Student motivation is something that all teachers struggle with, whether it be with one student, or a class. Since work ethic has show a decline over the years, educators and business leaders share a common stress. It was interesting and a bit frustrating to hear the complaints that were said to be common among many educators that Wagner had interviewed. The concerns from the teachers point of view seemed to be revolved around memorization, repetition, and a "listen to me" attitude. Why on earth would students be motivated to work in this type of environment. I recently went to a wonderful workshop by Dr. Ernie Mendez that covered the topic of Emotional Literacy, and Mendez said what Wagner states repeatedly throughout his book. They both agreed on the idea that everybody is motivated, it is all about finding what motivates them.
Chapters 3 and 4 cover some interesting and controversial topics in education. Looking at what Wagner says on "testing" and the real world application, I completely agree with his statement "While all employers need workers who solve problems, they do not find that students who have taken the usual math and science courses and passed the tests can apply this content to solving real problems." With these types of standardized testing, how are students supposed to learn life skills? What are they really proving, other than the ability to memorize and recite? It was interesting, but not in any way surprising, to hear that when students were asked about their most engaging experience in high school, they began to recall clubs and extracurricular activities. It was sad, however, to here the laughter and feeling of time wasted when it came to academics. This is what we hope educators and leaders today are working to prevent.
This book raises some great points about education in the past and education today. Some of the comments and concerns that resonated with me helped me to reflect on my teaching as well as learning and here is why. I remember as a middle school student being handed worksheet and a textbook in history class. We were to read the chapter, and answer the end of chapter questions that followed. We were not allowed to help each other and when we were done, we moved on to the worksheet. If we did not finish the worksheet or questions in class, it became homework. I thought that is what students should be doing. After moving schools at the end of the eighth grade, I found the same teaching methods from that history teacher. I remember after a couple of weeks, my teacher calling me up in front of the entire class (where I knew nobody) and told me my grade out loud for everyone to hear. He said that I wasn't passing his class because I have not done any "current events". I remember being embarrassed and completely shut down inside. He had never even told me what "current events" were. I remember watching students get up in the beginning of class and talk about things that they found in the newspaper, but I was under the assumption that these students did this on their own, as not many students did it. Turns out, since I came at the end of the school year (two months left), most students had already reached their required number. What was being taught here? What was I learning? What did I walk away with from these experiences? The answer to all of these questions is "nothing". What a waste of time. I entered high school hating history. That could have been a time for learning how to read a text instead of just going through the motions of attempting to read something that was too difficult and then skipping most of it. Those skills of learning how to analyze and break down that text could have helped me for years to come. When was I taught how to learn?
I think about last year and how I was coached as a teacher to educate my students on how to read a science textbook. I couldn't imagine just giving them a science textbook and letting them go. I really appreciated the ideas mentioned in this text on how to create learners.
When looking at the 6 areas of unlearning and relearning ideas for educators that were discussed, I try to evaluate myself as though this were part of a rubric for my blended practices. There are those that stick out to me as more of a friendly face, and then there are those that seem to be more of an acquaintance.
As for the friendly faces, these are the areas where I find myself to be more likely to take on without hesitation. “These may include the idea of being a master learner”, “Discover don’t deliver”, and “Do Real Work for Real Audiences”. I myself have been inquiring about bringing their community, and world around them, into the classroom. As I have been planning this with our health educator to tie in some cross content curriculum, what I feel we should look further into is how I can better equip them for future issues. I want my students to be able to identify issues that concern them, research that given situation, collaborate with peers near and far (possibly another school) and deliver their plan for addressing these matters. But first, I must put a focus on giving them the tools to become that learner in any situation and then allow them the freedom and not narrow or limit their creations.
Now, for the areas that are not as familiar, I need to find a way around my struggles of sharing and talking with strangers. This may mean that I need to take one step at a time with the support of a teacher who has mastered this. I may need to “share” my ideas with others before acting on them and find what worked and did not work. Sharing should be something that is easy for me, and maybe I can say that the sharing between colleagues in class and at my work is easy, but I need to work on setting up more of an online portfolio of my work so that I may broaden my connection in my professional world. As for the talk with my students about identifying good vs. bad strangers, it may be difficult since my students are so young, but they need to learn this, as they are most likely using these tools at home and not receiving the education before jumping in to online conversations. It reminds me of our lesson last year on credible sources. I feel that I can definitely take these on, but these will just need more attention than some others.
Are you a visitor or resident of the internet?
I see myself a a definite visitor to all aspects of the internet. As I was watching the video and reflecting on where I would fall on the continuum, I was clearly the "private" visitor that he was talking about. When Dr. White discusses how privacy is viewed differently between ages, I began thinking about all of the social networking sites that would be considered the "norm" for my students, yet are foreign to myself. I am someone who has chosen not to sign up for facebook, twitter, etc. in the past, and have only done so since starting this program. Just to give a few examples of my disconnection, I do not even have internet at home. I receive my important work emails through my phone, but generally am off-line after work.
The theory of the visitor/resident is very clear. I see this difference between my friends and colleagues and although it is clear who shows a commitment to being visible, it is not necessarily a indicator of capability. I appreciate the idea that just because one is not continuously connected, it does not mean they lack the knowledge or skill necessary for today's online media tools.
I found Wesch's talk to be insightful and engaging. I was drawn in by the topic of the collaboration to solve real world problems. The idea of enggaing your students to connect, organize, share, collect, collaborate, and publish, seemed to be a lot to consider with my sixth graders in mind, but as I continued to listen to this presentation, I realized that this can be accomplished in a variety of ways and on a variety of levels. Although the examples given were expected to address the learning of a higher cognitive ability, I truly appreciated the idea to embrace and collaborate to solve common issues. I began to think about how I would really like to encourage students to own their learning, pursue research that interests them, and debate on one of the many problematic topics that arise in these youth's lives. Furthermore, I plan to teach my students how to share their findings on media networks and understand that "meaning is something you create, and not just find."