What does learning mean?

by langwitches What does Learning mean?
Originally uploaded by langwitches

Silvia Tolisano at Langwitches expresses the energizing wish that we educators (teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and ed-technicians) come together to conduct learning in the 21st Century.


Technology is here. And as Bill Ferrier states:  “I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m tired of schools hammering out wonderful cliches like, “We’re teaching students to be life-long learners,” yet doing little to examine the ways in which “learning” has changed over time. We’re stuck in the mindset that “learning” means sitting at desks plodding through a pre-determined course of study delivered by a teacher.”

Read Kevin Conion’s review of Tony Wagner’s “The Global Achievement Gap” to understand what learning and teaching mean today– and tomorrow.

Then come back to Langwitches whose words prompt me to think:

How can we achieve the big picture of learning if everyday we focus on one skill at a time? — and neglect the role of technology in learning skills — or applying them as we learn them in collaboration with other students around the world to explore and understand the world and each other?

The shareholders do support the conductor — the teacher — who orchestrates learning so students can choose and apply skills when needed to accomplish the tasks of his/her everyday life in positive and successful ways. We just need to extend our support to the current realities.

What are the tasks of everyday life? How about these:
The Kiwis for Kenya Project
Culture Quest
Planting a Hummingbird Garden.

What does learning mean? Learning means understanding the world to live successfully in the world. Projects like these look at the world through human eyes instead of through mandated skills because it is in living that we desire to learn. And the teachers’ orchestration of the learning environment encourages and supports all students, guiding them to become powerful through knowledge and action in their lives.

“The conductor of an orchestra does not make a sound…he depends for his power on his ability of making other people powerful.” Benjamin Zander

This beautiful image created by Silvia Tolisano sings for all shareholders — the tech-world hums around us, so let’s look at the tools available, and let’s blend the rhythm of the tools with the melody of curriculum so our students will dance to the beat of learning. Do help us harmonize because the kids are already there.

Thanks Silvia.

[also posted here ]

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This museum could be online for all.

This museum could be online for all.

Ben Wilkoff’s Learning is Change Blog explained this tenet from the Educon 2.1 conference:

“Idea six: The purpose of school is to expose kids to people who are actually doing what is possible. Perhaps it is in finding out how things really work. Perhaps it is in not knowing everything. Perhaps it is in knowing exactly what you want to do with your life.”


A Reflection

Idea Six embodies the heart of education. Whether at home or in school, we strive in our human capacity to know ourselves, our talents, our skills. We want to improve at that which we show skill. We want to learn how the world works, and find avenues through which our travel adds to our strengths as we search for a way to work throughout our lives in careers that hopefully reflect our abilities.

I know; we have tests to pass and standards to teach. Why? So students know skills to be successful in today’s ever-changing world so our country stays strong and viable. Standards in content provide the background to move forward in developing our ideas and questions. Standards in process provide heuristic strategies to create our stance and solutions. They guide us in our search for how the world works.

But does everyone need to know everything, and pass the same test to prove it? If I buy a new electric car, I expect whichever one I drive home will be the same quality and standard that my neighbor’s car has. However, my neighbor will have different places to go, different ways to drive, and different purposes for his car. The thing is standardized; the people are not.

Isn’t that what we have forgotten in education? the people teaching and the people learning. The people use the standards to reach personal goals, and they grow with each goal in different ways. Remember the adage, “Different strokes for different folks.” When we standardize the people part, we dilute and detract from the possible proficiencies of each person; we funnel the future into today’s tenets instead of feeding the future with the informed heuristic possibilities of lifelong learners, whose individual and collective competencies could solve unimaginable problems.

The word “education” derives from the Latin “educere — lead out.” Education should lead students to find themselves, to strengthen what they do well, to discover hidden talents, and to learn from others who use their talents well so that students, too, become productive, creative citizens. Students don’t need to know everything, and they will learn what they need to know — when it’s needed to learn about themselves or to learn how things work as they create and interact in learning quests of which they have chosen the focus and in which the standards provide background, guidance, and focus.

At home, students choose where, what, and why to learn; the interactive Internet draws them to that which captures their interests and strengths. Unless education mirrors that interactive choice, leading students to known and hidden talents, educational institutions will find resistance from students; it won’t serve the needs to learn and use their own strengths.

Connecting students with people who are doing what is possible — or could be possible — leads students to knowing their own talents; the Internet provides a river of connections in simple texts, expert queries (“Ask a _____”), interactive projects, collaborative quests, and real-time or archived media interactions. How many classrooms today allow this interactive, student-focused curricula that leads students to “knowing what they want to do with their lives?”

How would educators do that? The standards provide the harbor, a reference point in content and process; the educators and students decide the direction of their journey into the river, planning the places and prospects that contain the current and forge the flow of learning, creating their own ports of explorations and expertise to which others connect. These ports are personal docks displaying each student’s possibilities and proficiencies — a lifelong legacy of learning. Moor to the dock to discover the scope of the scholarship and the compass of the course; a test isn’t required. I think classrooms would be more joyful, inclusive, and active places if we help and connect people in their process of developing their possibilities; classrooms would be places where students WANT to go — to augment and evince their odyssey. Wouldn’t that be something?

A Possible Outline

The Start:

A Discipline

The Standards in Content and Process

Standard-Summarizing Scenarios

The Quest:

Your interest?

Your reason?

Your question?

Your goal?

Your knowledge?

Your resources?

Your plan?

Your journey.

Your reflection/revision/retracking.

Your presentation [of the journey; of the learning; of standard (content and process) references; of breakthrough (discovery or obstacle) in thoughts, knowledge, standards, solutions; of collaboration; of peer review; of continuing questions and quests.]

The End:

There is none; it’s a lifelong process.

Tumbling Blocks, rearranged

We’ve started our wiki (whatelse). Kids ask to add and write to add.

The problem: fifty minute periods and hunt/peck styles block success.

GNU License

GNU License

With a self-contained classroom (one teacher teachers all subjects to the same students), integrating technology was easy; while one group created on the computer, other groups participated in independent, small-group, or teaching sessions according to their needs for learning. Language Arts and technology were the tools to investigate, synthesize, and communicate learning in the content areas. Each day, students rotated through their learning stations (computers, teacher conference, teacher lessons, independent work, small-group work) within a two-hour block of time. The rest of the day incorporated content area lessons, research, projects.

If a student’s typing involved, hunt/peck, then his/her project took slightly longer, but with focused time each day, they could complete the work.

Tumbling Blocks

Tumbling Blocks

Now, with writing as the subject taught in fifty minute sessions, hunt and peck doesn’t cut it. Even students who know qwerty will need more time to complete projects because all students do not receive daily time on computers. And, students do not have daily access to the computer lab, of which the lab time involves other assignments for that class, not connected to our class work. The neat self-contained schedule has tumbled into disparate blocks of learning.

In addition, because I teach writing, our projects are unconnected to the other subject learning, creating another separate subject.

However, I still believe writing is a tool for communicating, so we work on science or social studies themes and projects as well as standardized writing prompt preparation. We’ve written about topics on issues related to elections, polar problems, and global warming. The goal is communicating clearly and concisely using the Six Traits of Writing in a process writing approach to develop one’s own powerful style to entertain, inform, or persuade.

Rearranging the Blocks:
1) Hunt/Peck Solution: Qwerty typists create first in class; it’s the real world promotion for having skills, and a carrot for learning qwerty in the lab.
2) Time:
A) Team/Collaboration/Out of Class: A wiki allows student access any time, any where; student now have “YOT” team work: Your Own Time Work. Students collaborate in teams (multi-grades allowed) to complete projects at various times of their choosing: at home, before/after school, lunch recess, study hall, library, lab time. When all teams complete the project, each class shares and celebrates in a presentation day.
I’m still working out the details, but I think collaboration is the goal and key for students teaching each other. Each team needs an eighth grade mentor, who may or may not be a team member.

B) Fifty Minute Periods:
Focus on MaxMo (Maximum Moment lessons — a twist on mini-lessons) Lessons and Writing Workshop. We already have take-home notebooks for students to fill with their own ideas. We’ll have model lessons and samples with guided practice and application time in the workshop sessions. Students use their own notebook ideas and standard prompts during workshop time. In addition, each grade level will work in their required genre based on State standards. The fifty-minute block on most days will work through CSI:
C = Capture — capture your ideas and decide your day’s focus
S = Strengthen — learn new styles and tips through MaxMo lessons
I = Interact — confer with teacher/peer; develop your own ideas; compute

These still Fire It Up:
Fun — own ideas/ peer collaboration
Instant — daily focus in three segments
Relevant — projects/notebooks contain student choice/interest
Engaging — collaboration, choice, technology

Tasks — includes student interest/content topics as meat; the writing is the tool to communicate

Pathways — choice/interest/ tech projects offer different avenues of written expression for different genre

How do you fit projects and content into short middle school periods, separating the disciplines into tumbling blocks of unrelated learning?