Archive for category critical thinking

Is inquiry based learning student focused?

To some, the title must seem a ridiculous question; “of course it is!”  Bare with me…

I’d just like to present a quick moment of pause as we continue our industry wide rush into: inquiry process, 3 part lessons, 21 century learning, and student engagement as a focus.  While I find these are all good things to consider or are good approaches to use in a classroom, I want to point out that we have shifted away from the more student focused differentiation and focus on individual student needs to an assumption about how all kids learn and what all kids want.

These are all good strategies and focuses, but we are leaving the individual analysis and response that is the hallmark of differentiation for the belief that these strategies are a miracle catch-all for everyone?  Perhaps they are, but only if we infuse differentiation.  Are we sure that these “new” strategies equally meet the needs of all our students?  I am not convinced because I know someone who will fail to learn, grow, and achieve in these engaging, rich, inquiry focused and technology infused investigative pedagogies…that person is my son; he has autism.

My son’s autism is quite pronounced and a real barrier to these learning environments-the ones that involve social skills, discussions, compromise, social queues, and group coordination.  He, and others like him, will not learn successfully in these styles; he needs one-on-one, transmissive, route learning.  Granted, he may represent an extreme end of our educational spectrum, but assuming you agree and see how these strategies will be a barrier and a hindrance to him, we have to ask are selves, “who else?”

If it won’t work for my child, we cannot posit that it will work for everyone; once we have accepted that, we must work on who else, how many, and what to do about it.  What about the introvert? What about ESL learner?  What about marginalized groups that feel the power imbalance in society: visible minorities, TBLG youth, students with a non-verbal LD, and the like?  What about the bully…sure we can work on his social skills, but what about his academics? How will his/her participation affect the learning of his/her peers?  What other groups/individuals might not enjoy the benefits of these new pedagogies?  The way we teach creates our LD’s; what we value, determines which students will be successful and which won’t.  Why is this not part of our discussions—how can we modify these strategies…is it too early in the discussion?

I liked differentiation; I know no one is telling me I can’t do that within these strategies, but no one advocating the point anymore either.  Are these new techniques truly student centered or have we shifted to a more standardized model while seemingly trying to address student needs?  The discussion has been too general; people have assumed if they meet students’ needs, then they meet the
needs of all students.  People have assumed equity in learning and success….why?  Is it warranted?

Lots of questions in this post; they are honest and not rhetorical.  I’m not sure what the answers are.  I like these strategies that a couple of years ago we called 21st century learning skills.  I just don’t know how to come to terms with their possible inequities.

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Ask questions in class that can be googled, without Google of course!

Often, again among educational circles on the internet, you hear the phrase / command to “stop asking questions whose answer can be found on Google.”  Firstly, I think implicit to that statement is a devaluing of factual knowledge that I have addressed https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/06/04/in-defense-of-facts/ where I argue that having factual knowledge is the basis of skills and is vastly different from having the ability to find factual knowledge, and in a corollary form https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/im-not-dead-i-think-ill-go-for-a-walk-said-the-expert/ ; however, a few things remain to be said:

I have often replied to individuals who advocate the above with: “can you give me an example?”  Mostly, the call is ignored but occasionally, an individual replies with a broad statement about asking students for opinions. To this, I’d respond 2 ways.  1) To have an opinion, you require facts; opinions are a response to a fact.  They need a base or are merely a pseudo-opinion that may mimic the syntax of an opinion, but are valueless.  Thus, you must at least start with facts (that can be googled) that are firmly understood in order to have an opinion.  2) Have you met the Internet?  One is tempted to say that the majority of statements on the internet are opinions or pseudo-opinions.  Why can’t a student copy / mimic an opinion as much as a factual statement?  I wait in earnest for someone to give me a question that can’t be googled but can be answered by my students.  The only think left is to create—are they advocating jumping to the top of the beloved Bloom’s Taxonomy each and every time with everybody?

Many skills are also an application of factual knowledge.  Are people suggesting we shouldn’t ask a student to demonstrate a serve in volleyball because we can look up how to do it on the internet?  Don’t paint a picture to demonstrate balance because you can just find one on the internet.  Don’t write a poem about beauty because Shakespeare’s been digitized. Don’t do any math question because you can find the answer on line.  Being critical or creative is an application of knowledge; many fine examples can be found on the internet, but surely there is value for students to do these independently.  Is it different with a content question in science? 

The organising of facts into a coherent answer is an application and a demonstration of mastery.  Like the above art examples, to have a student create an answer to a math or science question requires them to turn their understanding into the complex symbolic language of writing.  Even if it doesn’t involve opinion, it requires many skills, clarifies their thinking / understanding, and improves their understanding and memory for later application.

Implicit to the statement is also the assumption that it is better to seek information from the internet instead of class questions or discussions.  This is troubling for 2 reasons.  It is partial (at least) absurd, and it fails to appreciate the complexities of learning online.

It is partially absurd because it is such a generalization.  It has in its core, either the idea that information on the internet is always inherently better, or that learning this way is always inherently better.  Should students learn to speak from the internet?  Learn the letters and sounds?  Can they learn to turn the computer on from the internet-sure they can, but perhaps it would be less problematic to be told how to by a teacher, even if it can be googled.  I invite you to take a break now and go to Google.  Type in “how do i goo” and see the list of suggestions from instant search feature; don’t the suggestions hurt just a little?  There are many factual based content areas that are better learned from teachers or other interactions; how to share and why is sharing important are easily googled, but not easily learned from this exposure.

Many contents on the internet are hard for students to decode without context from the teacher first. “Is radiation good for you?” is a good question to ask and to discuss in class because a search on the internet will likely reveal to the student that indeed radiation is good for you (try it and pretend you don’t already know).  “Is global warming real?” is another great question to ask in class even though the answer can be googled.  This is because a student without factual knowledge beforehand will almost certainly come to the conclusion that it is fake (try it!).  “Evolution?”-try it! “Which religion is the best?” – try it!  Critical thinking without prior knowledge relies heavily on internal inconsistencies as you cannot spot the omissions without prior knowledge—that’s what makes the internet a dangerous place.

What’s wrong asking questions that can be googled?  To retell and repeat doesn’t just demonstrate understanding, it improves it.

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The endurance of our school/class model is evidence of it’s strength, not it’s stagnation.

Often, in educational circles, I hear the statement/complain that schools and classrooms look the same as they did a 100 years ago with the implication that this is harmful to student learning.  I feel this is a ridiculous statement; it is either untrue or at best, irrelevant.

I think the first way to respond can be found in this article: Dear Hollywood: “School Doesn’t Look Like This”

http://plpnetwork.com/2012/06/15/dear-hollywood-school-doesnt-look-like-this/  In this article, some of the differences between today’s classrooms and those of the past are presented.  Focusing on, teaching style, digital tech integration, desk or table arrangement, etc.  Of course this is not an exhaustive list, and anyone familiar with today’s classrooms should be able to expand it.  The troubling implication here is that so many in the education field don’t.  There are so many other differences in content and pedagogy to point out.  I once got a tweet from a digital art teacher who wondered if we were teaching the same as in the past; this from a digital art instructor!  He later revealed he was refering to the fact that we still teach them in batches based on age.  I have addressed that here: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/organizing-schools-by-ability-instead-of-age-is-harmful-to-children/   Even if you don’t agree with me, we can’t perseverate on this one similarity…it doesn’t alone justify the hyperbolic claim of “sameness.”  Some similarities or consistencies will always be there (eg. schools will be to educate people).

Is your classroom just the walls and desks?  Surely you don’t teach the same as 100 years ago?  How many of us are teaching Latin or Classic civilizations (well grade 5’s are)?  Are your students in single rows?  Are you in a one room school house?  In Ontario, at least, aren’t you using a curriculum radically different from the one used in the 1990’s (which was of course different from the one used 100 years ago)?

In our board, we go to the Heritage School House or Pioneer Village to experience the differences and to learn about how different schooling was 100 years ago.  Sure I recognise the building, sure I recognise the front desk as the teacher’s…but there’s a world of difference between same and similar.  Writing the word “once” is a similar act to writing a novel that starts with “Once upon a time…”   I also recognise cars, houses, churches (even of different traditions and even 1000 of years old), boats, and all manner of other things.  Being recognizable is part of it’s essence or even Platonic quality; chair appearance hasn’t changed to the point that its unrecognizable, but the tech to build one and the ergonomics have certainly improved.  Do we need a new chair design to the point where it isn’t recognisable to prove to overly concrete and limited thinkers that it has changed?  How about schools, just because they don’t look like an airport or submarine doesn’t mean they are the same as 100 years ago.

Being old is not the same as being obsolete or irrelevant.  Anyone over 20 should intuitively agree.  Would the people who suggest that schools are obsolete because of consistent design be willing to make a similar aguement with religious people.  Would they be willing to say, “Your moral code is from the Bronze Age; you need to replace it!” to Christians and Jews.  Should old people be considered obsolete as well?

My students can instantly recognise hotels, planes, cars, hospitals and banks no matter how old they are.  Lots of things look the same but still work differently.  Schools continuously change…often teachers grumble about that.  We have a board plan for continuous improvement (change), and a school plan for continuous improvement (change)…never mind the dozens of changes implemented by Ministry and Board employees each year.  Never mind the changes that I implement each year.  You can go to school online now—can you travel online or go to a hospital online?

To reiterate: old does not mean obsolete.  That is an epistemology that has developed over the last generation or so in the Western World.  It is created largely by the market place; a market place of innovation sure, but also one of planned obsolescence, disposal-ability, and replace-ability.  A market place that sold new things by creating false needs, or by creating the desire for newer products as a value.  We used to repair now we replace and recycle.  We used to value tradition over transience.  Sometimes, things/ideas/building have staying power because they elegantly solve a problem, or because they so successfully create positive utility.

The better something is designed, the longer it lasts.  Perhaps the persistence of the classroom model should be celebrated!  It has lasted a very long time; where’s the evidence that your innovative model (or vague concept) will be better?  Where’s the staying power of your innovation?  Have you analyzed the unforeseen consequences?  Do you have enough evidence to argue it is better and therefore classrooms need to change even more than they already do?

The endurance of our school/class model is evidence of it’s strength, not it’s stagnation.

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The Internet might be an extension of the Panopticon—SM might be a prison after all.

 A short little post that might be too much of a downer–I’ll be more positive next time:

I began a mini-unit entitled “the architecture of control.” with my students the other day.  Our introduction centers around Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon.  In Michal Foucault’s now famous analysis of it (in “Discipline and Punishment”), he concludes that Bentham made visibility a trap.  By being visible all the time, prisoners had to regulate and normalize their own behaviours because they were constantly able to be scrutinized.  Visibility was a mechanism that made us partners with authorities to limit our own autonomy and homogenize our behaviours.  Conformity becomes normalized; difference is viewed as dissent or with suspicion.

 While this is certainly true in prisons, many hold it to be true in society as well.  One might also extend the argument to include our online culture.  We are being watched while online.  As I type this, departments in my school board are recording my computer use—it is tied to my account and this computer specifically. Companies place cookies on our browsers; they compile our profiles; they data mine our purchases; and increasingly, law enforcement is entering the data mining and surveying game as well.  Everywhere I go, I leave a digital foot print that is permanently attached to my identity.  With this kind of surveillance, I had better conform.  The only chance I have to remain anonymous is to hide in the anonymity of the data stream—to do that is simple—don’t stand out!  Conform!  Monitor my own behaviour!  Regular my autonomy to coincide with society’s expectations!

Our students are being introduced into an environment that might ultimately end up controlling them rather then freeing them.  It might force them to regulate themselves and each other.  It might teach them to view with suspicion those who act differently.  It might add conformity to our world, not diversity.  Even in our most enthusiastic embrace of the Internet and SM, let us at least for a moment consider that we might be wrong—it might not be a perfect world after all.  If we do that, we might end up better preparing our students for some of the possible difficulties they might encounter…

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Don’t teach with tech until you know what you’re doing (did I really just say that?)

 I was talking to @mbcampbell360 on twitter the other day…oops…did you catch it? I of course wasn’t talking; I was using Twitter, the micro-blogging publishing and broadcasting service, …but I digress…. I was reminiscing about an old friend who liked to learn as he went. He’d not really plan and think things out—for him, the first idea was always the best and it was “go time” – time to explore. Often this led him into trouble…I remember the 40 ft ladder falling off the building into the parking lot, I remember the 100 year old tree falling the wrong way and almost crushing most of my cottage guests (don’t worry, it only rushed the outhouse-vacant!). I think this “don’t worry-it will all work out-you don’t need to have deep understanding of what you are doing or the consequences of such” is a very worrying trend in education right now…

I am getting a little concerned by the level of ignorance we tolerate, even encourage, in teachers using digital technology and SM with their students.  Often educators insist that the tech shouldn’t be “the lesson”, but a tool–its not about the tech!  I agree with their reasons, but it does also allow teachers to have a cavalier attitude to tech instruction.  I believe there is a vast amount of instruction to be done regarding the tech. before it is opened to be used by students as a tool (you can see the process I went through before students were encouraged to blog and tweet here: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2012/01/21/the-process-we-went-through-to-start-blogging/ -its not tech specific; studetns can still explore).  This requires the teacher to learn it first. 

I’d like to highlight 2 tweets that were sent recently (without identifying the person—while these were sent by individuals, I feel that they represent common trends in education):

“hey PLN…I need help. I’ve borrowed 10 iP@ds for two months to use with my class. What are must-have apps?” This concerns me a bit. While it may be the case that she already has well thought out reasons and uses already planned for these iPads (well not certain, but hoping), I guess my fear is that she doesn’t. That she is going to do some exploring with her kids and see what they can do. That she’s going to teach them the technology (or let them explore and learn undirected) rather then a learning goal. For her and her class, I worry, that it will be about the technology and it will be directionless and without other learning goals. It will be dangerous.

another tweet was:

“introduced the Ipads to my kids yesterday and was AMAZED (sic) with what they came up with!” While it is sometimes the case that our students surprise us, and there can be no happier occasion then when students exceed our expectations; nonetheless, I can’t help but fear that this teacher really had no idea what she was doing with the iPads to further their learning. If they outstrip your expectations in the introduction, the process you went through to develop your expectations was flawed. It could be she’s only talking about how surprised she was at their speed of ‘mastery’ but the fear lingers in me regardless.

I’ve written about this metaphor before, but I’d like to explore it more fully. Teaching SM to students should be done like driving instructors. We should be experts first, our exploring days should be behind us, and we should advise caution (you can see the original here: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/learning-to-use-social-media-shouldnt-be-like-learning-to-ride-a-bicycle-it-should-be-like-learning-to-drive-a-car/ ).

Experts first:

We used to talk about deep understanding and master teachers. Of course now we talk about innovators and experimenters and willingness to fail. While these are desirable traits at times, I’m not sure that using SM with students is one of them. Assuming for the moment that SM is a powerful learning tool, shouldn’t that power have a little direction. If it is a powerful opportunity, it is all the more tragic when it is squandered and wasted. If anyone feels there is no wrong way to use it; that it is so intuitive you don’t need deep understanding, or it is so powerful that in can overcome the instructor’s ignorance, then let them come forward and argue it below; otherwise, me must posit that increasing our knowledge increases the power of the tool. It was the master teacher who know many teaching techniques (TDSB and YRDSB—remember Instructional intelligence?) and had the deep understanding to know when and how to apply them to extend and maximize student learning. Sure kids can learn on their own, sure they can learn in spite of our ignorance- but wouldn’t a knowledgeable instructor help? Can we afford inefficient models of teaching? Are we being professional if we utilize them? The answer used to be a resounding and emphatic no. What changed? What role do we play better wrapped in ignorance like scholarly garb?

Out exploring days should be behind us:

We should be masters in technology and SM firs; before we introduce it to our students. What other subject would we tolerate such teacher ignorance? As students progress in school, should they be more tolerant of it or less? Should primary teachers not understand young kids or not be masters of reading and teaching techniques? Is there any other place that we praise teachers for not knowing and for learning concurrently with their students so completely? It really bothers me to hear teachers talk about using SM to have a conversation—they aren’t conversations. They are broadcast and publishing mediums permanently attached to your identity. They are advertisement delivery services-neither free or safe (without understanding). I have said several times: read some Neil Postman, and some Danah Boyd. If you are going to bring minors into this environment, you had better understand it. Would you bring them into any other environment that you weren’t knowledgeable in? The forest? The subway? A desert? On a Frozen pond? How can we prepare, utilize, trouble shoot, assist, protect, and guide effectively when we don’t have deep understanding of what’s happening?

Advise caution:

look before you leap! Check your mirrors! Look both ways! Don’t talk to strangers! In unknown or alterable situations, we advise caution. Why wouldn’t we be cautious with SM and digital technology? Imagine our driving instructor saying such things as, “I don’t know, lets find out!”, “lets see what this can do!” , “feel free to explore a bit!”, “don’t be afraid to make mistakes”, “the highways work by everyone being nice to each other, don’t worry, people will help you!” Hmmm…Of course, you have to be knowledgeable to realize there are dangers on the Net and such. This is especially true because of all the bad advice about how safe and wonderful it is. Of course it is these things, but just like a car, it is only true when the conditions are right and you know what you are doing.

Some one else tweeted: “When introduced to a new technology, I’ve never heard a student say, “when’s the workshop?’” I hope that when you teach it to them, you do it with such rigor that they would never need to say that. I hope that when intorduced to tech, you did it with in the frame work of a workshop—why wouldn’t you? If you leave them not understanding, you have failed them and left them at risk. Don’t use Tech. Until you know how to use Tech. Don’t teach tech. until you know how to teach it and use it to teach.

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Should Kindergarteners be using Twitter?

 Last week I offended someone. For those of you who know me, that might not come as a shock, but I’d like you to bare with me. I was reading an article about Twitter in a kindergarten classroom. I re-tweeted it and called it reckless.

@ginrob_pt P. Tucker

Rather read about their understanding of SM and privacy-reckless! MT @OISELibrary How a SK class uses Twitter to learn http://bit.ly/qttEum

@happycampergirl was good enough to engage me about it on twitter, and I am hoping she will respond to this post. Since my initial re-tweet, I’ve learned more about her and what she is doing. Not that she needs my approval, but I think she’s doing a good job. She seems to have the current privacy of her students well in hand, and she is using twitter to do really interesting stuff. She has found a way to use it for a very engaging, authentic, ongoing, literacy, learning activity. If you disagree with my objections below, you should check out her blog about it @ http://ow.ly/6xJ7f . If you disagree with my points, you could hardly find a better use for Twitter with kindergarten students; however, if I were a parent of one of those children, I would not have signed the parental consent form; I would not allow my child to participate. By the end of the post, one of 3 things will be apparent: 1) I was reckless to call her reckless; 2) she was somewhat reckless in using twitter; or 3) we both were reckless.

Objection 1: The invisible curriculum.

By using Twitter in the manner described in her blog, this teacher is violating the terms of use set out by Twitter. This, and behaviour like this, has the unfortunate effect of teaching students 2 lessons that we should wish to avoid. First, one is teaching their students that they don’t have to behave ethically by modeling this behaviour. The “terms of use” are an explicit social contract. Twitter is a free service but it is not freely offered. The conditions for use must be followed; Twitter is someone’s intellectual property. You have no right to it unless you follow their conditions. If one wishes them to be different, petition the company or attempt to get an injunction…in either case, in order to fulfill the requirements for ethical behaviour as set out by social contract theory and by our courts, we must abide by their conditions in the meanwhile. Second, students are learning to ignore the “terms of use.” By passing them off as unimportant you are helping to foster a climate where people ignore the fine print. I don’t think this is a safe mentality, nor is it one that will guard their privacy or utility in years to come. If you aren’t worried about you students learning these lessons because they are too young to grasp the concepts; well, I might agre.  This, however, brings me to my second objection (later): if students are too young to grasp the complexities of the digital environment, perhaps they are too young to be using it.

It is startling that people in education want to extend the reach of a company in the market place, even to places it doesn’t dare go on its own. Twitter has rejected young children as a market to deliver to its advertisers; why are teachers trying to do it for them? Has twitter seen a danger we haven’t? Have we even asked?

Objection 2: Do they understand it?

The digital media environment is complex and difficult to understand. It is frustrating, but without a deep understanding, my warnings fail to alarm people; I find those who understand media better are more receptive to my arguments for caution.  Twitter, for example is not a conversation; it is not the same as talking to someone.  Twitter is a publishing and broadcasting system; it is also a business with a complex business strategy.  How can one properly prepare kids to use media, if s/he doesn’t understand media theory?  My objection is: teachers might not know the dangers that are out there (and there are out there); therefore, it is dangerous for them to lead their kids into SM.

I use twitter for limited purposes with my intermediate gifted students in late January or February, depending on when they are ready – when they know enough. I think kindergarten is necessarily too young. 10 % of them still cry on Monday mornings; some believe in Santa Clause (even that Virginia kid); that a bunny hides chocolate eggs for them to find because the world is a wondrous place; at least half of them don’t understand the difference between commercials and TV shows; they certainly don’t understand the techniques or reasons for them. Sadly, I think most teachers don’t understand the digital environment either.

One can’t just read “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky or watch him on Ted.com, though those are a start. He and other technophiles are great and inspiring but not necessarily critical or cautionary. Teachers have to read things like: “Understanding Media,” by Marshal McLuhan; “Amusing ourselves to death,” or “informing Ourselves to Death.” by Neil Postman. Teachers have to analyze media like Twitter using something like this: http://bit.ly/eedUBq . Do you think it is a conversation they are having? Then you haven’t read http://bit.ly/jnbeUU by Danah Boyd, or http://bit.ly/pmqlSh by Alexis Madrigal.  Teachers even need to figured where their students or even themselves reside in Twitter’s business model?

If you do understand all this, do your students? teachers might be able to keep them safe in their class, but by normalizing twitter at such an early age, students/children will not approach it critically the next time. They won’t give it the respect/caution in needs. (“ahhh, no big deal, we used it in kindergarten; I know all about it)…will they use it next year or in two years by themselves? Do their parents now think it is harmless because it was introduced in school?

What’s the rush? There must be other less abstract ways to get your students to relate and talk to others. What advantages does the digital environment offer to kindergarten students that cannot be replicated by other means? What great advantage outweighs the negatives? Eventual participation is not an argument for early exposure. Students will do all manner of things when they grow up: drive, drink, enter committed sexual relationships….is early expose necessary? I think that they are too young.

Yes, @happycampergirl and others are doing great things with Twitter…but there are other great things they could do (I have no doubt). Things that are age appropriate that their students will better understand. Use media that is more immediate, mundane and less abstract. Have them talk and read to each other or the class down the hall. Why, in our multicultural schools, do we have to abstract an opinion from across the world? They are right across the hall. Make a chat room by arranging your desks in a circle. Get them to know each other and share their diverse opinions.

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Please tell me I’m wrong; where are my mistakes? Be critical; that’s how I learn…

A colleague of mine recently remarked that my blog was too negative; that it belabored the facts; and I was missing the main point of social media – sharing!

I countered by saying, I try to share as much as I can; some of my posts are sharing resources that I created, and I re-tweet points, arguments and resources that I think should be considered or have value.

In regards to belaboring the facts, I responded that I had no idea what that actually means.  Relevant facts are always…well, relevant! They, when applied correctly, are argument busters – they help you gage if an idea had merit or not. Value facts; they keep us grounded in reality.

In terms of being too negative I saw his point; taken as a whole, my blog and tweets are more disagreeable then many others.  I saw his point, but I emphatically disagree.  This is what critical thinking looks like.  Critical thinking is the analysis of where a concept is weak or wrong; it is an exploration of negative consequences, oversights, weaknesses, errors, assumptions, etc.  

There might be some misunderstanding out there on what critical thinking is. You aren’t thinking critically when you point out the benefit of something or when you are optimistic.  Those are other analytical strategies.  Critical thinking is the subset of analytic activities that attack – its the reductio ad absurdum and the like. It is the process used in systems analysis (from everything to computer programs to making sure the maintenance schedule for aircraft repair is adequate); it is the process used by your defense lawyer as he breaks down the Crown’s argument; it is the method of Socrates – he never said, “wow, I see your point; I can’t wait to share it with the Sophists.”

We hear people presenting the merits of critical thinking a lot; they present the need that our students have for them; however, we rarely hear anyone embracing someone else’s critical thoughts. It’s much like coffee – when asked, people generally say they like it dark and rich when the truth is the majority of us like it milky and weak (Malcolm Gladwell on Spaghetti sauce at ted.com). When asked, people generally say that they value critical thinking, then when confronted by it, see it as negativity and then as something to avoid or dismiss (“you say you love the baby, but you crucify the man (Jim Croce).”). Though people say they value critical thinking; they don’t embrace the actual thoughts only the vague unassuming concept. As a profession, we tend to see it as the “black hat” from de Bono’s 6 hats…something associated with negativity. Even in many sources of this method, we are warned to not use it too much.

No such warning exists for the optimistic hat. Well, I don’t want my airplane mechanic to be overly optimistic; I don’t want my lawyer to be (should I need one); I don’t want journalists to be; or farmers (“don’t worry; crops grow themselves; don’t worry, I’m sure the ecoli wont spread”) or educators.

I find the irony a bit too thick to even enjoy when an educator shares someone’s critical argument at face value…when anyone optimistically accepts a critical argument and shares it saying, “great point to consider…” they have missed something fundamental; they have forgotten to be critical. I also have very little respect for someone who prefers to ignore an argument because it is too negative and goes off in search of some great list of 100 apps that every student needs or 100 uses for twitter in your classroom. Without seeking the possible weakness or negative consequences, one’s optimism is reckless and naive.

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