The pillars of my teaching are shifting

I’ve only read Chapters 1 and 2 (and 10) in Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case’s Creating Thinking Classrooms, but I can feel the foundation of my beliefs, the pillars of my teaching and the roof of my practice shifting.  I’m looking through two of my school roles as I read this book.  Firstly, I have to look at the whole school and especially how our teaching with technology is (or is not) changing. Secondly, I am both librarian and e-learning teacher and I want to make sure that my library goals align with the thinking goals of my online classroom self.  There are some practices that have definitely affected the way that I teach (backwards design) but there are lots of other practices that are muddy.

So in Chapter 1 when the authors describe the number of initiatives that are happening in any one school building I naturally asked “Which of the operational components is most accurate in regards to the purpose of schooling?”  My Directions Team spent an entire afternoon trying to align our core values or Finding our Why (Simon Sinek).  It’s so difficult!  When we brought our work to the next group of department heads, they tore it down to the beginning again.  Yet I know that it’s a worthwhile exercise because, as the authors say on page 16, we can’t rush to the practical.

I fear that the digital technologies that we have rushed to put into the hands of students and teachers are just sustaining existing principles rather than transforming them.  I see all the time that Inquiry tasks performed about Google-able answers are minimally impactful on student learning.  For the first time in 3 years, we are suddenly having a scarcity issue of devices again but I’m not convinced that a) our wireless infrastructure can handle more devices and b) that we want them.  We are convincing our students through our repetitive actions that they can rely on the school’s tech rather than to begin exploring their own.  I’m especially thinking of our graduating students who need to get comfy with making their own decisions about which tech tools to use for which purpose.

I never questioned before if student-centred learning had any disadvantages but of course the two things I see everyday as a librarian are clear disadvantages!  They are that the curriculum is often underrepresented or not represented at all in student-centred learning; and that students choose safe/known topics.  One of the frustrating reasons that inquiry continues to be less impactful though is because or our grading system which I know I constantly use as a stick to beat our students into motivation!  After reading Implications for personalized learning I am left with the question How can we separate grades for measurement from grades as reward?  Wouldn’t it be awesome if students found that the learning was the reward instead of the number on their report card?

In my elearning environment, I’m currently playing with the new badges tool where I can recognize students’ behaviour and achievement with a badge.  I know this isn’t a strong motivator at the grade 12 level that I’m teaching, but I want to recognize when a student achieves a technology skill; a foundational skill and a social skill that will serve them well in the environment.  My ultimate plan is to tie more badges into the competencies that are outlined in the curriculum to see where my teaching weaknesses are and also to make sure that my students have a solid foundation when they finish the course.  As a librarian, I think my career goal could be “Sense-making must be grounded in rigorous investigation.”   I like the examples given of inquiry on pages 38 and 39 but I’m hoping there will be more of these in less content-based circumstances as we go through the book.  Although these models gave me a clear point of view when we’re teaching a concept, this format doesn’t always apply to English or the Arts which are often based on skills-based learning.

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