Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Web 2.0 in the Classroom - Prezi by Ryan McCallum

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

To be, or not to be... Constructivist?

Are schools ready for constructivism?

 Since technology is at the heart of most of what we do in our everyday lives - television, video games, dvds, computers, cell phones - I believe that we, as educators, should not play ignorant to the dawning of a super-fast, high tech digital world, but instead make the necessary modifications to the learning environments that we teach in. We need to embrace the technology, not deny it. In a constructivist learning environment, the students' ability to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding through application and creation using available technology is key - including cell phones! Yes, students walking around the classroom on their cell phones, talking and texting one another. Crazy, right? Maybe... Maybe not.

 What is any meaningful relationship founded on? TRUST. If you give students the opportunity to use their cell phones, but tell them that they are to use it for academic purposes only, then you are showing them that you trust them and that you have confidence that they will use the technology appropriately. Will they abuse that trust? Maybe. That is the risk that you are taking when you embrace the technology that has been made commonplace by the global society. It is apart of who we are in the real-world, so it should be apart of who we are in the learning environment. Real-world application should always be embedded in the mastery objective.

 However, it's not the use of technology that makes constructivism the ideal learning environment, it is the approach to student learning. Many teachers have told me that they can't do what the Integrated Studies Program (ISP) does because they don't have the means and technology available to them to create a constructivist learning environment. I am realizing more and more that the technology is nothing more than a condiment and the real meat is the ways in which we provide students with the opportunity to explore and discover new information that is relevant and pertinent to their interests. Let the student create their own path. It doesn't mean that you won't be there to guide them along the way. As a teacher, there are learning goals and standards that must be met. So, as a tour guide on the path to enlightenment, you can make sure to hit those hot spots along the way. As long as the learning is in the vein of student interest, they won't mind a few friendly detours so that both your objectives as well as their own are met. Where does the path to enlightenment end for the student? I hope to never know, because it certainly doesn't end at graduation. Life-long learning is what constructivism cultivates and aspires. John Dewey once said, "Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself." Therefore, I suppose it could be said, learning is a journey, not a destination.

 It is important to create authentic learning opportunities for students that stem from their individual passions and pursuits, which are vastly different and unique. Constructivism is the best and most-befitting model of 21st century education in which this type of learning can occur. The constructivist approach should be embraced by all schools, especially schools like our own. We are in a school district with some of the most reluctant learners imagineable. It's essential that we allow our students to be the primary stakeholder and decisionmaker when it comes to their education. Our importance as educators is not diminished by student empowerment. It just means that we have stronger and more eager and impassioned allies with which to align ourselves. Too often, teachers go to war with students because they refuse to learn what the teacher wants them to learn. I offer, why not fight for the same cause? The combination of your expertise and content knowledge teamed with their passion and genuine interest is an unbeatable force. It's win-win!

 I believe constructivism is the model by which the students of the 21st century will learn most effectively. However, despite the fact that I have the great fortune of facilitating this type of learning as a teacher in the Integrated Studies Program, I understand that it will take time for schools to accept the paradigm as valid and advantageous. The reality of education today is harsh - so many tests, so little time. It seems like the people in charge care more about the test than they do the students. As a result of intimidation from the management, schools are constantly pushing for standardization. Personally, I'd rather push for individualization.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010

9/11 Tribute

“Today, we gather to be reassured that God hears the lamenting and bitter weeping of Mother America because so many of her children are no more. Let us now seek that assurance in prayer for the healing of our grief stricken hearts, for the souls and sacred memory of those who have been lost. Let us also pray for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security, wisdom of the grace of God that as we act, we not become the evil we deplore.”
-Rev. Nathan Baxter, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, September 11, 2001

What is the best way to commemorate the tragic events that happened on 9/11?

*Please post your ideas in the comments box.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Target Has Educational Costs in the Crosshairs

 TARGET, a favorite department store of many, is doing their part for education and quickly becoming a favorite resource for teachers looking for learning materials. To date, Target has donated $273 million to education as a part of their community outreach program, and they show no signs of stopping their philanthropic efforts anytime soon. Check out the materials and perhaps you'll find something useful and/or something worthy of recommendation to colleagues.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bo Knows P.M.A.

Here's a great way to stay positive...

Check out Persistence Unlimited and unlock the motivation to achieve your hopes, goals, and dreams. Something is only impossible until someone does it. You need to believe that anything is possible before you set out to make it a reality. Stay positive and always do your best. Make sure your head and heart are in the right place and life will reward you.

Attitude is everything.


Reading is Better with Goodreads

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

 Kids LOVE social networking sites. I don't think this is new information. What many students don't love, and perhaps many students abhor, is reading. Thus, a marriage between social networking and reading seems like an ingenius idea. Unfortunately, I did not think of it. Luckily, someone did. Goodreads is a social networking site that promotes books, authors, and opens the door to making reading cool once again by allowing students to rate/review books, befriend fellow readers, and create their own library of books that they have read. It's a great way to provide the necessary spark that most students require in order to engage in the habit of reading and develop their literacy skills. I think Goodreads is a must for any avid reader, and a useful web tool for any educator. Check it out!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Integrated Studies Program (ISP) - The Sequel


 So, today was the first day of the second year of the ISP. It's been a wild ride so far. I look forward to new opportunities with new students as well as the maturation, development, and leadership of students who are ISP experienced and ready to take charge at learning goals.


 21st century education is exciting and powerful and full of promise. I am thoroughly convinced that it is the best setting for true learning to take place. Curricula and pacing guides have their place and purpose, thus, I will not attempt to argue that traditional education does not work. It can, and it does, for many of the best and brightest students in the world.


"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."


 However, it is my opinion that true learning comes from wonderment. Wonderment is rooted in genuine interest and passion for what is not known. Wonderment burns like a torch in the darkest night, guiding a pupil on a path of questioning, confusion, and further inquiry, and only upon discovery and acquisition of desired knowledge does the wonderment cease to have pertinence. A torch proves its worth during the pitch blackness of night, but upon the arrival of day, the sun lights up all that it touches and makes the torch unnecessary or irrelevant (for the time being). This is a natural course. Wonderment leads to the achievement of understanding. Yet, just as the sun will surely set and the day will embrace the darkness of night once again, the torch of wonderment shall too repeat and be lit to lead the way to furthered growth and development. Understanding can only be achieved when there is a genuine interest and passion for the content being learned. Everybody is different, and these differences are reflective of our unique interests and passions. Thus, the notion that we, as teachers, can simply prescribe learning goals to masses of students via curricula and still facilitate learning experiences that are as authentic and fueled by natural wonderment is most absurd. The torch only burns if the flame is ignited from within and it will only lead the pupil out of the darkness and into peace of mind if they carry it with conviction.