Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Tale of Two Classrooms

Photo by: Celso Pinto de Carvalho
How can we evaluate the outcomes of instruction? I think that one way, albeit somewhat unscientific and unsystematic, is simply by observing students.  I had the chance to observe some students this week and what I saw gave me some food for thought.

The first group of students were fifth graders.  At the request of the fifth grade teachers I make myself available for drop in consultation one afternoon a week at the elementary school.  While I was waiting to speak with a teacher, I had the opportunity to watch several students collaborating in the workspace outside of the the fifth grade classroom.  The three students had their laptops open and were making plans for their service learning project.  Taking turns speaking, and referring to some web resources they had available, they collaboratively worked through some of the details of how they would raise money for, and at the same time raise awareness of, world hunger.  They were very engaged with the process of collaboratively creating and there wasn’t a teacher anywhere around.

Contrast that with the experience of my colleague who is taking certification courses to get his teaching license.   When I talk to him about what he is learning he is dejected and totally unenthused.  He has vented to me that his synchronous online classes require him to basically watch his professor read the book to the class.  He is required to attend and the class is held accountable by the teacher selecting people at random to answer questions.  There is no collaboration, no self-guided learning or personalized construction of knowledge.  The result is a very intelligent and motivated adult learner who is totally disconnected from the subject he is studying.  

As I thought about these two situations I was reminded of a quote from Seth Godin’s Manifesto - Stop Stealing Dreams. He wrote:




Which column do you pick? Whom do you want to work for or work next to?
Whom do you want to hire? Which doctor do you want to treat you? Whom do
you want to live with?[end quote]

Every day I see variations of these two approaches to education juxtapositioned.   Fortunately I have permission to speak because I am tasked with bringing technology into the classroom.  Fortunately I have the support of leadership in my district.  Fortunately the majority of teachers I work with are open to having a conversation with me.  I do at times get frustrated by teachers who read the text book to students and call it education. However, I am more often inspired by what I see happening in my district which is good since I would prefer to live in a world with folks described by the first column rather than the second.

1 comment:

  1. Stop Stealing Dreams should be mandatory reading for all educational professionals. Glad to see someone else reads Seth's words of wisdom.