Talkin' Bout My Education By leelefever on March 27, 2008 - 10:56am
Looking back, context is what I have always missed in education. If someone could put a new idea in the context of the real world or show me how it enables other things, I would get it. It's just my learning style - I need the big picture before the details make any sense. By diving directly into T accounts and least common denominators, I got caught up in trying to memorize instead of understand. What I needed to know was why - why this works the way it does - and why it matters to me.
So, I think the connection to our style of videos is obvious. They are based on all the things that don't work for me in education. When I see explanations on the Web, the remind me of school - they assume too much. They sometimes dive directly into how something works and spend little time on context.
For me, it's a big problem - a problem that I believe others feel too. When it comes time for me to try to explain something, it just feels right to look at the world from the perspective that would have made sense to me that first day of accounting class - build meaning with context first, then explore details.
Will Richardson is another blogger I like to read. Something in his style leaves me feeling more reflective, more part of the conversation. Maybe his posts are a little more philosophical. When I read Valenza I feel kind of frantic---like there is no way I will ever absorb all this important stuff, whereas with Richardson there is lots of new information but it is presented in a more bite-sized way. Of course I'm also fond of Richardson because I found his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom extremely helpful. Being able to re-read, and highlight the text is still works for me.
There are many more blogs out there to read, but for me, too many, quickly becomes too much. I will close with the insights presented by Mike Curtain, writing on RSS and Blogs as Professional Development, who acknowledges my blog fatigue AND reminds me that the complexity of the diverse voices ultimately will benefit me as a learner.
For a long time I’ve been looking at models of professional development that go beyond the one-shot after-school workshop. As I’ve studied models of adult learning and become more familiar with the ways that teachers are successful at improving their practice, I’ve realized that good professional development experiences share a few core qualities:
- They are sustained, occurring over weeks, months, or even years.
- They are gradual and incremental, involving a lot of short but connected steps with moments of reflection and integration in between.
- They are collaborative, involving questions, support, and conversation with other teachers in similar situations.
- They directly meet the teacher’s needs, offering solutions to real problems in our every day experience in the classroom.
- Over time, they change the way we see the world and therefore what we do with our students each day in the classroom.
As I become more invested in reading and tracking blogs through RSS, I’m coming to realize that those 15 minute sessions browsing headlines in Pageflakes and posting comments on blogs are starting to add up. Every day I have a little opportunity to see what others are doing and to ask myself why I do what I do and how I could do it better.
When a teacher starts using an RSS aggregator to keep on top of news stories, blog posts, and wiki updates, she is really taking the reins and becoming the editor-in-chief of her own professional development journal. “I want to learn about differentiating instruction in a social studies classroom and using a SmartBoard. I found six or seven experts in each area and they are going to be frequent contributors to my journal. When I don’t understand or disagree, I’m going to let them know and listen carefully to their responses and the comments of other people like me. At the end of the year, I’m going to know a lot more about these topics than I do now.”
The best part of it is that the singular voice of the workshop lecturer or methods text (shudder) gives way to a cacophony of differing agendas, viewpoints, backgrounds, and ideas. We are forced to confront the complexity of our classroom experience and to forge - and frequently thereafter to re-visit and re-evaluate - our own understandings and practices. Simple answers provided by gurus don’t long satisfy intelligent teachers: they need to pick and choose from a buffet of best practices and ideas. Our RSS professional development journal does just that.