Responses from Yesterday’s Comments

I’m sitting in the Toronto Airport, on my way to La Guardia, where I’ll rent a car and drive down to Deleware. I can’t believe I’m going to be driving in New York City. Scared to death.

I thought I would take a few minutes and explore some of the comments that were posted on yesterday’s article, which included the students blogs I borrowed from Will Richardson.

I find it disappointing that the second student feels that s/he has no option but to accept the passive type of learning that is offered in the classroom. We ask ‘what can we change in our instructional practices that will encourage the student to challenge his or her thinking?’
The first student is excited about writing and communicating with others. They have more ownership over their learning.

I think that we need to better define what it is that we are trying to do. The second student, in my opinion, has become good at being a student. She/he knows how to, as Marc Prenski puts it, “play school.” I think that we need to realize that too much of our efforts are aimed at making children good students, rather than good learners. It’s not our fault. The system tells us what to do. Yet, it is our responsibility.

The student finds the medium engaging and hence is motivated to read and write and learn to a greater extent. Many special education students simply benefit from the use of a keyboard and are able to participate with improved quality and quantity of writing.

I had a conversation yesterday with one of the administrators, who observed that special education students seem to perform much better when using a keyboard to communicate than they do when using a pencil. It seems to me that keyboarding (either computer or phone) has become a teen skill, whereas writing with pen or pencil is a school skill. Look at it from the student’s point of view.

The problem with surfing the internet is the lack of ’structure’. Its like walking throiugh an enormous open marketplace. Incredibly interesting items to see and explore but impossible to quickly find what you started out looking for. And as with any complex new structure a real time dump to master. Never mind blogging.

This comment reminded me of a technology market I visited in Hong Kong a few years ago. The setup was so foreign to me that I stayed confused the whole time, constantly distracted and always lost. However, when I watched the natives, they all knew exactly what they were looking for and how to get it. I maintain that it’s time that teachers stop acting like immigrants.

Also, blogging isn’t for everyone. You blog to solve a problem or accomplish a goal. Without a problem or goal, it’s just academic, and we’re tool old for academics.
Another participant went on to say…

It’s really a slow process until we really get going. I’d be reluctant to blog because I’m not sure who wants to listen to what I have to say. At a local level, we might connect blogging to our own First class internet.

This is an interesting statement, and probably a common source of reluctance. But I’ll repeat. I’m not blogging to entertain or even to inform. I’m blogging because I have a goal, a mission. I think that we need to change what and how we teach, and I blog with that in mind. I try to take steps to encourage readership, because that helps me accomplish my goal.

Well, I could go on, but let’s look at the next comment…

I can see the value in respecting the learning styles for both learners. Unfortunately, we are most likely only meeting the needs of the old school learner. It would be interesting to observe the change in classroom dynamics if both styles were addressed.

Very well said. There are certainly appropriate times and situations where the best thing is for the teacher to lecture and the students to take notes and memorize. The second part of his comment is very important, I believe. This is our task and what I was trying to help the administrators in Bluewater to do, to imagine what the dynamics of that classroom might be, turn that into a story, and tell it.

It all comes down to how we use differentiated learning in our classes. We need a number of approaches to learning, since students have their particular strengths and needs. Some students will benefit from being left alone to experiment with the blogs, while others will require more direction and supervision. Just like any other learning tool, teachers need to make decisions about how to best serve their students and their academic growth by best utilizing the tool in the manner that they would utilize any other classroom resource.

“Right on!” The idea that one size fits all is as outdated as the stone tablet. I believe, also, that we should respect and have confidence in our teachers’ abilities to observe and apply teaching strategies and learning experiences based on the class and on the individual student. This requires, more than staff development, the resources and time to observe, reflect, research, invent, and experiment. I requires investment in our classrooms.

Blogging is an excellent way to discuss opinions and ideas with those beyond the borders of your country. It is an online living textbook, current and up to date debating and sharing of ideas. The opportunity for sharing and exploring new ideas as your own ideas are being responded to makes the format open-ended and allows immediate exploration/feedback/sharing.

Once again, spot on! I really like the idea of blogging as an online living textbook. Of course, this isn’t entirely true, but it says a lot about what blogging is. Beyond all other things, it’s about conversation – and it’s inside of conversations that we learn.

We need to adapt our teaching to the lives of the students. They are living and working in a different environment than we have in the traditional, industrial model classroom. In order to address the needs of our students, we as educators need to find ways to enter into that new environment. The second student probably is more successful in our traditional classrooms, the first is moving in a totally different environment.

Coincidentally, the Bluewater District (Ontario, Canada) has invited me to return next month, and among my activities will be to meet with students in their district and try to learn from them about how they learn and how they think classrooms should operate. It something that I haven’t done very often, and a tricky sort of activity, but I am certainly looking forward to it.

That’s enough for now. Getting close to time for boarding.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.