Tuesday, September 25, 2012

did I pass the test!?!?

A blog post I read earlier this week sparked a conversation between my husband and I about our childrens futures in the school systems.  The author, Joe Bower, wrote a post about communicating with his daughters Kindergarten teacher about opting out of grading and instead giving more feedback.  I instantly loved this idea and his letter to the teacher as I am one of those "crazy" parents that believes in attachment parenting and babywearing so obviously I would connect with the idea of promoting my childs learning without reducing their knowledge to a letter or number.  My husband, on the other hand, thought the whole idea was completely ridiculous and was just another way for parents to be controlling.  Obviously we had drastically different opinions on this topic, which we usually do, and he is still not sold on the whole idea even after an hour long conversation and research on the subject but I still like it and would consider it when my children reach that age.

Bowers post on this subject also caused quite the stir from other readers as well from people saying that he was being a controlling parent and undermining teachers to people (like me) who completely agree with his idea and have saved his letter draft for their own person use in their children's future.   I like to be as objective as I can on subject because I believe all people should be able to voice their opinions so I do understand where some people were coming from (although they could be a little ridiculous and harsh at times).  With that being said, I don't think that he had the intent of undermining teachers abilities to teach, considering he is a teacher himself.  I think that teachers are very effective at their jobs, if not then I would choose to homeschool, and often the teachers are just following rules from such laws as NCLB in which they have to assess all children equally.  I dont think he was trying to be a controlling parent either I know Im not, even though people think I am becuase of my views on parenting, I think that he just wants the best education for his daughter and he wants her to want to learn.

So, if you are a "crazy" parent like me or you just want to learn a little bit more on the subject to make your own decisions, Bower has made another post which is more of a compilation of previous posts that delve more into the subject and reasoning behind Opting out of Grading.  I highly recommend reading these to get a better idea but if you dont want to hunt through several posts here is my "short list" of his ideas:
  • There is a big difference between learning something and then having a test and learning something because of a test which is what most students are doing these days with all the standardized tests they have to take. " There's a big difference between preparing kids for a life of tests and the tests of life. The former may have kids worried about failing their classes without realizing such a misguided distraction is a recipe for failing at life."
  • A work or learning environment that is built on a foundation of smugness, fear and anger is destined for failure. And most of these emotions come from the student, teacher, and parent when it concerns grades.
  • Grades are seen by students as a judgment or as Paul Dressel explains:
    A mark or grade is an inadequate report of an inaccurate judgement by a biased and variable judge of the extent to which a student has attained an indefinite amount of material.     

    There are of course many more points he addresses but I think these three make it clear enough, IN MY OPINION, as to why opting out of grading can actually help promote learning instead of hinder it and reduce it to a number.  We want our children to study for meaning and learn life lesson we dont want them going into school the day after a test which only one thing on their mind "did I pass the test!?!?" 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Blogging for the Future

"In any given day, 68% of children under two will use a screen media, for an average of just over two hours (2:05)"-Pay Attention.  As I was watching this video shocked at the statistics popping up on my screen I realized my two and a half year old daughter was not only playing a video on my nook(that she turned on and started herself), she was also flipping through pictures on my iPhone(that she again, started herself.)  If that's not an "ah ha" moment I'm not sure what is!  As if this video and the video A Vision of K-12 Students Today didn't make me realize enough that we need to incorporate technology into our classrooms to help promote learning then watching my tech savvy two year old certainly did. 
I know there are many arguments out there that state that children are too involved in the technological world today and sometimes they need to power down, and I have to agree having a child sit in front of the Television all day watching movies or playing video games with no educational content makes me want to throw any such device out the window.  And I know in my example above my daughter was watching a video and flipping aimlessly through the phone looking at pictures of herself or my husband making an innumerable amount of ridiculous faces and laughing at each other , neither one having anything to do with education, but they definitely have their benefits as well.  The nook for example, has a number of educational games ranging from matching skills (auditory reception skills) to basic skills in letters and numbers al of which have had a huge impact on my daughters learning capability, and the fact that she can turn on the games and play them by herself gives her a major confidence boost.  And although she is definitely one of those children who has a limited amount of time to watch the T.V. she can still learn from the time she has, just the other day she was counting backwards from ten at TWO YEARS OLD! I asked her if she had been practicing that with daddy and she said no..."okay so where did you learn that?" her response "Oh mommy Dora just taught me."  Yes that would be the Dora the Explorer, with the talking monkey whose parents let her walk aimlessly in the woods alone and talk to wild animals...yup thats who taught her how to count backwards.  If that doesn't show you that technology can be helpful in education that you probably shouldn't be an educator.
So if our children at the age of two can do all this stuff and teach our older generations how to use these devices (which my daughter has done with my mother on numerous occasions,) then why are teachers so against using some of this to benefit childrens educations?  Well most of the time the answer is because its scary!  How are we supposed to teach using technology that we haven't even heard of?  We barely had computers and cellphones when we were growing up and now were expected to teach using them?  Well to that I say...how did WE get through our schooling years...its not like we walked into school knowing everything..just because now were the teachers it doesn't mean that we are no longer able to ask for help.  And speaking of asking for help, what better way to teach our students respect, responsibility, and communication skills then asking them to help set up a class Wiki or class Blog.  Its not teaching them how to to solve for X when 5X+12Y=14X(I don't even think that's a real equation), but it is teaching them three very important techniques that you actually need to learn in REAL LIFE!
If this doesnt make you think maybe we should pull some technology into our classrooms then here are a few more statistics that have made me think:
  • Children will have approximately 14 jobs before age 38, half of those jobs don't yet exist today.  So how does making a child write the same word ten times help them prepare?
  • Students have learned to "play school" studying the right facts the night before a test to pass and thus become a successful student.  How does this help them in the work place?
  • On average students in class only get to ask a question once every ten hours.  How do we expect them to learn when they're not even engaged in the classroom?
So next time your students are falling asleep in your class because they got bored watching your back as you write notes on the board and talk endlessly about something they don't care about.  Think about how you could use a blog or a wiki or anything that can engage your students and make them want to learn something.  Were teachers and its time to make learning fun again!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blogs for everyone!

Everyone knows that the internet is a huge hit for school age children these days, so a great way to get kids excited about learning is to put it on the web.  As my 15 year old cousin says "everything cool is on the internet"  now I'm assuming her idea of the internet doesn't extend much past Facebook, Wikipedia, and YouTube; but she does have the idea right because learning from the internet can be "cool".  

As teachers were always trying to come up with some new way to make classwork fun for the students.  And honestly, for us as well because a teacher has a limit to how many papers they can read about whatever book and what it meant to the students before they start wanting to pull out their hair.  It doesn't just have to be papers about English either, I'm sure there are teachers out there that think learning about the worlds Biomes (because everyone loves Biomes?) are supper exciting and they could talk and talk.....and talk, about it for hours not realizing that there students are half asleep.  So if we think Of Mice and Men or the biomes are really interesting then why not give the students something fun to do along the way? Because in order to retain information you kind of have to like it.

So since kids love the internet and teachers want to keep things interesting for their students a great think to do is use a blog (like this one) so that your students can use the internet as a learning tool and blogging can be a great way to assess a students knowledge and make sure your still keeping track of  some ESL Standards.  A few ideas for using a blog in a classroom could be:

  • As your students are reading their new book for English class post questions on your blog; what did you like? what didn't you like?  What did you think about.....? things you didn't understand? comparing the books views to real life.  That way as their posting their answers to questions they can see what other people think and before you know it a great conversation can start.  It could also be used to post ideas about what students might like to read themselves for class.  You can have each student post a description of a book they think would be good to read and look through others book descriptions to decide as a class what to read next. (standard ESL2 from link above)

  • Another great way to use a blog could be as a group project page.  In this day and age kids are so busy with after school activities and jobs that getting together outside of school for a project is nearly impossible, but through a blog they can stay connected without even having to be together.  Each student would have the opportunity to post on the blog what they did for that day and the resources they found so that the other students can comment and add to the work and look through the resources.  You could even use the actual blog and all their posts as the presentation for the class; posting pictures, writing papers through blogging, and keeping the resources and links up to date. (standard ESL4 from link above)

So next time your trying to think of a new way to teach a lesson remember there's a blog for everyone; just be creative! Just think of what you and your kids could accomplish with the use of the internet, you could still get butterflies in your stomach when you teach about the civil war and your kids can get excited about being able to use the internet; before they know it they'll know everything they need to know about the war and they wont even know they were learning!