Lifelong Learning and Procrastination

ProcrastinationI haven’t written a blog post since the winter school term ended. I have done little networking on twitter (I always vow to participate in #saskedchat, but next thing I know it’s already Friday). I have read less resources on education than I would like to. I signed up for “Education on Air” and ended up not participating (thankfully, I believe I will be able to watch the recording of the lessons. These are all things I am interested in carrying out, but haven’t (yet!). I just started reading The Hobbit. I began writing a short story. I see myself as a lifelong learner. Despite not doing these exact things, I have been learning.

I learned a lot about interviewing processes and I’m getting more comfortable with them. I learned a lot about finding work and how important networking is for that matter. I’m learning more about the internship process that I will be experiencing come fall. I am doing some networking with other educators, which makes me happy. In my personal life, I have been working on my physical fitness. As always, I have a million ideas, goals, and projects on my mind. And I am also learning how to be okay with not getting them accomplished as soon as I conceive of them or becoming so fixated on the future and the road that leads to them that I miss the moments along the way. I enjoyed taking a small rest and I am enjoying being with my family again. It’s all about balance.

That being said, I am once again gearing up to strive to be a great learner, so that I can too be a great teacher. I will be finding myself on twitter for professional networking once again. I will be digging into the many education books I have accrued over three years and the Saskatchewan curriculum for that matter. I will be reading and writing to improve my own practice. I’m looking into other networking sites that will help me set small goals with my creative writing. Finally, I will be trying to blog more often (starting with this post) and improve my e-portfolio too!

I am a lifelong learner. I am dedicated to education, but sometimes I find myself needing to turn everything off for a while. That’s the balance though. I look forward to expanding my horizons and pushing myself farther this summer. I look forward to preparing myself for all that the next school year has to offer and all I have to offer it. Here I go.

Assessment: The Problem with Penalties

The practice of using penalties as a way to get students to do their work or punish them when they don’t is something that has been debated both way in many of my classes. Do we give late marks? Should we assign zeros? Should we assign homework and how do we assess it? These questions deserve consideration and I know people have a lot to say either way. Teachers and non-teachers seem to take an interest and voice opinions on this subject.

Myron Dueck wrote an interesting article on the problems he sees with penalties and I find myself agreeing with his points. Dueck devises what he calls “the CARE guidelines” for penalties to positively influence behaviour (44). CARE stands for care about penalty, aim aligned to penalty, reduction of undesirable behaviour, and empowerment through informed decision making. Because these guidelines aren’t met when grading homework or using punishment to encourage effort, Dueck says that traditional penalties aren’t effective.

An important part of why I agree that grading homework isn’t good assessment, is because homework is the practice and so summative evaluation of it doesn’t give students the ability to show their improvement fairly. It can also be a practice that perpetuates inequality based on the socio-economic status and home life of students. Not all students have home environments that allow them to do their best work, so it is not particularly effective to grade homework.

It also becomes clear that punishment doesn’t encourage increased effort or student empowerment. Students don’t need to be punished when they don’t do their work or don’t try their best. They need more intrinsic motivations to make them want to do the work. They need to have their personal interests drawn into their studies. Students need to be responsible for and included in their learning. We need to understand what makes students not want to do their work and find ways to engage them, not push them away.

Dueck, Myron. “The Problem with Penalties.” Educational Leadership March 2014: 44-49. Print.

Part 3: Contributing to the learning of others

Knowledge in classrooms is not simply passed down from teacher to students; instead some of the most meaningful knowledge is co-constructed through discussions and interactions between learners (and instructors). In this section of the assignment, you will be responsible for recording and then reflecting on the ways in which you have contributed to the learning of others in your class. This should include specific details, such as a record of responses to other students’ blog posts, feedback to presenters/students/instructors on Twitter or other online spaces, or meaningful face to face discussions of student writing in staff groups. It should also include a reflection (3-4 pages) on how you your contributions have aided in the collective construction of knowledge in this class.

I have taken part in classroom discussion in various ways and have worked to help be a part of co-constructed knowledge throughout the course. I think being a part of the conversation opened me up to hearing different perspective, being able to consider them against my own and then also share with others ideas from my perspective. As part of recording the contributions I have made to the learning of others in the class in relation to responding to blog posts, responding to guest speaker’s presentation, and taking part in meaningful face to face discussions, I have located examples from online spaces and I will discuss specific face-to-face examples in lieu of documented evidence. With each example, I learned from others and my goal was also to contribute to other’s learning as well.

Responses to others’ blog posts:

  1. http://howardecs210.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/my-thoughts-on-standardized-testing/#comments
  2. http://gardbrea.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/how-we-learn-is-constantly-changing/#comments
  3. http://wintonyk.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/three-images-of-a-teacher/#comments
  4. http://gardbrea.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/white-box-curriculum/#comments

These are some of my responses to others blog posts, in example number one I really appreciated the opening for classmates to respond to the third part of the question, since she hadn’t established an opinion based on the assigned reading/video.  I offered my perspective, but also hoped for others to share theirs and have a discussion that might serve us all.

Additionally, reading the conversations other people were having and just reading blog posts helped me to access different viewpoints on the subject matter.

Feedback to guest speaker:

While I hadn’t used twitter to make further connects (I hope to use the tool more in the future), I did have the opportunity to discuss a guest speakers presentation with classmates on the blog sites.

Face to face discussion:

I was able to help co-construct knowledge during, lecture group, staff group and project group discussions. I really liked the lecture group discussion about the three constructions of the teacher.  I was able to bring a different perspective to the group, because I had identified what I believed our program most constructed us to be. I was also able to understand the topic more by hearing their perspectives. In the staff groups, I found each of the opportunities to discuss the week’s topic helpful. I felt like I could always offer my perspective and build off of others. A specific example that comes to mind is when we drew and discussed how different classroom layouts might work, how they might be beneficial and how they might be restrictive. And in my class project group we were able to have a good conversation about identity, the hidden messages in our autobiography and relate it to the ideas of the course.

 

Reflection On My Contributions

By looking at the contributions I have made throughout the course via the blogs and face-to-face discussion I can now look at how my contributions have been a part of the collective construction of knowledge in our class.  My opening contribution to the collective knowledge always began with my blog post, where I established my perspective.  Everyone’s blog posts open up a conversation.  It is from that point that I was able to respond to others’ posts, which allowed me to have a discussion about the content.  Those discussions allowed ideas to be shared and collective knowledge to be constructed.  Additionally, meeting in our staff groups allowed us to have face-to-face conversations that could draw on what was already being discussed and/or create new conversations that worked to construct knowledge as a class. So, how have I personally aided in the construction of our class knowledge and construction of that knowledge? By taking part and joining the huge discussion I was able to bring my perspective and ideas to the table, draw on what was being said and question ideas that I had or that I wasn’t sure about.

            I think there is a passive way of accessing the class knowledge. By reading the blog posts and thinking about things I am passively taking in the knowledge that other people are bringing to the class. I became an active part in co-constructing our class knowledge by opening myself. I did this through making blog-posts, responding to posts, and talking to people in person.

            Each week I would read or watch the information that was assigned. From that information I would make a blog post about what I thought, showcasing my perspective and virtually asking others to read my thoughts. Whether or not the class agreed with everything I said my understanding of the topic brought ideas, perspective, and knowledge to the class. My posts were open for others to comment, question and enter into a discussion that might further construct knowledge based off of what we thought could be agreed upon and the new perspective and understanding of topics that came out of a back and forth.

            This exchange asked me to read others work and pick up on things that I could see in their understanding and personal construction of knowledge. I would read others’ blog posts and see how my ideas worked with theirs, and/or pick up on things that I had missed in my own construction of knowledge. I would respond to different posts to voice similarities in out viewpoints, but more importantly to ask about ideas that either I hadn’t thought about until then or share a viewpoint that might allow them to expand on their ideas. This process allowed us as classmates, I feel, to build up and expand on our own knowledge by accessing differing perspectives, but also to create that collective construction of knowledge that came out of all of the conversations going on. Reading all of the posts back you get a fuller understanding and are given more and more questions to try and research further. The questions that we asked each other presented us with opportunities to reflect on our thoughts. They also asked us to explore the topics further. That shared knowledge lent us perspective that we couldn’t get from just reading the textbook and having reflections that no one would question us about. The conversation wasn’t just dynamic and helpful on the blog sites; it carried out into face-to-face group discussion.

            A specific example is the discussion on the blog post (#2) about technology in education and the ideas about the way learning practices are always changing. A large discussion unfolded in which different ideas were presented and considered as a group and also how similar ideas were expanded on as a class.

            During the seminars, class discussion and staff group discussions expanded the conversation further.  I felt that it would bring the online discussions into a real-life perspective. The immediate responses allowed for quicker knowledge building and revising.  To me, our ideas felt a little more collaborative when we were having them in person. I found it a little challenging, as a quiet and reserved person, to get in on the larger class discussion in a way that I could help construct our collective understanding, but I was taking a lot of the ideas in that would later help me in my other discussions.

            At the staff group discussions, I would voice my thoughts, listen to others ideas and build off of others ideas all as a part of joining the collective construction of our class knowledge. I would come to class with my own perspective, plus additions and reconsiderations from the blog discussion and the lecture discussions, and then have a face-to-face conversation where I could hear even more ideas and voices out loud. The group discussion in person brought another perspective of building knowledge as a group that to me felt lively and more conversational. Hearing someone say something allowed me to grasp ideas better. It also made it easier for me to respond and be a part of our collective knowledge building.

            A specific example is the poster that our staff group made that detailed the ideas about how the physical layout and construction of a classroom implies certain ideas and beliefs, and makes some things possible and other things impossible in relation to classroom discussion and transmission of knowledge. I got to see how my ideas and group work could bring about a physical representation of the construction of knowledge we were taking part in.

            I think my active participation in discussions online and in person aided in the collective construction of our class knowledge. By making posts I presented my ideas about the given topic for others to think about. My responses to others posts helped construct knowledge by providing feedback that built on what was being said and asking questions that encouraged the consideration of another viewpoint. Questioning what and how we know, I think, supports deeper understanding. By providing a perspective of my own and sharing in with a classroom of people doing the same thing we are constructing ideas that reflect many perspective, which is a part of aiding the collective knowledge we have. Taking part in face-to-face discussion aided in the construction of knowledge on a smaller, but more personal level. In person discussion allowed me to aide in the constructing of our knowledge by allowing me to construct and build off of ideas more quickly and with immediate reflection and group discussion. In all, the sum of my participation online and in person allowed some discussions to be had and ideas to be acknowledge that resulted in an overall class-wide collective construction of knowledge equalling all of the pieces people (including me) gave to our conversations so that we could come out with a fuller understanding about the topics we were discussing.

 

 

 

Week 11 Response – Standardized Tests & Curriculum

Consider the idea of standardized testing and standardized curriculum.

What is made possible and impossible by such accountability measures?

I think uniformity is made possible by standardization of testing and curriculum that is all students will clearly and distinctly be held to the same standard of information to know. However, I think it makes deeper understanding of “important” knowledge impossible. I think it also makes the acceptance of different types of learners and different perspectives/narratives impossible.

 Who might they help and harm?

They might ‘help’ students who are good at memorizing facts, but only in the way of doing well on a test not in actual learning/understanding. Ultimately I think they help corporations and people who desire evaluating students based on memorization rather than understanding. It harms teachers and learners. It harms teachers that are teaching for social justice by placing pressure on fact learning and undermining the teaching profession. I think it damages learning in general, but that some learners are harmed more than other as well, that is to say learners that do not reflect the mainstream perspectives and narratives that are demonstrated in standardized tests are harmed even more because it oppresses them further and the information may not be in line with what/how they know.

What agency do teachers have in spaces that are governed by these types of systems?

I think that teachers have much less agency in such spaces. This is because, as was discussed in the video and reading assignment, there is pressure placed on teachers to teach information (in bulk rather than depth) that will be presented on the tests. The teacher therefore can only fill a simple role, I think Alfie Kohn described it as “a test prep technician” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDvBRqYfyBU), and will feel less comfortable with promoting deeper thinking in fear of having the learners perform poorly on the facts. Teachers’ agency will be lessened because the governance of these types of systems are controlling and undermining of teacher authority and ability.

Response #9

Rewrite our class definition of curriculum [the third slide from the ‘what is curriculum’ powerpoint] so that it better reflects your emerging sense of the idea.

[Curriculum includes multiple documents from the ministry of education that are mandated. These documents form the fundamental basis for teaching and provide a framework or guideline for what should be taught including outcomes and indicators for learning. Curriculum is provided/shaped by the environment – context and culture matter. While curriculum does change, and can be adapted it also facilitates continuity across education systems. In curriculum, time matters; material must be able to be taught/tested within a timeframe. Curriculum includes what we choose to teach and what we don’t teach. Curriculum can be directed more broadly to being inclusive and directed to different types of learners and can be thought as contributing to success in life and the development of a well-rounded individual.] –Our class definition from the third slide from the ‘what is curriculum’ powerpoint.

In part, curriculum is an agreed upon document that is mandated and used to provide a framework for what needs to be learned. Curriculum does however go beyond being a document. Our beliefs, the learners in the classroom, the situations going on outside of the classroom and infinite other factors shape curriculum. The culminating curriculum makes some things possible and some things impossible, but there is also room for us to question and change curriculum that can lead to better social justice. Some mandated aspects of curriculum are fixed, but some are not since we all contribute to curriculum. I think curriculum shapes us and we shape curriculum. Curriculum is what gets presented (knowingly or unknowingly) in our learning; curriculum is what we learn and what we do with what we learn.

Where is the place for ‘crisis’ and especially ‘learning through crisis’ and troubling knowledge in your definition of curriculum?

I think the place for ‘crisis’, ‘learning through crisis’ and troubling knowledge in my definition of curriculum is in questioning knowledge and bringing in ideas from many different perspectives in and outside of the classroom that allow learners to be critical about what curriculum is saying and doing and what it’s not saying/doing. I think that the more we are opened up to multiple perspectives, the more we are able to see our opinions as being something other than neutral and thus allowing the opportunity for crisis, troubling knowledge and learning through crisis.

Reflection #8

How might the changing nature of learning and the increased prevalence of technology be related to social justice and anti-oppressive education? What is made possible/impossible by these tools and this type of learning?

The nature of learning is turning toward more open education, as was described by breaking down the walls of the classroom to create community as curriculum. And the increased prevalence of technology in the world and in the classroom helps further create an open education where students can reach out to people in and outside of the community. How might the changing nature and increased prevalence of technology be related to social justice then? It makes the world smaller and information more readily available and available in abundance. It allows different perspectives to be introduced and discovered in education. It allows students to network with people from different cultures and thus able to hear diverse narratives that they may have not otherwise heard in the four walls of a closed classroom. I think technology and community as part of curriculum are important tools for teachers that aim to teach anti-oppressively because of these reasons. I think its expanding education and it is helpful for social justice that education doesn’t end in the classroom, students are thinking critically about social issues and the world around them. With internet and other technologies students are able to access people with different viewpoints and question what they know and expand on their personal awareness of social injustice and oppression and be a part of making positive change. But having an education that gives you the tools and knowledge is foundational to teaching and learning anti-oppressively.

What is made possible and impossible by these tools? I think better and increased networking is made possible, accessing a lot of information is made possible and finding sources that back up what is good knowledge is made possible, and I think preparing for a highly-technological future and future jobs is made possible with these kinds of tools. I think it makes it easy for us to connect to others, come together and create amazing things and I think it allows us to see things in different perspectives and critically question what we know. I think it makes critical thought, in some ways, more difficult and makes it easier for us to take in information unquestioned if we aren’t taught to be critical. I think the tools make some social behaviour impossible, as can be seen when you see people glued to their devises and thus losing some of the amazing things that are happening around us. I think what is made impossible/possible can be effected by how we use the tools.