Archive for category Sharing
The class I had last year was great in so many ways. Sure there were some behavior issues, but generally, they were an energetic and happy bunch. One thing that made them unique in my experience is they tended to shy away from class discussions. Though good workers, individually and in small groups, the large group discussion didn’t produce a lot of apparent engagement. I traditionally rely heavily on in class discussions; as such, we went a little faster than I’d normally go and a hole opened up in my long range plans. Not wanting to run poetry as my only unit in language block, and not yet ready to start up their final presentations that would end their yearlong research, I was looking for something to do.
I had an assignment based on Clay Shirky’s article “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus “ that can be found at: https://tuckerteacher.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/mini-unit-clay-shirky-and-social-surplus/ I had tried it before in June or in small doses like if half a split was on an extended trip or such. The results were always mixed, limited, and somewhat muddled. Whatever the reason, I decided to give it one more try. I modified the assignment a little bit and presented it to the class not really knowing what to expect. Well, they, by-in-large, took off with it. It was the highlight of the year for many; it has become one of my “flagship” assignments; students were so excited about it, that they showed up this year with their ideas ready (which created minor problems with the brainstorm section…).
It went so well last yea, that I let it run much longer than I intended. I feel students got a lot out of it. I am still finding ways to leverage it into better assessment and evaluation but it lead to so many mini-lessons on learning skills, specific content, social skills, problem solving and personal growth that I have come to really value it. This year, instead of one chunk in April/May, we are working through it part of every Friday.
Last year’s projects:
- A radio station: We bought a raspberry pi computer and a few other components. While one person (and I…and my brother-in-law) was working on the technical and software aspect, the others were developing their shows and the advertising/surveys/other that went along with it. There were a lot of problems to be solved with the tech (thanks Glen!!) but in the end, they (and I) learned a lot. What I liked most about this group was that the project met their diverse interests. The artistic student was interested in making their banner, posters, etc. One was interested in the Tech. 2 were interested in the programing. I’ve never seen a group work on so completely different aspects of a single goal
- Bird houses: I remember being a little disappointed with this group’s choice. They were very strong academically and had a strong social conscious. I was hoping for something a little more hard hitting. Well, I approved their plan; in truth, I thought they’d finish early and do another project. Instead they worked long and hard; I think this group got the most out of it. Researching, problem solving, team work, logistics, etc. There were a lot of obstacles and skills to learn. In the end, they made 13 bird houses (PS: if any of this group is reading this: I still have the bird houses….please put them up this winter so that birds can use them in the spring).
- The Art Club: One group ran an art club for primary students. They were the best planned group I had. Every time I had a question, they had thought of it already, and had a good workable answer. Students in this group got to show strengths (planning, organizing, creating) that I had a hard time seeing in more traditional class work. The primaries loved their club; they got to make a craft every week for 8 weeks. I think members of this group were very proud of their work and happy with the opportunity
- The Movie: though this group had some logistic problems, some focus problems, and the movie didn’t get an Oscar nomination, they had fun, worked on social and learning skills, were quit pleased with their work and success. The Group was likely a little large and had trouble finding specific tasks for everyone to do at times, but they all came together to make a product and everyone say it through to the end. I wish I could see their movie again
- The Youtube Channel: this group wanted to make a Youtube channel that would host Minecraft instructional and walkthrough videos. Technical problems, logistics, and even a little problem with focus made this project seem a little less successful than I hoped, but in truth, they still worked on planning, brainstorming, problem solving, and all the other skills associated with group work and projects. While their product never really took off, they had a lot of success in learning to compromise, learning the technology, and attempting to create. There are well positioned to be more successful next time
- Wilderness Survival club: another group wanted to learn about wild edibles and other wilderness survival skills. The first researched and learned some skills, found some opportunities to practice and eventually decided to apply their skills by running a club for other students to teach and share what they had learned. Eventually, we took a small group out into the woods Wednesdays after school to do: shelter building, fire starting and theory, and navigation. Everyone, even myself, had fun.
- Orienteering obstacle course: The final group learned orienteering skills and developed a course for their peers in a local green space. It was a very well organized and fun event for the class and a great day outside. Even undercover police came to check it outJ
This year, the groups are again working on a diverse group of activities: a cooking club; a group making art installations around the school; a movie; another attempt at a Youtube channel; buying, building, painting and engraving games on picnic tables for the school yard; a mural on the wall of the gym; an outdoor permaculture garden and classroom; and homemade T-shirts to raise money for a local animal shelter. It’s going to keep the kids (and me) busy….I’ll let you know how it goes.
I’d like to take a different tone today. Today’s post isn’t about technology in education. It is related to education, but it is more personal than professional. Today, I want to talk about something that’s been bothering me for awhile. This might be too personal, but I need the write this as cathartic release; luckily, very few people read my blog. Its a bit scattered; please bare with me.
It hurts me to hear teachers say things to the effect of: its not fair – the “bad” kids are holding everyone else back. This hurts me because, in at least in 90 % of cases, my son will be worse. When my autistic son enters school, should we place him in a regular class, he will be disruptive, frustrating- he will require more attention than anyone else, maybe than everyone else.
I am a teacher and I understand why it is said. I kind of agree. I sometimes say the same thing. I am a horrible hypocrite. However:
It’s true that it’s not fair to the good kids but it’s also true that it is even more unfair to the “bad” kids. Did they choose to be bad? It’s holding them back even more then the good kids. Why are they bad? Do they have free autonomous choice to be bad? Of course not- we don’t let children enter contracts or be alone or drive or vote or be charged with a crime because we recognize that a child’s autonomy is limited at best. So why are they bad? If it’s not truly their choice then it’s something else? Economic? Family problems? Medical condition? Who are the victims- the good or the “bad” kids? Who’s really being held back and why?
This is what being inclusive looks like. We don’t leave people behind. We help and support. We do that in all aspects of our society.
My son will disrupt the learning or others. He will push children out of the way. He will scream and cry in class. He will have accidents and need to be changed. He will run away. He will disrupt every assembly – everyone will stare. Kids will laugh at him, make fun of him, make fun of his brother because if him. He won’t have any friends. He’ll spend the day looking for the missing letter from a puzzle instead of what is is supposed to do. He will need someone to help feed him. He won’t be able to sign his name on the art he was helped on. He will need help washing himself after art. After school he will have 4 different types of therapy – physio, OT, speech, ABA.
While things will improve as he ages, they will never go away. I hurt when I think I have to add the resentment of parents, students and teachers to the list if difficulties – I can accept other students resenting him as they’re still learning too – but adding parents and teachers, while understandable, hurts me.
Maybe it won’t be so hard; maybe he will learn to cope with school as long as people learn to cope with him.
He might be a more extreme example but hopefully, he can demonstrate a principle – it’s not fair to the ‘bad’ kids that they hold people back; its not fair that they are themselves held back; it’s not fair that they absolutely require the empathy of others – or maybe it is fair – all kids are learning; all require empathy.
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.