Home » Posts tagged 'teachers'
Tag Archives: teachers
Awhile back, Education Week (online) posted in the Curriculum Matters, an article titled, “Study: Give Weak Teachers Good Lesson Plans, Not Professional Development.” The study in question was done on 360 teachers in three Virginia school districts. Not once in the article, did the authors of the study ever define what, in their research, the characteristics of a ‘weak’ teacher was. Only, the so-called weak teacher benefited from purchasing good lesson plans. Final analysis: invest in giving weaker teachers lesson plans, but don’t spend time or money teaching how to develop a good one. Duh!
It was really no surprise to find the authors of Mathalicious backing up the study. Of course, it’s money in their pockets. You can read the article http://bit.ly/29FAdqb. In fact, I suggest that every publisher who is having trouble selling their lesson plans grab this article, it might bring in a few more dollars into their pockets.
I’m being cynical of course! I will agree, as most teachers do out there, that many of the professional development tortures that are endured are never totally created for the teacher. The majority of teachers feel that their PD courses are useless, never really addressing their issues. Why? Rarely does anyone ask teachers what they need!
The authors talked about moving average-performing teachers, but never defined what average-performing meant, to 80th percentile—It sounds impressive but doesn’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.
Weak teachers don’t need store-bought lesson plans. They need mentors. They need to be taught, yes even teachers need to be taught, how to put a well-developed lesson plan that teaches to the objectives. Oops, I didn’t say test. Darn right! All lessons should have objectives, we should tell the student ahead of time what he is going to learn, learn how to teach students how to ask questions, how to analyze feedback, and how to create an assessment to find out if the objective was learned! The test will take care of itself if objectives are met.
I’m tired of hearing Ph.Duh’s who have either (1) never been in a classroom, or (2) haven’t been in one for years, dream up their studies so that they can publish their article, keep their jobs, and have something to talk about at some roundtable lunch meeting. The simple fact is weak teachers need mentoring, a safe environment to question and get feedback, resources, and the time to develop strong lesson objects. Any Questions?
Back in the 1990’s, I took a course on becoming an info-broker. It was a week-long course where I was introduced to data research, database design, and data retrieval. About this same time, the Internet was evolving with Websites and new technology tools like browsers to surf the Net for information. It was also during this time Vice President Gore created the phrase, “Information highway.” However, the course I took had nothing to do with links to Websites or University libraries. It was about being able to access unpublished information via the Internet using SQL and FTP commands. Unlike published information, unpublished information had value as a commodity, which could be bought, sold, and traded for the right price.
In order to access databases of this caliber, one had to have the following three things: First an account and password to access these global information databases; Secondly, a bank account pre-established to pay for the information once retrieved. Pricing varied from a few dollars per hour to one particular database that cost $1,800 dollars for every 15 minutes; Thirdly, the knowledge and skills needed to maneuver in a database to retrieve the information desired as quickly as possible. What I also took out of this course was the importance of two other key elements: Learning how to ask the right question, and knowing where to get the best answer.
Asking the right question was not about asking a typical journalist question (who, what, when, where, why, and how.) But learning how to ask open-ended questions, prioritizing them, and then mapping out a path within a database’s labyrinth maze structure.
I recently just finished a great little book by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana called, “Make Just One Change: Teach Students to ask Their Own Questions. This book mentor’s teachers on how to develop the skill in asking the right question. I highly recommend it for those who are interested in getting students engaged and developing a classroom culture whose motivation is self-lit. This is a small book but powerful.
Teaching students how to ask questions and then having them answer their own questions does lead to student lesson engagement. Because the questions are developed by the students who are motivated to explore and discover their own answers. Consequently, doing it this way has another benefit, they retain more information than through a lectures or worksheets.
As for where to look, that takes us into research. Google has become the 21st Century equivalent to the 20th Century photocopying phrase, “I want to make a Xerox.” Boy did 3M, Minolta, and other photocopying companies hate that phrase. Today, you hear, “Google it,” for getting information. Actually, there are 65 large databases on the Net. Even though not as popular as Google many of the databases have links to information that might cut down on research time.
In any case, no matter which database is used by students they still need to know three basic things:
- First, the structure of the database and how information is stored;
- Secondly, logic tools on how to reduce the number of hits and get the best information quickly. Noted that I said the ‘best’ information, not the ‘right’ information. In school, on a test, there is generally the one right answer whether that answer must be spelled out or blocked out on a multiple-choice question; and
- Thirdly, the sources of the information. Understanding where the information came from and the timeframe are crucial to data integrity.
We should also teach students the value of asking the question, “Which database will best serve me?” Followed by, how do I design the best approach to get the information and document it. As for documentation, students should be able to tell you which database they used, where the information was stored, the date of publication and the person(s) responsible. In my case, it was date and time (GMT) that had to be recorded for the unpublished data or information once retrieved.
Every database on the Net has a map along with the logic tools that best serve information retrieval. But, I caution, it still comes down to answering the question, and if the question is not formed correctly, well, as Lewis Carroll put it:
Teaching students how to ask questions and then how to retrieve the information are important skills that all learners will need their entire life. In fact, you might still have a question yourself. You might still be wondering about what was in a database that would cost $1800 dollars\15 minutes to retrieve? If you really want to know, I’ll tell you—for a price. My next blog will tackle strategic ways to help students develop questions through storytelling.
Back in March 1993, I was given an invitation by Caltech to witness a new development involving the Internet. I was taken to a computer lab on Caltech’s campus where I heard a brief lecture, and then was shown the first web browser, Mosaic—images and text on the same page. In 1993, there were only three websites in full operation. One was located in Switzerland, the second in Chicago, and the third at Caltech in Pasadena, California.
Two years later, I logged onto AOL and aided in developing the Electronic Schoolhouse. In September 1995, I developed and launched an educational program on the Electronic Schoolhouse called, “Space Island’s.” At the time, I thought it would be interesting to work with two other schools on a common online project. The first was a public school located in Sitka, Alaska, and the other, a private school in New Rochelle, New York. I had no idea what was to come next.
The Space Islands project was centering around a virtual space station, where students were given a virtual lab to conduct science, math, and engineering experiments regarding space travel and concepts of living in zero-g. By March, 1996, I was spending 3- 4 hours every day answering emails from around the world. The Los Angeles Times newspaper reported that AOL had recorded forty nations, which had become involved with the Space Islands program with an estimated 3.2 million students and teachers working on the project. This obviously opened up AOL, and I was given a free account, but I still had not realized what I had done yet. To me, this was a new way to interact with other schools and to create educational projects.
In June of 1996, I received a letter from Senator Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, informing me that my program, “Space Islands,” that I had pioneered, was being inducted into the Library of Congress as a historical event. Historical event?! It was labeled as the first long distance educational program ever done on the Internet. It would soon launch, what we call today online e-learning.
It was the global interactions of students and teachers that was most compelling. For example, students in Kuwait asked a simple question, “Where does the water come from when you are in space?” This got students in Nebraska looking into the topic of growing corn in hydroponic experiments. Students from Cambodia wanted to experiment on the same topic but conducting the experiments using rice. At the University of Helsinki, Finland, university students saw an opportunity with all the nationalities and languages and created the first present tense language interpreter. The lists went on from engineering concepts to developing the imaginary technology that would be used to build the engineering tools, and using math as an application in creating simulations.
In 2012, I took a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership online. I enjoyed the courseware but was not impressed by the e-learning technology colleges and universities were using. Considering the advances we have seen in the past 16 years, in both computer and online technology and engineering, I was surprised to see little advancement in e-learning connections. Connections between students and facilitators (what universities and colleges call online teachers or instructors,) wasn’t much more than the e-mails and bulletin boards I used back in 1996.
So, here we are in the 21st Century where computer technology and software had advanced science fiction into reality with the pantology of historical developments and advancements, condensed literally, to one 2.25″ x4.75″ (5.2cm x 12.7cm) hand-held device capable of receiving and sending information almost anywhere on this planet. And yet, there was a lack of efficacy in the technological hubris that attenuated educational advancement. Why?
In those past 16 years, technology and software companies had evolved from manufacturing to sales, from sales to partnerships with educators, to memberships on school district Board of Directors dictating everything from curriculum development to pedagogy structures. Educational publishers had also joined in, along with many other businesses. Educators had become nothing more than secondary employees and clients to the industries marketing and selling educational books, equipment, and software.
Now, the last paragraph sounds like an anti-tech individual with a pejorative agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hold two B.S. degrees in Information Technology, and taught at a secondary technology school for two decades. So, has technology become an aberration to me? No! For the past three years, I have had an opportunity to take a step back from the daily teaching and department needs to see what is going on locally in other schools, as well as schools around the world, and I have found two interesting trends forming globally. The first, centers on using technology as a motivator. That will never happen. The second group, tends to put technology in its place as a tool–no more, no less, which seems to be showing positive results.
I have to admit, Apple Corp was a financial genius in marketing to schools. But, in the end, it wasn’t education and degrees they were hoping to increase–it was market shares and products. It still is. All manufacturers of “educational” equipment and software see big $$ to be made from both State and Federal educational programs. In fact, many of these same companies pushed legislation by courting financially into several political agendas. Common Core standardization was one of them. Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to computers, cell phones, tablets, and the Internet I think standardization is very important. It just doesn’t belong in the classroom where there are different learning styles, behavior issues, and socio economic situations to deal with.
In the next series of writings, I am going to be focusing on schools that are getting measurable results. No, not higher standardized test scores! Nor, from new ways to using apps on a cell phone, iPad, or tablet. When the new Core Curriculum was voted in, the state officials said, “We will set the bar, how you teach it is up to you.” What they added in smaller print was, “as long as you do it our way.” This reminded me of Henry Ford who said, “You can buy any car with any color, as long as it is black.” By the way, as a sidebar, Henry Ford’s industrial manufacturing model would eventually be the impetus to today’s educational programs. But, that’s another story.
Image: VocWord http://bit.ly/1HHYkT5 Space Islands image from SI group.
If you are male, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is not just a classic piece of literature, but an educational manual on how boys function and learn. On the other hand, if you are female your perception might be closer to how a boy learned what true love and forgiveness was. It is true; men and women are wired differently.
I would argue that boys who lived in the 19th Century are not that far removed from boys living in the 21st Century. True, city boys today don’t have small islands to go off to play pirates, but they still play pirates today using Lego’s or by becoming a character in a video game.
Hidden in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are life’s lessons that boys grow to learn as well as how they best learn them. So, allow me to take a few excerpts from this manual that might help you with your son or male student in better understanding how a boy thinks and how to motivate him.
Boys enjoy motivating themselves by scoring the highest points, being the first to reach the next level in a video game, or achieving a Letter in a sport activity. So, why doesn’t this happen in the classroom with grades as the point maker, or being able to move on to the next chapter of a book, or achieving a certificate, ribbon or button? Let’s see what Mr. Twain has to say about this.
“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do… There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.”
Boys will spend a considerable amount of time learning the ins and outs of a video game, working long hours to find a noise in a car engine, or reading cheat notes for a game in play. However, getting a boy to do his homework, turn in his homework on time, or even using the spell checker when typing up a paper involves threats, punishments and sanctions from both parents and teachers. So, how does one motivate a boy? Again, Twain supplies another hint.
Tom wheeled suddenly and said:
“Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”
“Say – I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work – wouldn’t you? Course you would!”
Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:
“What do you call work?”
“Why, ain’t that work?”
Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:
“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”
“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”
The brush continued to move.
“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”
That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticized the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:
“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”
“Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it — namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.”
There are ways to motivate boys, but are not what you either might expect or consider. “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”, (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act II Scene 3). First, there are dominance hierarchies for both sexes, but the boys’ hierarchy tends to be more stable (that is, the rules are more agreed upon) than the girls hierarchy (Maccoby, E.E., & Jacklin, C. N., 1999), and women need to understand this in order to motivate boys. A boy is born already hardwired in this. Secondly, boys must have a vested interest in order to work. Understanding these and other rules that govern a boy’s actions help teachers in planning their classroom lessons. Twain’s whitewash scenario addresses all of these points, however with that said, it should also be understood that these rules need to be tweaked depending on the boy’s culture, socioeconomic level, and age. One size doesn’t fit all here.
So, are we back to square one? No. There are common denominators that fit all boys that can be discussed and implemented. I have found, in my 30 years of education, the old adage, “Boys will be boys,” to be quite true whether I was dealing with a boy from a Yaqui reservation, or a boy from the Bronx; a boy from Japan or from Holland. I have researched, implemented and tweaked several fields of educational research that worked with boys of different socioeconomic standings, different cultures, and ages. I have discovered gems and exposed media hype in topics of brain research to educational marketing tools. The purpose of this blog is to create and serve the global educational community with what is being done to address the theories, programs and projects that are getting results with how boys best learn. I am looking forward to the dialogs and exchanges that will help boys, at all ages, to achieve their potentials in education and their futures.
Maccoby, E.E., & Jacklin, C. N. (1999). The Psychology of Sex Differences. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Twain, M. (1876). The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Retrieved from http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/sawyr-table.html.