Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Homework Assignment (From Burlington, MA?) Is Now Yours...

So I have been tasked (or tagged) by Patrick Larkin, Burlington MA Assistant Superintendent for Learning, with a homework assignment.
Now I have never been one who advocates for homework. Never mind accept one from someone who is not my teacher or boss. However, when the assignment is real, relevant, and can connect you to a network of people who share a passion for education, I'd say it more than meets my criteria of a meaningful assignment.

Additionally, since I have Patrick to thank for urging me to join both Twitter and blogging, I will gladly take on this "assignment".

Thank you Patrick. Here goes...

Part I.  11 Random Facts About Me...
  1. I've seen the Dave Matthews Band over 100 times and still look forward to more.
  2. I was born in Atlanta GA, but raised in Barrington RI.
  3. I played rugby from senior year in high school (1993) until I "retired" in 2005 after a trip to the Men's D2 National Sweet 16. 
  4. In Middle School, I was the goalie for at hockey team from the US that travelled to West Germany to play in an international hockey tournament.
  5. I have had 2 ACL reconstructions to show for my hockey & rugby endeavors.
  6. I enjoy camping.
  7. I have been lucky enough to have spent a summer driving cross country and back with my wife.
  8. I hold/held (?) the "sit and reach" fitness testing record at Barrington HS, with +13 inches past toes.
  9. I drove a scooter in High School.
  10. I was in Phi Gamma Delta at the University of Rhode Island.
  11. Both my mother and my wife are educators in Rhode Island.
  12. I am "Substantially Below Proficient" when it comes to anything having to do with cars.
Part II.  Answer the 11 Questions the Nominating Blogger Has Created for You...

  1. Have you ever been to Massachusetts? Yes.
  2. What is your favorite sports team (college or pro)? Go Pats!
  3. Besides you, name a blogger that you would recommend to others. Tim Chace
  4. When you were little, what did you dream of becoming? Oceanographer and professional hockey player
  5. How far away do you live from where you grew up? 34.3 Miles 
  6. What is your favorite meal? Pizza
  7. If you were offered a free trip to anywhere in the world, where would you go? Hawaii 
  8. Do you prefer Macs or PC's? Macs.
  9. Other than the birth of your children and/or the day you were married or met your soulmate, what was the best day of your life? Breaking through a period of generalized adolescent angst about life by spontaneously deciding to go sliding down a golf course hill in a trash bag during a springtime rain storm with friends.
  10. What is the best movie you've seen in the last year? Pearl Jam 20
  11. What is the last live concert that you've attended? Life is Good Festival (with- Roots/Hall&Oats/others)
Part III. List 11 Bloggers...
  1. Jeff Delp
  2. A.J. Juliani
  3. Angela Maiers
  4. Miguel Guhlin
  5. Scott McLeod
  6. Shawn McCusker
  7. Chris Lehmann
  8. Rob Mezzanotte
  9. Timothy S. Chace
  10. Justin Tarte
  11. David Hochheiser
  12. And anyone else who wants to play along (please see below)
Part IV. Post 11 Questions You Nominate to Answer...
  1. Who is your favorite author right now?
  2. What is your favorite season and why?
  3. In your opinion, what is the best TV series of all time?
  4. Who is your favorite teacher from your childhood and why?
  5. If you could have any vehicle, what would it be?
  6. If you could wake up tomorrow and have one thing immediately change about school/education, what would it be?
  7. Dogs or cats?
  8. If you could eliminate/change 1 rule in your favorite sport, what would it be?
  9. If you could become an expert in any field/skill, that you currently have NO experience with, what would it be? 
  10. If you could have a superpower what would it be?
  11. The best part about being in education right now is...?
If You Were Nominated or Want to Join In Here Are the Guidelines for Your Homework...
  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers.
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.
  • Finally- Post back here (in the comment section) with a link to your finished assignment. Go on, you have homework to do.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do You Do What Google Can't?

The constant outcry from many an educator about the demise of student learning and work ethic due to kids "Googling" the answers is often deafening.

However, a question must be posed in return. Could it be that this is what your instruction is teaching your students to do?

The answer is found within the questions being asked inside of the classroom.  When questioning in the classroom only goes one way, or is strictly about getting information, we are training students to be MORE dependent on Google, not less.

"Just the Facts M'am"...Not Good Enough!

In my opinion, poor questioning in the classroom is actually WORSE than just "Googling" the answers, because in that moment in time, the student only needs to ask the teacher and BAM! They get the answer! The student quickly learns from this Q & A routine that no struggle is required, no pondering, no reframing, "just the facts M'am" is good enough. Ask and be done.  Now compare this with a Google search.  When a student performs a Google search they need to find the right words to search, read the search results, and evaluate the quality of the result. Although neither is sufficient, in which scenario is the student more active?

Now within the traditional framework of teaching, before information was made omnipresent through the internet, this method was not only right, but essential. It was a prerequisite to being a teacher. Students need the information. Teacher has the information. Student asks the teacher question. Teacher gives student correct answer. "Teaching" accomplished.

But thank goodness no longer.

No longer is this type of relationship/dynamic essential to one's attainment of an education. Not only is it not essential, it is on a path towards extinction.  As David Houle and Jeff Cobb put it in Shift ED

"If scarcity creates value, then information in and of itself is rapidly becoming worthless"

If an individual's instructional schema is one that maintains the teacher as the sole purveyor of information, the teacher is indeed no longer relevant, or even necessary.

I believe it was Daniel Pink who said "if something can be automated, it will be." Given our dynamic reality where we are fortunate to reside, the pressure to automate education is steadily increasing.  So what is an educator to do?

Do What Google Can't

Let's imagine a pretty common occurrence in a typical classroom. A student asks his/her teacher "Mr/s. Teacher, 'Is this answer right?'". Rather than do what Google can do, do what Google CAN'T do...

  • Google can't ask "Why do you think it is right?" or "Why do you think it is wrong?", but a teacher can.
  • Google can't ask "What did you try already?", but a teacher can.
  • Google can't ask "Have you seen what other people are doing to get the answer?", but a teacher can.
  • Google can't say "Tell me what you are thinking and we can work it out together.", but a teacher can.
  • Google can't ask "Are there other potential answers that are just as good?" and "What and why are they?"
In order to elevate our students, our profession and our own lifelong-learning, schools and classrooms must become the places where we accomplish what Google can't.  For me, Timothy Chace, from his post "Are We Failing Superman... or Can We Be the Heroes?" framed it best when he wrote-

The best teachers aren't those who know the most, but those who believe in you the most. Who help you to develop the most.  They do this by offering the right challenges at the right time, asking the right questions and providing the right feedback. Books and computers can not coach you, encourage you or help you discover your passions... that's why teachers are so important.

The best teachers don't give the right answers, they ask the right questions.