Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Letter To Young Scholars

I was recently invited to write a letter to a group of aspiring young teachers.  This was for the Golden Apple, an outstanding teacher preparation and recognition organization in Illinois.  Here's what came out.

"Teaching is an art.  It takes time to learn, practice, and craft like anything else.  Becoming a great teacher means you know how to learn and guide the process for yourself and others.  You must know how to make decisions, find answers, use common sense, and explore new ideas.  You can’t be a great teacher unless you are an active learner with a proactive spirit and optimistic mindset.  

Teaching is much like learning.  You have to take risks and be prepared to learn from failure.  You have to collaborate with others to share resources while thinking and learning together.  You have to be courageous enough to inspire learners to learn without you.  

Use your talents.  If you are a singer, find a way to bring your voice to life.  If you are an athlete, incorporate your athletic abilities in your instruction and lessons.  If you are a writer, use your words to influence your students.  Be proud of who you are, the talents you have and use them in your school.    

Observer other artists in their natural habitat.  See a concert, play or professional sporting event on a semi-regular basis and admire the passion, talent, and work ethic that qualifies those individuals and teams as professionals.  Greatness doesn’t just happen, it is made.  

Embrace technology.  At one point in time, the abacus and slide rule were cutting edge mathematical tools.   Today we are inundated with smart phones, tablets and gaming devices.  Embrace the technological tools that tomorrow brings and learn how they work.  The iPhone didn’t make itself.

Innovate.  Infuse life with your own twist.  You are unique in your knowledge and perception so use that to your advantage.  You’ll understand more when you tinker with things around you.  

Engage in your surroundings.  Your brain is a social organ and flourishes when it engages in discussion, thinks through problems, and tries new things.  Ask a friend to go for a walk or bike ride in a nearby park.  Enjoy nature and their company.  You’ll be better for it.  

Experience and question everything.  Our country truly is a land of incredible opportunity and endless possibilities.  But what really makes it so great?  It is what you make it.    

Find a moral compass and control your digital footprint.  The Internet doesn’t need to see that party you went to last night but it does want to know who you are.  Use what you believe to make our world a better place and share it with us!

You are never alone.  Connect with others and learn together.  There are literally millions of educators around the globe that are networking, sharing resources, and learning together.  Be an active member of our growing global community and help shape our world with others.  If you don’t know where to start, search #edchat on Twitter.

“I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger” only grows more true with time.  As you grow, let your knowledge and wisdom grow too.  

Learn to be a better teacher.  Teach to be a better learner.  Reflect in an attempt to grow."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Art of Creating

One of my favorite guides for learning in the classroom is Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  It's a clear and simple guide that shows how learners can demonstrate what they've learned.  This post from Edudemic quickly explains how digital tools can help bring this to life in your classroom right now.  There are many digital tools that can help students acquire knowledge, organize understanding, apply thinking in different contexts, analyze the work of others, evaluate content, and create something that demonstrates their learning.  The most comprehensive guide I found is available on a wiki titled "Educational Oragami." It offers a wealth of links and documents that will help you with a single lesson or guide your planning of a more elaborate learning project.

The beauty lies in creation.  Think of something that fascinated you recently.  Maybe it was a video, song, building, website, article or new business in your local community.  The final product was a collection of work that demonstrated that person's thinking and expressed a learning outcome that could be dissected using Blooms Taxonomy.  Some fascinating things are happy accidents and fortunate mistakes but there remains a lesson to be learned.  Creation is the the apex of learning because it requires a strong foundation.

Here's an example.  I watched a remixed video of Bob Ross (on PBS Digital Studios Youtube channel) and thought about what it would take to create something like this.  It requires all levels of Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.  For me, it starts with remembering information about Bob Ross and his show, The Joys of Painting.  Then, I must understand the most important parts (themes) of his painting process; for this I chose his idea of an open canvas being anything you can imagine and the beauty of his "happy accidents."  Applying this understanding into a timeline or sequencing map will encourage my analysis of multiple episodes while I evaluate what clips will ultimately be most helpful in my final product.  Creating is engaging activity that requires all kinds of applied thinking.  And look at what Mr. Ross is creating in the process!

Here is an alternate way to view the taxonomy.  It flips the model and begins with creating and although I don't think creating is the best way to start, I like it because I think it operates under the assumption that learners possess the skills necessary to create, which includes prior knowledge and previous experiences.  If you choose to begin a project or activity with creating, then you should have a pretty good idea of the kind of thing you want to create.  Check out this post on Mind/Shift to see how the flipped taxonomy can work.

However you choose to guide the creation process in your classroom, you should consider some method to channel thinking in a purposeful manner toward the desired outcome.  Need an idea for something to design?  PBS Kids has quickly become my current favorite idea generator site.  Check it out.  Happy building!