School Versus Learning #IMMOOC Why is there a Difference

As I continue along on this journey of learning, this journey of reading The Innovator’s Mindset with oh, 2,000 of my closest friends, there are a few points that are sticking with me today. Sometime George puts the words into my brain so much better than I can say them.

  1. School teaches compliance. Learning is about challenging perceived norms. (102)

To me this is a solid reason school might need to be tweaked. If school doesn’t equal learning at every level, well….are we doing it as well as we can be? AND are we doing it for the students of today? Better yet, how can we make these one and the same? How can we stop making school be about teaching compliance and get students able to challenge the status quo? Are we ready for that?

I certainly don’t have all the answers but today I watched a science teacher begin her lesson with students determining the questions. She presented an opportunity and they posed the questions they needed answered in order to learn what had happened in that situation.

2.  School is about giving you information. Learning is about making your own connections. (102)

Even in the framework of a curriculum, we have leeway; students can build on their connection to information.

I am watching books come alive for our middle school students as they make choices in what they read for maybe the first time as part of their learning. They are excited about it and engaged in books.

When teachers are gifted at helping students uncover knowledge rather than being wrapped up in covering material, it all comes alive for them.

The Future is Now!

As I watch this video, as few things stand out to me.

1. Personalized learning: students are doing what seems to be interesting to them and therefore it engages them. This is so much of what we’re talking about in the world of education these days. Just today, I spent much of my day at a conference talking about our district’s personalized learning initiative and how that looks from a broad view as well as getting into some of the nitty gritty details of it. Our students need to have learning be meaningful to them. I think back to the early years of my career when I had to write out each student and the instruction he/she would get per group and then change that at the end of the day for the next day based on what had occurred. As more devices become available, this process will become so much more streamlined and classrooms will even be able to have a blended environment for learning.

2. Student engagement: students are engaged in the video. Whatever the content, with or without technology, I want my students to love what they’re doing and find meaningful connections in it. As we continue to add technology and more sophistication to what we do, teaching is still an art first and foremost. The teacher gets to guide students to find that meaning and help those light bulbs go off.

For me, I look forward to this time of the year so much! There is always something special in the air as we set up rooms and get to know our teams. This year I set new goals in a new role. I cannot wait to work side-by-side with teachers so that those student light bulbs of engagement and excitement can explode. We might not be able to pull a science beaker out of the air, but we certainly can inspire students through the connections that we make.

The future is here.

The future is now.

Helping Students Understand Differentiation

Years ago, courtesy of my team-teaching friend, Nicole, at the start of each year I would tell my students a story. The story went something like this: one child goes to the doctor with a stomachache while his sister goes to the doctor with a headache. What is the treatment for each? Is the the same? Is it equal? Is it fair? And thus would be my conversation into differentiation throughout the year. We would discuss how not everything would be the same (homework, reading groups, activities, etc.); not everything would be equal, but everything would be fair.

Enter a few years later when I had the amazing experience of attending a Rick Womeli workshop. He taught his students this same lesson through a different activity which I think is even more visual and easier to understand. He talked about taping a dollar bill (or a five dollar bill) high up on the classroom wall and calling on the tallest student in the room to get it down and keep it. He tapes another one and then calls on the shortest students who usually either asks another student for help or pulls a chair up for assistance, at which time he would stop the student and say that it was not okay to use assistance. Usually, the students come to the rescue saying that it’s not fair. Again, this leads into a wonderful conversation about fair and equal and differentiation in the classroom. Effective for most ages!

If you have never had the opportunity to hear Rick Wormeli speak, I highly recommend reading his book Fair Isn’t Always Equal. He explains standards, differentiation, recovery policies, and practical applications of all of the above. A timely book!

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