going around that some students were emailing answers from the actually answer key. How they found them, we don't quite know. The test order I do know will be randomized so as to not allow for exact copying. But this brings up a fundamental question about how teach in our classrooms. Are the assignments we give kids ones that foster memorization (which has its place) or do they encourage students to remix what they learning.

This year, I've finally started to let students have the freedom to create in class, instead of regurgitate and the effects have been astounding. Hopefully I'll get a chance to podcast some of their work when I have time over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

I love Lutheran Schools and I love our staff at my school, but the Internet is changing the way we do business in the classroom. Some changes are obvious and we transition in them, and some catches us by surprise! Regardless of our thoughts and inclinations, it's changing. Our job today is not to convey information, but rather to develop life-long learners!

How will you do that today?

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