When reflecting on my education over the years, I noticed that the way that I currently teach is very similar to the manner in which I received my learning. Most of my life, I was taught the core curriculum’s through teacher directed discussions and lectures. Occasionally we would have projects to complete, some even involving technology (mostly PowerPoint); but even within the description of the projects, our hands and creativity were bound to certain expectations. Due to this traditional learning style, I find myself striving to do my best in lecture driven classes. I prefer to have all criterion spelled out clearly so that I know the expectations for how I can get the best possible score. If I obtained that highest score, I know that I am learning what the teacher intended for me to know! After reading these articles, I could relate to them in this manner. I find myself being very competitive with peers and co-workers on a daily basis, hoping that I am the “top dog” who will gain recognition and/or approval. I seek perfection and am very afraid of risk-taking. It was not until I took a course last year at a local college that really examined how the brain works, how people learn, the impact of design, and the power of play; that I started thinking about how I could make changes in my classroom in order to allow all of my students to achieve higher-level thinking when solving inter-curriculum woven projects.
My philosophy of learning simply lies in the sole point that EVERYONE can learn. Wrapping my head around this concept is easy; executing it the way that it should happen is difficult. In a typical day, I find myself pacing my teaching on the curriculum timelines. I teach mostly lecture style lessons due to the time constraints we have on getting all subjects covered. I try to tie in student interests and allow them to make choices in their learning, but ultimately there is a lack of time due to expectations of performance on standardized assessments. My heart breaks every time a student asks a question related to a subject but is “outside” the guidelines of their expected knowledge and we have to hold off on researching or digging deeper on their inquiry because of the push to get everything done. At our monthly data meetings, we examine every student’s progress on standard assessments. If students are in the “green” we know that they are learning and mastering skills set for their specific grade level. To us, that signifies that learning has occurred and that our teaching has been effective. I particularly liked the quote from The Classroom or the World Wide Web? Imagining the Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age that stated, “On the K–12 level (primary and secondary public schools), governmentally mandated programs, including those such as “No Child Left Behind,” tend overwhelmingly to reinforce a form of one-size-fits-all education, based on standardized testing. Call this cloned learning, cloning knowledge, and clones as the desired product. Such learning models—or “cloning cultures”—are often stultifying and counter-productive, leaving many children bored, frustrated, and unmotivated to learn.” This quote directly impacts my thinking on what I have been trained to look for as far as student learning in my classroom. We often wonder why students today are constantly being tested for learning support and other issues or are being unnecessarily medicated, when majority of the time the core “issues” with these children in our classrooms stem from lack of interest in learning. To me, learning would happen best in a student-driven classroom setting where each individual child has the ability to take risks, experiment, play, discover, be innovative, collaborate, etc.
As we move forward, Web 2.0 tools and participatory-style teaching should become more of the norm. The classroom would look more like a chaotic office space. Students would each be working on an interest based project that stems across many curriculum’s and extends far beyond the expectations originally outlined by standardized tests. Students would be willing to discover and play. They would take risks, ask questions, and discover many outcomes or non-outcomes to their inquiry. Teachers would be facilitators that work with students to guide their research, their project building, to facilitate an experience that probes students to think deeper into what they are working on. In this instance, teachers would also become learners aside of their students. They would model what it means to be open thinkers who are free of feeling judged by their peers, educators, or selves. Students who had the ability to learn and express their knowledge in a way that is reflective of their unique interest and learning style, would be self-motivated to dig deeper for understanding in what they were researching or experimenting on.
Looking into the future, by the year 2025, I would like to see myself teaching in a classroom that is free of standardized teaching and assessing; one that is led by student-driven inquiry and the idea that collaboration across the Web is necessary and okay when learning about many core curriculum’s I would take a role as a coach/facilitator in my students learning. I would encourage them to dig deeper, build connections, explore via the internet and other Web 2.0 tools. These tools would become essential in facilitating learning, not just an added bonus or tag-on to a lesson as it seems to be now! In this style classroom, students would be willing to take risks and to be open thinkers. I watched two videos last year from the TED Foundation that discussed the importance of play today. Both examined the idea that adults today are not associated with play. We are afraid of being judged. We don’t take risks. Both of which hinder our ability to design, create, and experiment with anything in life. If we can get past the insecurities of making mistakes, we can become better facilitators of learning in a project-based, student-led classroom environment.