Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why Learning from PowerPoint Lectures is Frustrating

flickr CC image via hectorir

Carolyn Blogs » Blog Archive » Why Learning from PowerPoint Lectures is Frustrating:
My response- The key in my opinion is engaging the audience, and to do the chalk and talk w/o criticism, why not use a wiki or workspace to present the material? Unlimited links, graphics, quotes, discussion points… whatever, can be presented in an open-system style of lecture, and if you have a tablet or are using an interactive whiteboard, you can even write chalkboard style to the screen.

At the end of the day, all who are interested get the URL to the site to peruse at their liesure, and anyone who wants to “take notes” during the lecture can do that too. The really great element of a wiki or workspace though is the continuity they provide. If you set up a site to start, and create a new page for each lecture you do, the whole deal marches on in a distributed learning format that doesn’t end when the lecture ends… great ideas and contributions don’t follow the same timeline as our 1 or 2 hour lectures.

Check out:
for excellent (and free) web services to set up lectures this way

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What's the deal with the "business vs. education" dichotomy?

flickr CC image via bobaliciouslondon

Why do those of us in education seemingly vilify the "business" model of leadership and management? I understand that the business world has its entirely negative examples of bonus and incentive-driven motivational methods, but there is no shortage of this paradigm in education either... so what is it about the business world that educators despise so much?

Perhaps we in education don't want to understand how the business world runs because we're anxious about the possibility that we can learn something from it. This insecurity about what we do and how we do it manifests in the rather arrogant perspective that we do things better; more principled and with a heightened sense of ethics in education. I don't agree.

One thing the business world has going for it is the degree to which it is scrutinized by the consuming public it serves. Consumers have a right to demand strong value, excellent service and quality products. The maximum bottom-line profit depends on the degree to which a business can provide this to consumers. A heightened sense of self-protective vigilance of behalf of consumers has resulted in a sort of contemporary "conscience" that hasn't been prevalent up unitl now. Concepts like the "triple bottom line" (aka 'people, planet, profit') are a welcome sign of the times... the fact is, in order for business to make money in today's world, business must be sensitive to not only the purchasing needs of its consuming customers, but their social perspectives and concerns too; the profit margin is at stake.

So the way I see it, the business world needs to do whatever it takes to make sure it makes money, and these days, a heightened awareness of the consumer perespective and willingness to think outside the box to serve that perspective seems to be what it takes. If in fact this is what the business world is doing, I believe we in the education world should not only be applauding the effort, but emulating it as well.

There is no time in the world today for polarity. The debate over who is right and who is wrong often, if not always, fogs our view over what is best, and what is best can come from anywhere... the key in every aspect of our society is to look at everything from the perspective of what makes sense AND produces results. This "thinking outside the box" mentality, or integrative thinking is what will win the day as we move forward into uncharted progress... we shouldn't care where the idea comes from, but rather exploit the fact that it's a good one and make use of it to optimize our bottom-line, no matter what field we find ourselves working within.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Real Teaching First

I am admittedly a bit confused... as much as the Real Learning First Initiative in Alberta is undeniably positive, I'm wondering where teacher welfare fits into the fold. In my mind, the practice of teachers who are well-prepared and supported by their profession will be optimized creating an excellent teaching and learning atmosphere in our schools. I think a Real Teaching First initiative should exist alongside the Real Learning First initiative; or perhaps call it the Real Learning and Teaching Initiative.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Resiliency- What is it really?

As a young teacher who really didn't know much about how to teach kids, despite what my crisp diploma indicated, I knew in very short order that there was more to the game than I had bargained for. The variables that affect a child's ability to achieve in school are overwhelming for teachers; genetic variables, social variables, cognitive variables... and we're not even the ones suffering the effects personally. Knowing how much these variables affect our disposition and state of balance, imagine how much they affect the kids who manifest them.

I'm not sure, to be honest, if most kids who are born knowing nothing different than the environment that these variables shape and form really are affected all that much. The environment kids are born into is all they know, and therefore becomes their default "normal." In my experience, it's not until children get older, usually around the middle school age, that they begin to realize that the other kids don't necessarily live the same sort of life they do. This is when a different perspective begins to take shape. The child's private logic becomes altered. I believe it's at this time in a young persons' life that supports are most critical, and they need to be maintained through to adulthood.

The question is, really, where are these supports supposed to come from? There are differences of opinion on this, but the research reality is that in an overwhelming large number of cases, this support comes from a teacher. For this reason it is massively important that all teachers are ready to respond positively when a student decides to seek their support. How can we be ready to face this challenge? To me the answer is simple... we need to understand resilience; we need to be resilient ourselves and we need to know how to foster resilience in others. Resilience is nothing new, but the formal study of risk, resilience and recovery has been altering the perspective of conventional wisdom in contemporary fields of psychology, social work, education and other social sciences lately, and I'm happy about that.

Whether we understand why a child chooses one of us to be the person he reaches out to for care and support doesn't matter; we just need to be ready to respond appropriately and effectively. Teachers need to consider ourselves as process advocates in a wrap-a-round system that can be daunting for those most vulnerable and disengaged. In lieu of judgment and deficit-based thinking, we need to adopt a strengths-based focus that divines the good in young people experiencing distress and hardship. There is no other way.

I'm interested to hear how teachers do this... how have you supported a young person in distress, and more importantly, how did your support help? Often we may never know years later after our connection is lost, but it validates everything we do when we are privileged to know. There is nothing better and more uplifting for teachers to hear a story of success about one of their more challenged kids.

I would like to hear your success stories. We don't tell them often enough.
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