Sometimes we teachers may grow cynical about the ‘career and college’ ready mission statement. It’s not hard to see why: when our nation voted gave corporations the same voting rights as human beings we knew we were in deep trouble. To avoid that rabbit hole, I’ll just say this: we still work, and one of our jobs as teachers is to show students the opportunities and pathways so they can make the work-life decisions for themselves with the best and rigorous information.
And a secret to all this is — not all work is bad. Far from it. Modeling passion and personal engagement in our work lives is part of the mix of building relationships with students: when we point to the purpose of learning, the foundational piece comes from us. Establish our own engagement, purpose and love of our time in the workplace.
We were the nation of innovators and dream makers. We were envied the world over for our ability to create, for ingenuity and puppy-like enthusiasm. I am not sure we are that now, with a few exceptions (looking at you, Elon Musk). And I pin my hopes on the next generation of thinkers, inventors, writers, artists, and designers on helping students communicate and build the skills necessary to work together in order to solve problems.
The work I’m doing in the WABS/STEM Fellowship program and the PLU ELL Endorsement is guiding my thinking: I wanted to share some ideas from STEM group in terms of project/collaboration/employability rubrics:
My big question this morning: how do we teach, and learn, to think critically?
Not the surface-level fluff–but the hard questions, the wrestling with the trifecta of intellectual stagnation: cognitive dissonance, justification, and rationalization?
Do we need heroes/heroines?
What would happen…if…we…didn’t?
What if…we were good to each other, did no harm, and made our classrooms, lecture halls, and online spaces engaged and safe places to discuss questions and seek ideas and answers?
Consider and read this thread: keep track and curate the narratives you teach: by every figure, do a character study. We need to face and review the decisions of the past and reconcile and come to terms with our future.
Example: what if Ruth Hopkins didn’t follow this path? Discuss the narrative of Lincoln’s heroism and his great, grave flaws?
155 years ago today, the largest mass execution in U.S. history took place under the orders of Abraham Lincoln. On Dec 26, 1862, the day after Christmas, 38 Dakota warriors were hanged in Mankato, MN. #Dakota38pic.twitter.com/N8gSmbZwUG
This feels very big to me right now, and scary, but this is the gift I want to give my students most of all: the courage to question, and draw their own conclusions, and then have the mindfulness and mental flexibility to adjust those conclusions if necessity demands.
Last week I attended a professional development meeting with George Couros, author of the Innovator’s Mindset. I jotted tons of Couros’ quotes in my notebook, all important to the kind of teacher I keep striving to become:
“How do you cultivate questions of curiosity and not compliance?”
“Data driven is the stupidest term in education.”
“Your childhood is not their childhood. Nostalgia is what gets us stuck.”
“Relationships matter! Nobody in this room is as interesting as YouTube. If you are all about the content, you are already irrelevant.”
“You need to make the positives so loud that the negatives are hard to hear.”
“Would you want to spend the whole day learning in your own classroom?”
“Every day is where your legacy is created.”
Once I got over my fleeting envy at her having the opportunity to hear George Couros speak, the overwhelming sense of luck and joy that someone captured these thoughts and framed them in a way that speaks to me, and encourage me to be better–forgive myself of missteps and be better. Every day.
The only one I may disagree with is the nostalgia piece. It requires more nuance. A few years ago students started a Flashback Friday, where they asked me questions about my child-teenage hood, and I answered as honestly as possible. Agreeably, getting bogged down in nostalgia isn’t healthy for anyone. I’ve often said nostalgia is a heckuva drug. It’s the Mirror of Erised. But a relevant story in the context of a teachable moment is not the same as nostalgia. Just yesterday I explained why there are the terms “cc” and “bcc” on emails.
And yes, I do try to make my classroom one I want to be in. I heard the phrase ‘dogfooding” years ago, and took it to heart: basically, eat your own product. Yesterday I was frustrated with one class because they could not stop side talking. I told them what they were learning (about Outlook email–poor little future borgs, as my cohort member from WABS/STEM, told me) wasn’t the most exciting, but they had to listen and follow along step by step. That may be the hardest thing about computer instruction, and I’ve been very honest with them. Everyone in that class is all over the map, and sometimes we just have to keep in step.
Today I’ll take with me these words, and try to do better. And laugh to myself about the data-driven line.
Aziz Ansari recently put himself on an internet diet, and maybe the rest of us should follow suit.
I bought the full-meal deal from Freedom a year ago, and it’s been buggy ever since, and the customer support is confusing, but I’ll keep trying. I’ve tried to limit myself: making jewelry again, just reading (though it is on an i-pad/Kindle), and doing other things…but it’s been tough. All I’ve succeeded in doing is making a mess. This next week I’ll focus on finishing up the computer technology curriculum and nailing down the first few weeks of ELA. My schedule next year will be a bit different, and I’m trying to be flexibly- proactive. (Whatever that means!) It was time I went through my own digital hoarding and pulled out some of the best articles/ideas.
One can, indeed, Google context about a topic. How deep down the rabbit hole should we go?
I get the statement: it’s intended to be for Depth of Knowledge Level One Yes/No kinds of questions, Costas’ level one knowledge, bottom rung of Bloom’s. However — these days the strata of misinformation abounds, and even yes/no questions can result in horrific results. And these days, it is life and death.
I needed my help from my friend Sharon to help ME get some context for this post, and she came to the rescue:
I tried a little experiment, suggested by my husband. I Googled “What are vaccines?” and “Are vaccines good for you?” both level one questions that should result in facts or a yes/no.
Here is what I got with this first search statement:
(Note: most results are sound.)
Here is with search terms my husband tried:
Questions, even with yes or no answers, can be inherently biased. People seek the answers their cognitive dissonance and biases want. “Google” Benghazi, Alex Jones, Pizzagate, etc. Heck, look up “president handshakes.” No, never mind. Don’t.
Google does its best to filter and promote factual information with its complicated algorithms and data. But Fake News is a violent, dangerous issue. I wish we could go back a decade at least when we could, with reasonable critical thinking skills, discern fact from opinion/fiction.
Here is something Sharon and I can fix, so look for a Part II. In the meantime
Look at the publisher and media format: is it a credible news source? Blog? Credible Youtube channel or ‘just some dude?’
Look at links and pingbacks
Know how search engines work
Tap into the best Social Studies teachers you know — make sure any lesson on search engines include conversations about primary, secondary, and tertiary documentation and artifacts.
Call upon the best ELA teachers you know to discuss point of view, perspective, fact, opinion, and truth
Call upon the best Science teachers you know to help promote scientific research and how bias creeps in.
Call upon your best Math teachers to discuss proving factual knowledge and a variety of algorithmic paths.
Oh, and never forget Electives, PE & Health to talk about false and factual information that spreads on the internet. The arts and the curated effect of beautiful and lasting resources on the Internet for one and all.
So yes, don’t spend a lot of time teaching if it can be Googled. But teaching how Google works is teaching time well spent.
Oh, and I found this, and of course, can find its origins: