Conversation with Pre-Service Teachers – The Set Curriculum

On November 19th, I will be hosting a Second Life workshop for pre-service teachers from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. They are currently taking a course on instructional technology in teaching. They have already explored technology integration, internet safety, and information literacy. They’ve read a number of entries on this blog and then, as a group, composed a list of questions regarding technology integration in my classroom. For the next few weeks, we will be using this blog as a discussion platform.

If you are interested in following the discussion and interacting with teachers who, very soon, will be integrating technology into their subject areas in their own classrooms, please join us by responding to the questions, my own answers, or the comments left by the students. I hope that you will jump in and join the discussion, either here or by posting a response on your own blog. I want the students from Brigham Young to see that the edublogosphere is a varied and rich network. So, if you are a librarian, a high school teacher, an elementary teacher, or an administrator, please join me in this collaborative and mutually-enriching exercise in professional development. If you choose to express your views on your own blog, please use the following tag to make it easier for all of us to keep track of this discussion: BYUPD07.

So, let’s begin!

First of all, I’d like to thank the students from Brigham Young and their instructor for the opportunity to engage in this discussion. Those of us who have been blogging with our students or using other interactive tools often begin to live in a sort of bubble and forget that our first steps were often very hesitant. The questions you sent reminded me that meaningful integration of technology can be a challenging task – one that is often dominated by technical and Internet safety concerns, as well as the need to conform to institutional pressures at the school or district level. In other words, as I looked at the questions I remembered all the obstacles that I had to overcome when I first started thinking of creating a blogging community in my classroom. Now, I realize that while learning from other teachers is an important part of this process, implementing technology in my own classroom is a process that requires a lot of personal reflection. It’s a great opportunity to engage in some informal action research, learn more about myself, and the nature of my classroom practice. In other words, there is no clear, simple answer to any of the questions that you sent me. They are, however, great conversation starters. I hope that you will engage in a discussion here on this blog and that other readers of this blog will join us as we explore the issues you are interested in.

In this entry, I’d like to address your question on the set curriculum:

What are your feelings on a set curriculum? Do you believe we as teachers, and as human beings should have more freedom to be able to study and teach things that are important and that interest us, such as human rights abuses? What is the limit of going outside the curriculum? Is there such a limit?

Prior to researching and using a blogging community in my classroom I never had a problem with a set curriculum. I never even questioned it. It seemed logical to me that my responsibility as an educator was to prepare a collection of texts, resources, diagnostic and assessment/evaluation tools in order to achieve specific learning outcomes. I saw myself as a subject expert whose primary responsibility in the classroom was to teach a very specific set of skills and competencies. I saw myself as someone who possessed knowledge and perceived my students as individuals who needed to acquire it.

Then, one day, in my grade 12 English class, Julia came up to me after class and said:

“Mr.Glogowski, could you please take a look at my essay before I hand it in? I just wanna make sure that it’s ok.”

The essay was due at the end of that day. Julia was a conscientious student and thought that asking me to proofread it would give her another chance to revise her work, if necessary, and then hand it in in the afternoon.

I said, “Sure, let’s take a look.”

I skimmed her work and saw that it was well organized and supported with lots of specific examples from a variety of secondary sources. Julia wrote about the AIDS crisis in Africa and seemed to have a solid grasp of the topic.

“This looks great!” I said. “You can hand it in now. No need to wait till this afternoon.”

“Thank you. But could you take a good look? You see, I’m worried about little careless mistakes … you know they’re never really serious but they do add up.”

“Julia,” I said, “you’ve written essays in the past. You’re a good writer … I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.”

“But … could you just take a good look at the thesis statement and the hook? Also, I’m not sure my supporting sentences flow very well. The conclusion took me hours to write … now it seems forced.”

I skimmed through her work again, this time focusing on the specific parts that she was unsure about.

“No, I don’t see any major weaknesses here … I’m sure you’ll do well.”

“Thanks … but … will this get me 89%?”

“Why 89%?” I asked, puzzled.

“I need 89% on this assignment to get into Queen’s.”

That’s when I realized that, to Julia – one of the best students in my class, one of the best writers – writing was really only about getting a grade. It had no other meaning or purpose. All of her learning was reduced to one thing – the need to achieve a certain average.

Of course, the whole system is based on evaluation. It wasn’t just my classroom and my methodology that transformed Julia into an average-calculating automaton. Yet, as I was driving home that day, I thought, “She did not engage with her topic at all. She wrote about human rights in Africa and yet she didn’t really seem to care about the issues she had researched. Instead, all she cared about was her average. Writing that paper was a means to an end. It certainly was not an opportunity to engage with a topic, to engage as a human being.”

I realized that my classroom was a place where there was a lot of teaching going on, but not a lot of learning. When talking to me about her work, Julia had used an adopted voice. She spoke about the thesis statement, the hook, about effective support. She used the terminology that I had been using since the beginning of the school year. She realized that school is about “playing school,” that as long as she could jump through all of my hoops, she would do well and get into the university of her choice. My class was reduced to an obstacle course. She knew that writing a good paper was about learning how to produce the right reactions in its evaluator – her teacher. That’s why she asked about specific parts of the essay – the introduction, conclusion, specific supporting ideas – things that were part of my set curriculum. What she produced was an example of “school writing.” It was voiceless and generic, written to demonstrate that she had acquired a skill but devoid of any personal meaning.

And so, the problem with a set curriculum, regardless of the subject, is that it makes us focus almost exclusively on teaching. It makes us think that the most important person in the classroom is the teacher. It is based on the assumption that we know all and that the students know very little.

Should we have the freedom to study and teach things that are important to us as human beings? Absolutely. What is even more important is that we create environments in our classrooms where the students can explore issues that are important to them. Of course, they do need to know how to write an essay or organize a written response – I believe that it is my responsibility to help them learn how to best express their thoughts. But I also believe that it is my responsibility to help them learn how to express themselves in more than one medium and to support them as they engage in this process. In every subject, there is a set of skills and competencies that the children should learn, but we often believe that they must be taught in specific, pre-defined ways.

After that brief conversation with Julia, I realized that I had pre-defined all of her learning. I reduced English and writing to topic sentences and proper organization. No wonder then that Julia’s topic was not as important to her as the technical aspects of her writing. As a teacher, I had completely neglected her growth as a human being and focused instead on peddling pre-selected content. Of course, I should be proud of the fact that I had, after all, taught her a great deal about writing essays. But, at the same time, I wish that I had done it in an environment where knowledge was not presented as a static product to be absorbed. Imagine how much more competent she could have become as a writer if she had been given the opportunity to arrive at the importance of solid support as a result of trial and error, peer editing, and in the context of her own journey as a budding writer. Instead, she acquired the skills through automatic drills. In other words, I wish I had taught those skills in an environment where she could also explore her own passions and grow as a human being.

This brings me to John Dewey and his notion of experience. In Experience and Education, Dewey argues that amid all uncertainties in education “there is one permanent frame of reference: namely, the organic connection between education and personal experience.” He goes on to say that:

There is no such thing as educational value in the abstract. The notion that some subjects and methods and that the acquaintance with certain facts and truths possess educational value in and of themselves is the reason why traditional education reduced the material of education so largely to a diet of predigested materials.

and

What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul; loses his appreciation of things worth while, of the values to which these things are relative; if he loses the desire to apply what he has learned and, above all, loses the ability to extract meaning from his future experiences as they occur?

In other words, Dewey argues that no subject has inherent educational value. It is the interaction between the individual and the subject matter that makes the experience “educative” and that our job as educators is to ensure that the environment in which learning takes place allows learners to interact with the subject matter. He argues that “educative experiences” must “arouse in the learner an active quest for information and for production of new ideas. The new facts and new ideas thus obtained become the ground for further experiences in which new problems are presented.”

The environment in which Julia wrote her essay did not provide opportunities for interaction between the learner and the subject matter. The skills she had learned were removed from any meaningful context. They were neatly pre-packaged and delivered. As a result, her learning stopped once she finished the paper. There was nothing to motivate her to keep exploring her topic of the AIDS crisis in Africa. Dewey would have said that since no experience has an inherent value, I erred when I selected experiences ahead of time for my students and neglected to create an environment where personally relevant interactions could take place.

Julia taught me that my classroom needs to be first and foremost an inclusive and welcoming environment that encourages exploration and knowledge-building. It needs to be a place where students can engage as individuals. In this kind of environment students can learn through personally meaningful experiences which engage them in what Dewey calls “an active quest for information and for production of new ideas.” This cannot happen if the curriculum is pre-selected for the students. If the experiences they are to have in the classroom are pre-defined ahead of time, the opportunities for meaningful involvement are greatly reduced.

Unfortunately, such an environment is not easy to create. First, because it must be co-created with the students. It must take into account their interests and goals. Second, because it dethrones the teacher and forces us to assume the role of a facilitator or a co-contributor. It requires that we participate as human beings and not just content experts. It requires that we engage in learning with our students.

I’ve been trying to create that environment in my classroom for the past two years. I cannot say that I’ve succeeded or that everything I do always works out. I can say, however, that I have learned a lot from these attempts to create an engaging and participatory environment, and that they have tremendously affected my classroom practice. That’s all it really takes … finding in ourselves the courage to admit openly that we enter our classrooms every day not just to teach but also – perhaps primarily – to learn.

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53 Responses to Conversation with Pre-Service Teachers – The Set Curriculum

  1. Stephanie Gonzales November 12, 2007 at 2:37 pm #

    I was just thinking about how difficult it is to create a comfortable and creative environment in a classroom in my Multicultural Education class. I think as teachers the most important thing is to truly believe in students so that they will believe in themselves. Give them genuine encouragement and hold them to high expectations. It is true that such an environment must be obtained through the synergistic efforts of both teacher and student.
    Concerning the story about Julia, how as a teacher can we gauge how we are allowing students to learn about themselves and important issues, and not just teaching them to be robotic grade-achievers?

  2. Tom Coxson November 12, 2007 at 2:38 pm #

    I completely agree that school doesn’t teach children to think, it teaches them to jump through hoops. Unfortunately that describes by entire high school experience. However, I would say that one of the few class that got me to think critically was a debate class I took my senior year to fill my last social science credit. I got engaged in discussion because of the nature of the class. Not every class is debate, though. Is there a way to apply technology, or not, to create an atmosphere of critical thinking in every subject?

  3. Andrea Velasquez November 12, 2007 at 3:59 pm #

    I am an instructor at BYU and I love what I just read! I love the logic behind the idea of creating educative experiences for students in which we as teachers learn with them. I love that! I think technology is great tool to make that happen. We MUST begin to think out of the box because we have tools that afford us that luxary. We no longer are in the days of slow communication and one medium of learning. We have tools now people!!! Let’s use them!!! I love your humility when you say that you haven’t always succeded in your attempts, but you have learned. That is what life is about. Teachers don’t know everything and we must stop feeding students that lie- that we know everything. Teachers don’t know everything and sometimes students know more than we do. Let’s encourage students to learn and continue learning and not just simply jump through hoops.

  4. Adam Burch November 12, 2007 at 5:18 pm #

    I have heard your experience with Julia dubbed “The Ophelia Syndrome”. Students are extremely aware of the ‘hoops’ that Tom referred to, and most of them are only too willing to jump through them because it is easier than defining their own goals. I think that the key is defining goals for and with the students that create a sense of ownership of the topic. The best classes are not the classes with the highest goals, it is the classes with the goals you care the most about that grab your attention.

  5. Joanie Harbor November 12, 2007 at 8:16 pm #

    In one of my teaching classes last year, we learned how inquiry can be useful in the classrooms. I agree completly with Tom’s ‘hoops’ because as human beings, I think we almost always want to take the easiest route. By using inquiry and encouraging the students to discover things on their own — they are going to remember it better and for a longer period of time. I can understand how some students will get frusterated and just want the answers, but as a teacher that should make you happy because you know it is making them think. They will become a better student for it. I like the quote “What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information ….. if he loses the desire to apply what he has learned.” It isn’t always about the results — it can also be about the journey.

  6. Konrad Glogowski November 12, 2007 at 10:50 pm #

    Stephanie,

    I agree that “the most important thing is to truly believe in students so that they will believe in themselves. Give them genuine encouragement and hold them to high expectations.” It took me a while to figure out that my classroom needs to be a place where students feel that they are supported as individuals. I spent my first few years of teaching focusing on myself – my lesson plans, my knowledge, my own sense of purpose. Of course, they are all important, but they cannot overshadow the fact that we are in that classroom every day to enable and to support, not to spew out carefully compartmentalized units.

    Creating an environment where students can thrive does take what you called “the synergistic efforts of both teacher and student.”

    So, how do we prevent our students from being reduced to “robotic grade-achievers”? I’ve been fairly successful in my attempts to use blogging communities to engage and encourage learners. But, I think it needs to be said that we do not need technology to engage learners. Yes, our students do live in a different world than the one we grew up in, but that does not mean that they cannot learn without facebook, a blog, or a podcast. Of course they can. What I think is important is to create an environment where they are free to choose not only what they want to pursue but also what tools they want to use to accomplish their goals. Yes, classroom blogging can be an empowering experience, but certainly not to a student who feels constrained by the class blogging community and would much rather use other tools.

    At the same time, there are certain skills that we will always be required of us to teach and the struggle now (at least for me) is to figure out how to teach my students to be competent essay writers, for example, and do it in a context of their own journey so that it is not artificially imposed just because my superiors say that it should be.

    The answer, it seems to me, lies in creating environments for learning, perhaps something based on the notion of a third place?

    I’m not sure. I’m still trying to figure that out.

    Thanks for your comment!

    - Konrad

  7. Konrad Glogowski November 12, 2007 at 11:06 pm #

    Tom,

    You’re absolutely right – not every class can be taught in the form of a debate, but I think that we can come pretty close. Again, I don’t think that technology is needed to, as you phrased it, “create an atmosphere of critical thinking in every subject.” We must be aware of the available tools and how they can enrich our classrooms because our students are likely to use many of them simply because it is second nature to them, it’s something that they just take for granted.

    At the same time, a teacher who comes into the classroom with a newspaper in his hand and says, “How come this paper did not publish anything on Iran today, while the New York Times did?” is likely to have an impact on how his students perceive the world around them and the media. He is likely to initiate some critical engagement with the world around them. I guess what I’m talking about here is critical literacy – the approach that encourages students to read and write in order to acquire a more critical, more accurate “reading” of the world, or to even re-write the power and social dynamics that surround them (I think Paulo Freire called it “re-writing”). This kind of reading and re-writing can take place in a blogging community, in the process of putting together a podcast, in a student’s delicious account where she collects relevant resources, or in a classroom where all you have are desks, chairs, and an old blackboard. It really is about initiating and sustaining conversations. Where our students take these conversations (into Facebook, MySpace, or somewhere else) is another story, but it is imperative that we get them started and then give them the freedom to engage using whatever tools they find most effective and empowering.

    So, I guess we promote critical thinking whenever we create in our classrooms environments that help students see that reality is not something that we receive, but something that we can actively question, construct, and re-write.

    Adam,

    I’ve never heard of “The Ophelia Syndrome”. Thanks for pointing it out. I think you’re absolutely right when you say that “the key is defining goals for and with the students that create a sense of ownership of the topic.” The more I think about this, the more I believe that teaching today is about creating environments. The problem is, I’m not sure exactly how that can be done in real life. I do know, however, that we need to begin by listening to the young people in our classrooms and creating opportunities for them to share their goals, plans, ambitions, challenges, and frustrations. I also firmly believe that, as educators, we need to continue this conversation and share our classroom experiences.

    The problem, of course, is that after years of jumping through hoops many students are not interested in defining their own goals and embarking upon a journey because, as you said, it’s just easier to keep jumping through those hoops. Students become very good at “playing school.” I think one of our biggest challenges is to reverse that trend and help young people engage. How we do it, though, often depends on the subjects we teach.

    I think that Joanie’s comment about the power of inquiry is a powerful solution to this problem.

    Joanie,

    Yes, inquiry is a powerful tool and it can be used in every classroom, in every subject. It is such a natural approach and yet so rarely used today. I really enjoyed your comment about students feeling frustrated as a result of having to use the inquiry process. I’ve noticed that so many times, especially when giving students opportunities to use their blogs to research a subject of their choice. Many take weeks to decide what they do. Many choose topics only to abandon them later on. Once that path is chosen, however, they really, truly care about it and stay engaged.

    So, one of the biggest challenges that I face in my classroom is learning how to create a classroom environment that focuses on the journey and not the final product. This requires that I reconfigure the nature of my role in the classroom and my teacherly voice. That’s something that many questions that you sent me as a group focused on and I will try my best to address it in my next entry.

    Thank you all for your comments and for engaging me in this conversation. It’s an important conversation to have.

    - Konrad

  8. Konrad Glogowski November 12, 2007 at 11:39 pm #

    Andrea,

    What a great comment! Thank you! I love your enthusiasm! I totally agree – the tools that we now have at our disposal make meaningful interactions easier. Just look at this space: a meaningful discussion that’s taking place despite the great physical distance that separates us! We’re still connecting and interacting. I think it’s time to create learning environments where students are not trapped in the four walls of the classroom or in the teacher’s lesson plan. We now have the tools to enable our students to connect with people all over the world. History students can interact with museum curators half way across the globe. Science students can talk to marine biologists in real time and follow their research. Journalists and authors can enter our English classrooms and interact with our students as they learn to become better, more confident writers.

    You are absolutely right when you say that “teachers don’t know everything and sometimes students know more than we do. Let’s encourage students to learn and continue learning and not just simply jump through hoops.” We can no longer pretend that we are content experts. (This video always reminds me of that). What we need to do is become network facilitators – experts in connecting our students with people whose presence in their lives can have a much more powerful effect on them than our lesson plans. We need to become enablers not content peddlers. It is a difficult shift, especially in elementary education, but it needs to happen.

    Thanks for your comment!

    - Konrad

  9. Dez Harris November 13, 2007 at 9:34 am #

    I have been a substutite teacher for the past ten years and some of the classroom practices I have seen is what inspired me to get my teaching degree. Not only are there teachers who are not getting the students to think for themselves, there are teachers who are not even teaching. I have been in more than one classroom where the teacher has the students read the lesson out of the book and fill out a worksheet while the teacher sits at the desk and makes sure the students are quiet. Hopefully a new generation of teachers will emerge and even though our numbers will be small, we will be like ripples on a pond and grow large.

  10. Kyle Lichtenwald November 13, 2007 at 9:20 pm #

    Konrad, you have encapsulated a great deal of the thoughts that I have been having lately. How did you do that? I am excited for this.

    Currently, I am a pre-service grade 6 teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. As I plan my lessons for internship, I am pre-determining 90% of what students will learn during class time. It is no wonder I have behavioral issues with bored students. I am trying my hardest to be innovative and make lessons interesting and somewhat empowering. Unfortunately, as an intern it is almost as though I am stuck within a box. The problem with the box, is that it is a roomy and spacious 4 star box where it is easy to get comfortable and complacent. I have no doubt that I will always sense the dark side of the box as a place of refuge. I want to explore beyond the box. I want to shift how learning is perceived and ultimately, how learning happens. I yearn for my own classroom where I can experiment and stretch the set curriculum. A place where learners will be empowered and challenged.. Where I relinquish the reins of power and take on the role as Sage or guide.

    I look forward to participating in active discussion with the students of BYU. It is great to have a community thinking about a topic and discussing vision, goals, change, and education.

  11. Erika Abbott November 14, 2007 at 3:12 pm #

    I think there have been a lot of interesting things pointed out in this discussion. Having done all of my schooling in the public school system, I can really see what everyone brings up about “jumping through hoops.” I think there were very few classes that I actually drew genuine knowledge or opinions from, but these are the classes that I remember and that have urged me to become a teacher. I am very excited to teach, but I do worry that I will not be able to “reach” students. I think these new things I am learning about technology will help, but I think more importantly is the realization that my classroom can be a community of learning and teaching. I am excited to teach my students and learn form them also, as they teach and learn from each other. Key to this has been my understanding that it is not my job to teach my students everything in the textbook or everything I know, (which isn’t much) but that I should define goals for teaching and have my students define goals for learning and go from there. It is also important to give students a choice and let them study what they are interested in, and technology helps a lot with providing choices for my students.

    I still have a lot to learn, but I am excited to learn it!

  12. Spencer Salcido November 14, 2007 at 3:15 pm #

    I found it quite ironic while reading this blog, because the only reason I was reading this blog was for a homework assignment, and I did not care what I could actually learn from the blog. My instructor assigned all of the students in my class to read this blog and make some sort of insightful comment. I began reading the blog not caring what it was about or what I could learn from it; I simply wanted to obtain enough information from the blog so I could make a comment and be completed with the assignment. As I was reading, however, I discovered I was doing exactly what Julia and many other students do. How can I expect my students to really learn and not just be concerned about a grade if I can’t even do it myself?! Thankfully, the blog was insightful and informative, so I did learn from it even though I did not intend to. Motivating students to really learn will definitely be the hardest challenge of my future teaching career.

  13. Juliann Little November 14, 2007 at 5:56 pm #

    I especially liked the story about Julia and how she was simply jumping through the educational hoops rather than soaking in the knowledge and actually gaining a meaningful education. I’m going to be an English Teacher, and as I’m teaching them about essays, I want them to remember the important things such as thesis statements and hooks, but mainly to understand that these concepts are solely to allow readers to better understand the context, which is what really matters. If the students are writing to receive a grade, they won’t write in the same way as though they are writing to convey a meaning or persuade someone of an argument. Writing is about persuasion and amplifying the reader’s knowledge, not just conforming to the standard 5-paragraph essay. Thank you for this insightful message! Now I need to figure out how to convey this message to my future students someday!

  14. Natalie Hancock November 15, 2007 at 12:21 am #

    While reading you thoughts on having the students understand the concepts but also to enjoy what they are learning without placing certain criteria about what to write, got me thinking. I will be student teaching next semester in family and consumer science, which is a broad content area and can sometimes be difficult to ensure that the students are all learning. After reading through all your additional comments I have come to realize that it is not something that is done overnight but must be continually worked on. This is something that I need to understand since I desire everything to go smoothly and when in reality teaching is ever changing. The “reading”of the world idea that it can be done even with just a blackboard helped me to understand that just using technology without meaning is the same as “jumping through hoops” for a certain grade.

  15. Kimberly McCollum November 15, 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    I really appreciate Spencer’s comment about the irony of having to read this blog for a homework assignment, especially since I am the teacher who required Spencer to jump through this particular “hoop”. As an instructor at the college level, I have more curricular freedom than I did when I taught secondary school. I really appreciate Spencer’s comment about the irony of having to read this blog for a homework assignment, especially since I am the teacher who required Spencer to jump through this particular “hoop”. As an instructor at the college level, I have more curricular freedom than I did when I taught secondary school. However, I still have “pre-set curriculum”, handed to me by the course coordinator, that I am responsible for teaching. Throughout the semester, I have been keenly aware that despite my best efforts to create meaningful learning experiences, including having my students set their own goals, most of my students probably see my class as just another “hoop”. Spencer’s comment confirmed my fears, but at the same time gave me hope. Maybe meaningful learning can take place, even when our students see our classes as hoops, as long as we set up the right hoops.. However, I still have “pre-set curriculum”, handed to me by the course coordinator, that I am responsible for teaching. Throughout the semester, I have been keenly aware that despite my best efforts to create meaningful learning experiences, including having my students set their own goals, most of my students probably see my class as just another “hoop”. Spencer’s comment confirmed my fears, but at the same time gave me hope. Maybe meaningful learning can take place, even when our students see our classes as hoops, as long as we set up the right hoops.

    When I taught secondary school, my subject was chosen to be assessed as part of my state’s No Child Left Behind program. NCLB hasn’t entered this conversation yet, possibly because Konrad is Canadian, but for me NCLB heightened the tension between creating self-directed learners and following a pre-set curriculum. Sometimes I taught my students content that I knew most of them would never need to look at again, because my school need to make Adequate Yearly Progress and my students needed to be able to pass an exam that was about to become a graduation requirement. I did my best to make my class engaging and meaningful and was even honored as my district’s “Science Teacher of the Year” for my efforts, but I dreaded the question, “Why do we have to learn this?” The quick answer was “because the State of Maryland says you have to.” Honestly, most of my students, conditioned to hoop jumping, were willing to accept that answer. I was not. I had to create a reason for myself why it was important for all of my students to understand the function of mitochondria in cellular respiration, so I did. When I got the dreaded question, I could look my student in the eye and say, “because you need to know that you can do difficult things.” Eventually, most kids rose to my challenge. Unfortunately, my classroom did not support much self-directed learning, but even within the constraints of a very tight pre-set curriculum, I was able to foster self-discovery.

  16. Kevin Lemley November 15, 2007 at 1:42 pm #

    I have to confess that many times I am guilty of just going through the motions. I think I mainly just went through the motions because that is what my teachers were doing. A lot of my teachers often commented on when the term would be over, or when lunch was. Some were worse than the students! My best teachers were the ones who were always enthusiastic about the material being covered, no matter what it was. They would make a connection between themselves and the subject matter and then tell us what that connection was for them. A lot of responsibility falls on the teacher to make the subject more real for the students. If I am teaching The Crucible, but we never talk about anything besides the Salem Witch Trials and the Red Scare, chances are the students are only going to jump through the hoops until we move on to the next subject. They weren’t alive for either event and so could probably care less. But if I take that story and place it in a high school setting, it would suddenly become more real to the students. That could be enough incentive to get the students to begin writing. After they are writing, then we can worry about the correct essay structure.
    I think it would just be more effective to teach the students the “core curriculum” in the context of a broader subject that they care about. I’m not saying that’s going to solve the hoop-jumping problem, but I think it would help quite a bit. What does everybody else think?

  17. Mari Serrao November 15, 2007 at 4:38 pm #

    I thought this was a very interesting blog and viewpoint on education. I have found it to be very accurate and descriptive of what true learning is. I especially liked the story about Julia and her desire to get a good grade, because she needed it for school, and not because she found pure joy in it. I find this to be true with me and my educational pursuits occassionally. Sometimes, I’ll do the reading for my classes, not because I really want to learn and understand, but because I have to know it for the classes. It is more so out of obligation, than a true desire to gain knowledge. I agree that our goal as an educator is to provide a learning environment in which true learning is taking place. Learning, in which, the student wants to learn so that they can apply it to their own lives, and make a difference. I hope that in the future, I will be able to create this type of environment in my own classes. I think, the key will be to be humble, and express to our students that we are also learners. That we can indeed learn from them just as much as they can learn from us.

  18. Konrad Glogowski November 15, 2007 at 10:06 pm #

    Hi Dez,

    I think we have all had teachers like that. Unfortunately, when I was in high school, I didn’t really have access to any other sources of knowledge, except the library. Now, I can access the equivalent of that library and so much more from home any time I want. I can also connect with people who share my interests and create a network of individuals with whom I can connect and learn.

    “Hopefully a new generation of teachers will emerge and even though our numbers will be small, we will be like ripples on a pond and grow large.”

    I agree. I hope that our new teacher ed programs will help. We have to stop thinking in terms of transmission and focus on learning as network creation.

    Thanks for your comment.

  19. Konrad Glogowski November 15, 2007 at 10:16 pm #

    Hi Kyle,

    First of all, thank you for joining the discussion here. Will you be able to join us in Second Life on Monday?

    “I want to explore beyond the box. I want to shift how learning is perceived and ultimately, how learning happens. I yearn for my own classroom where I can experiment and stretch the set curriculum. A place where learners will be empowered and challenged.. Where I relinquish the reins of power”

    It took me five years to arrive at the realization that you shared above. The reason I got there was because I become very interested in blogging and creating classroom communities of blogging. Now, I am interested in expanding those communities outside of classroom walls. In other words, inquiry now drives my practice. I spend a lot of time reflecting on my own practice and also attempt to engage my students in co-constructing inquiry-based curricula. This approach demands a very different vision of what teaching and learning are all about. Relinquishing those reins, as you put it, takes a lot of courage and is not always easy. In my experience, it’s been very rewarding. It doesn’t always go as planned and is certainly chaotic at times, but it also engages students and encourages them to take ownership of their learning.

    I hope that you will find the rest of the discussion thought-provoking and will find the time to contribute your thoughts.

  20. Konrad Glogowski November 15, 2007 at 10:26 pm #

    Erika,

    Thank you for your wise words!

    “I am very excited to teach, but I do worry that I will not be able to “reach” students. I think these new things I am learning about technology will help, but I think more importantly is the realization that my classroom can be a community of learning and teaching.”

    I think that the most effective tool that we have as educators is the question: “How do I reach them today?” or “What can I do to support them as they engage in knowledge-building or a process of personal inquiry?”

    I found that the approach based on creating and sustaining classroom communities of researchers can be very effective. It is often messy, but it also provides an engaging forum for students where they are recognized first and foremost as individuals and not merely students.

    It’s good to see that you believe that technology can help you engage students. It can be a great tool. At the same time, great learning can also happen without blogs or wikis or podcasts. It happens whenever we realize that the most important person in the classroom is not the teacher. It happens when we realize that we don’t have all the answers, but can be very effective in helping our students participate in communities of inquiry. In other words, once we figure out how to engage students in knowledge-building, we can rest assured that they will succeed when they leave our classroom and continue their education.

  21. Konrad Glogowski November 15, 2007 at 11:01 pm #

    Kimberly,

    I really enjoyed reading your comment. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am aware of NCLB but have never addressed it on this blog simply because, as you suggested, it doesn’t apply to me here in Canada. However, I, too, have been in a situation where I had to teach to the test or follow a pre-defined curriculum. I hated those classes because they reduced my role to a mere transmitter of information. At the same time, these situations also forced me to be very creative and figure out how to follow the curriculum and also be independent and inspire my students.

    Isn’t it funny how much of what teachers do is part of some state sanctioned programme? There are so many places around the world where teachers really are just warm bodies at the front of the classroom and where they are never called upon to be creative and engaging? I think we are now witnessing a huge shift. Our students now have access to more information than we ever thought possible. Those who are driven to educate themselves about topics that they are passionate about can do so without our classrooms and our curricula. So, what do we do? How can we possibly continue to have students jump through hoops just because they are sanctioned by the state, the district, or the ministry?

    Which brings me to Spencer’s comment.

    Spencer,

    I smiled when I read your comment because what you wrote is so true! I don’t think we can ever eliminate all these hoops from our classrooms, especially in elementary or middle schools. What we can do, and what I think Kimberly is doing exceptionally well, is expose our students to different modes of engagement and give them the freedom to define their own paths. Yes, you were asked to visit this blog and post a response. But you could have been asked to read a chapter and write an essay. Instead, you can have a conversation with some guy from Canada who happens to enjoy talking to other teachers about teaching and learning. I think that that is a pretty nice “hoop” to have to jump through :-)

    My point here is that learning in the 21st century is about conversations and network-building. Textbooks are dead. Being confined to four walls is dead. Teaching as transmission is dead. Dialogue supersedes the lecture, as Marshall McLuhan once said.

    So, coming here might have been a “hoop” but it is also a hoop that has the potential to develop into meaningful conversations and connections.

    I also liked how you concluded your comment – motivating students is always a challenging task. I think that creating environments that they can develop into communities of inquiry, into places of knowledge-building and meaningful interactions, is a practice worth exploring.

    Hoping that you’ll find some time to continue to contribute to this discussion,

    - Konrad

  22. Konrad Glogowski November 15, 2007 at 11:13 pm #

    Juliann,

    “Writing is about persuasion and amplifying the reader’s knowledge, not just conforming to the standard 5-paragraph essay … Now I need to figure out how to convey this message to my future students someday!”

    OK, I’m probably biased but I think that a blogging community could help you accomplish this :-) . Of course, every classroom is different and implementing a blogging programme is a challenging task. However, I’ve observed over the years that it helps students become better writers because they are not writing for an audience of one – their teacher – but are given a forum with a very authentic audience of their peers.

    You are absolutely right when you say that writing is about communicating powerful ideas. Once they are engaged in sharing their ideas with their peers in the context of a blogging community, we can then work with them on specific aspects of writing that can further improve their work. The question is; how do we first engage them in the learning process? The answer, I believe, has a lot to do with giving them the freedom that we did not experience when we were in school – the freedom to use expressive writing, to connect, to share.

    Natalie,

    I don’t think there is a magic formula to ensure that students are learning, but, as I suggested above, I think that we need to start by transforming our classrooms into interactive spaces where students are treated as independent researchers, as individuals with their own ideas. This sense of freedom that I mentioned in my response to Juliann is crucial. Of course, it also means that we have to relinquish control and accept that teaching in the 21st century means getting de-throned from the privileged and traditional position of the subject expert. Fortunately, it also opens up incredible opportunities to move our teaching outside the classroom walls, to connect with other classrooms, other teachers, other students.

  23. Ashley November 16, 2007 at 12:44 pm #

    I thought that it was interesting the story told about Julia. I sometimes get myself in that same state of mind even now at BYU. Sometimes students do the work just for the grade and not really understanding or taking in what they are learning. In my Food Science class when we are learning certain topics people in the class will ask, “Will we need to know this for the test?” My professor responds well in my opinion he always tells us that even though it may or may not be on the test it is still important for us to learn. We could need that knowledge someday or would like to remember that piece of information to teach our students. We should still try to learn what may or may not be graded. I think that will be a challenge in teaching-trying to get students to want to learn not just for a grade. Grades are important all in all but isn’t the only reason why we attend school. I just thought it was interesting in the story of Julia that she was one of the top students but was only working for the grades when she had the potential to accomplish a lot more.

  24. Taylor Ballantyne November 16, 2007 at 4:07 pm #

    I think students have taken a bit of a beating in this blog! We all comment on how sad it is that Julia didn’t “accomplish a lot more” and that she was just doing that for the grade, when that is what we all do in the absence of authentic assignments. Clearly students need to be engaged in the learning, but I also think more is necessary. If students are continually completeing assignments only relevant within the vaccum of a classroom, then they will always be jumping through a hoop. Even if they are engaged, or having fun doing it, they are still just jumping through a hoop. Technology alone cannot create a “real world” experience. However, with careful planning and preparation by instructors, it can certainly provide a catalyst for meaninful learning to take place.

  25. Cynthia Russell November 16, 2007 at 6:01 pm #

    Great post. I recently became aware of a 20 minute video titled “A Private Universe” that speaks to how what is taught is often not what is learned – and that some of students’ long-held beliefs fail to be altered even in the face of conflicting evidence.
    The video shows Harvard graduates, alumni, and professors being interviewed about why it’s warmer in summer than winter and why the moon changes shape. It’s located at http://www.learner.org/resources/series28.html
    I see it as having some relevance to this conversation (the importance of grades) as well.

  26. cecilia Fernandez November 17, 2007 at 1:31 pm #

    I really like this quote by John Dewey. It helped me to recognize that learning is more than having a knowledge .It is using that knowledge to grow in very aspect of our life and at the same time helping others to achieve the same state.
    “…What avail is it to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul; loses his appreciation of things worth while…”
    I want to help my future students to learn in the way that John Dewey describes it.

  27. Carlie Madsen November 17, 2007 at 2:41 pm #

    I am just as guilty as many of my classmates for posting this comment as a way to play the game of school. However, I also found this discussion stimulating. I just want to briefly mention another pressure students face to simply “play the game,” and that is money. Sometimes we just need to get an A in some classes, so we can keep our scholarship and have opportunities to keep learning. Its a complex problem :)

    I also want to comment on Mr. Glogoswki’s statement in a comment: ” My point here is that learning in the 21st century is about conversations and network-building. Textbooks are dead. Being confined to four walls is dead.”
    Our BYU class is filled with many different types of content areas. So, while I agree that networking and communicating with a broader community than our classroom is really cool and really important. As a theatre teacher, often my goal is to guide the students to create pieces of theatre that are “confined to four walls.” Of course,one might say that I could videotape the performances, and that is a valid suggestion. But, I want to preserve the experience of having living, breathing, fallible people on stage creating a new experience for each unique audience, and a filmed performance simply isn’t the same. (Not to say I won’t use the medium in my curriculum at some points, but I don’t want it to be the only thing I do).
    So, I don’ t think Mr. Glogoswki is saying that we should get rid of experiences within the four walls of the classroom, but in our excitement for technology, we have to be loyal to the demands our content area.

  28. Rachel McAllister November 17, 2007 at 4:26 pm #

    As I have read this blog and various comments, it seems that we have all been in Julia’s shoes. In my English classes in high school, I always loved creative writing but eventually felt myself losing desire to write because of the formula that writing had started to become. I hated the “hoops” that I had to jump through in order to get a high grade on a paper, and felt that doing so sucked out all creativity and personal connection with the material we were studying. Thinking about this has made me wonder how I as a teacher can create assignments for my students that will still teach them the fundamentals while encouraging personal connections with the material. I have come to realize that using technology in the classroom can help my students become more involved in their learning and hopefully avoid some of the hoops we have all been talking about. Instead of simply reading a novel or chapter in a book about life in another country, I hope to be innovative in my teaching and allow students to really experience these concepts firsthand. Yes, it would be impossible for me to travel across the world with all my students, it is possible for them to connect with classrooms and peers around the world using the internet. My goals are to use a variety of teaching methods to engage my students and to allow room for their interests and questions to be addressed, not simply the requirements of the curriculum.

  29. Kate McMahan November 17, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    I am really interested in applying technology in my classroom someday. But I am so technologically impaired! I feel like when I start teaching, my students will know more about projectors, computers, imovies, blogs, and digital cameras than me. This is discouraging. However, I think I have captured a glimpse of how greatly technology could enhance my teaching. I plan to teach health. This is a subject which easily lends itself to the integration of technology. Most importantly, I feel that the proper and appropriate use of technology will enable me to form a more democratic classroom – simply becuase most technology demands interaction and participation from each student. The students will surely be more involved in the subject matter.
    After reading Kimberly McCollum’s blog response, I realize that the No Child Left Behind Legislation may hinder my plans for technology integration. Teachers are having to focus so much more on making sure their students “pass” the tests, than on finding creative ways to present material and get the students involved. But I am still determined….

  30. Megan High November 18, 2007 at 12:36 am #

    There are so many intellectual and insightful comments on here that I am not quite sure what to say. I think more than anything I have questions. How can we motivate students to facilitate and maintain an initiative in learning beyond motivational carrots like percentages and grades? Thinking back to my high school experience in Calgary I really don’t remember learning, though I am sure it took place at some point. Like most students I was focused on grades and other necessary hoops to jump through. I even joined the club for Amnesty International because it would look good on my BYU application. That was shallow and didn’t help me connect with those around me or enlighten my own understanding. How does technology help infuse enthusiasm into our classrooms and create a “dialogue that supercedes the lecture?” I agree with Carlie that we need to stay loyal to the constraints/demands of our contents but also need to be innovative in our teaching as Rachel says. As we strive to be effective teachers we need to be aware of our limitations but also, and more importantly, strive for possibilities.

  31. Sus Nyrop November 18, 2007 at 4:45 am #

    I’m in Denmark and our school system is a bit different from the US – although our current education minister has been pushing us hard towards more fixed “canonical” lists of obligatory readings and promoting tests which were until recently NOT part of an everyday on our schools; kids were not graded until their last years in school!!! Today, teachers and kids are stressed by state obligatory and demanding tests, pushing teachers to work towards jeopardy knowledge instead of independant thinking nad social collaboration which used to be our primary premises in the Nordic education context.

    Last year I had the opportunity to assist in bringing about 300 pre-service teachers, and a dozen of their own teachers into the world of blogging, wikis and the like. This was not part of their curriculium, and some were resisting because they could not see why they should know about online content building and collaboration when they were getting prepared to teach language and physical education – while others threw themselves into the experiment with an open mind and explored the new tools in many ways. For example a group worked with a geography blog where they could include all sorts of informative sites, interactive maps and images on Flickr, video on TeacherTube. Plus bloggging as an everyday following the process. Another group developed a fine poetry wiki with inspiring exercises. They were able to use their creative imagination, instead of blodcing because of an extra demand being put on their table in a stressful study period (and just before the holidays :-)

    http://geonerd.edublogs.org/

  32. Konrad Glogowski November 18, 2007 at 12:57 pm #

    Sus,

    Thanks for stopping by and engaging in this conversation! I think you put it best when you said that some school systems tend to push teachers to work towards “jeopardy knowledge.”

    I am now in the process of preparing my students for their December exam. I don’t have a choice – I have to do it. However, I do have some freedom as a classroom teacher and emphasize critical thinking over rote memorization – my whole year in grade eight, in fact, revolves around critical thinking, collaboration, and creative work. I recently noticed that after months of this kind of engagement with knowledge, the students stopped asking questions like “Is this gonna be on the exam?” They know that the best way to prepare is to ensure that they are familiar with what we’ve been discussing and that they are ready to engage as critical and independent thinkers. It’s a comforting thought.

    I also want to thank you, Sus, for sharing your story about engaging pre-service teachers in collaborative process of knowledge-building using web 2.0 tools. I hope that the pre-service teachers from Utahwho are participating in this discussion will be motivated by your experiences to think of ways to use web 2.0 to engage their students.

    - Konrad

  33. Konrad Glogowski November 18, 2007 at 1:10 pm #

    Ashley and Taylor,

    Ashley, you wrote:

    “I think that will be a challenge in teaching-trying to get students to want to learn not just for a grade. Grades are important all in all but isn’t the only reason why we attend school.”

    That is precisely what I struggle with on a regular basis. By the time my students come to me in grade eight, they know very well how to play school. They have learned the game. I find that one of my most challenging tasks as an educator is to create an environment where the students can see themselves as independent researchers and members of an engaging community of learners. That, in my opinion, can happen only if we give them the freedom to define for themselves their own goals within the context of the course they’re taking. Clearly, not an easy task for an educator!

    Which brings me to what Taylor wrote about engagement:

    Taylor:

    “If students are continually completeing assignments only relevant within the vaccum of a classroom, then they will always be jumping through a hoop. Even if they are engaged, or having fun doing it, they are still just jumping through a hoop. Technology alone cannot create a “real world” experience. However, with careful planning and preparation by instructors, it can certainly provide a catalyst for meaninful learning to take place.”

    I would add that we don’t need technology (think about The Freedom Writers Diary). However, we also need to be mindful of the fact that our students live in a highly interactive and participatory environment – one where Facebook, MySpace, blogs, podcasts, and other tools play a huge role in how they engage as people and how they think and interact.

    I like what you said about the relevance of school work. In so many classrooms, the activities that students are engaged in are completely removed from their real life experiences and from what is going on around us in real life. We need to start thinking about how we can bring that world into the classroom or, better yet, how we can provide opportunities for our students to learn outside of the four walls of their classrooms.

  34. Konrad Glogowski November 18, 2007 at 1:29 pm #

    Cynthia,

    Thank you for the link. Had some trouble logging in at first, but it was worth it. Great resource to use in workshops. Reminds me of how much we focus on teaching as opposed to learning!

  35. Konrad Glogowski November 18, 2007 at 2:15 pm #

    Carlie,

    What an excellent example! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on teaching theatre arts.

    First, let me clarify:

    Textbooks are dead because they are pre-defined, compartmentalized, repositories of information and, by the time they get to our students, they are mostly very outdated. Textbooks don’t invite engagement and conversation.

    Teaching within the four walls of the classroom will also come to an end, even in theatre classes. Of course, you need the four walls to create the right atmosphere, to create and re-create that unique experience for the audience. But here is how things are changing:

    Your students can also use the technology to connect with other theatre students all over the world or with well-known artists, playwrights, or directors. Imagine this blog being used by your students as a communication platform where they reflect on their work in your class, on the plays they’ve been reading, for example, and where they also sustain conversations with directors, set designers, or actors. There’s also the potential to share their work and engage with the work of others by using sites like YouTube or blip.tv. Think about the potential of performing/directing an Elizabethan play in the virtual Globe Theatre in Second Life! Clearly, a very different experience from the intimate set of the actual theatre or a drama classroom, but probably very worthwhile nevertheless!

    YouTube – Performing a Play in Second Life

    YouTube – Suzanne Vega’s avatar sings "The Queen and the Soldier"

    YouTube – U2 in SL Virtual Concert in Second Life

    YouTube – Alice In Cyberland

    Tour of Renaissance Island in the Beautiful Second Life

    You are absolutely right – we do need the four walls that we already have. Our classrooms can be wonderful places where we can engage students in building a community of learners and in challenging themselves to be independent thinkers and creative individuals. At the same time, these four walls cannot be the only places. There’s nothing wrong with having four walls around you as long as they are collapsible and do not obstruct our vision of the world outside the classroom.

    “So, I don’ t think Mr. Glogoswki is saying that we should get rid of experiences within the four walls of the classroom, but in our excitement for technology, we have to be loyal to the demands our content area.”

    Exactly. Do the best that you can in your own classroom. Opening it up is not going to be very effective if the students don’t have the basic skills to share their work, to collaborate, to create networks with other people outside the classroom. Technology itself is not going to magically teach our students how to write. It can help motivate them, but there also needs to be a teacher there who can engage with the student in meaningful and instructional conversations.

    Carlie, I also think that this is a very valid point:

    “I just want to briefly mention another pressure students face to simply “play the game,” and that is money. Sometimes we just need to get an A in some classes, so we can keep our scholarship and have opportunities to keep learning. Its a complex problem :)”

    Thank you for adding this concern to our discussion. Unfortunately, the system tends to reward those who play the game well, and not always those who exhibit creativity and independence. I believe that the trend is shifting, but money or the need to get that coveted diploma or certificate will always be huge motivating factors.

  36. Janae Anderson November 18, 2007 at 10:28 pm #

    Konrad Glogoswki,
    I really appreciate all the time that you have spent with our class between the live worskshops and responding to our comments. I have learned a lot and I really admire your teaching methods.
    I could not agree more with the idea that grades have become the focus of school, not the actual learning. When talking about Julia you said, “all of her learning was reduced to one thing – the need to achieve a certain average:” I find that even at BYU I sometimes am trying to do the least amount of work possible in order to get by with a good grade. As I look back at the classes that I did that for I find that I do not remember very much from that class. On the otherhand, the classes that I engage myelf with the topic I feel as though I have learned the most and have had the desire to continue to learn concerning that topic.
    I am thankful for you bringing to focus the need of teachers “to ensure that the environment in which learning takes place allows learners to interact with the subject matter.” I am glad that I can think of how I want to do this before I even begin my teaching so that I don’t waste my students time by just regurgitating information into my students minds. We must find ways to help our students to connect with the topic.
    Another important point that you brought to my attention was that as teachers we too need to be continually learning. Many times I see teachers that use the same lesson plans year after year. They believe they are already an expert on the subject matter and that they no longer need to engage in learning with their students. In my area of teaching, health, information is continually changing and it seems as though there is always something more to learn. I believe that as teachers if we are continually engaging in learning with our students we will create an environment that will enable them to interact with the topic.

  37. Niki Ludlow November 18, 2007 at 11:42 pm #

    I’m glad I read this blog. I had been planning on continuing my education soon after graduation, so I could get my PhD and teach at a university. However, because of recent changes in my life, I’m finding it necessary to go immediately into the job force as a high school teacher. As I have been observing a local high school history class this semester, I’ve gotten increasingly discouraged by the prospect of having to teach unmotivated high school students who go to class because they feel they have no other choice. The teacher I observe is actually pretty good, and has very interesting insights into history. But I noticed the class was not engaged and did not feel inspired as I did by his surprisingly profound lectures. I felt like yelling, “Listen, Think about what he’s saying!!!!” I kept dreaming of being able to teach self-motivated students who were at a university because they actually wanted to be there and learn. But I now realize that I haven’t been self-motivated in all my university classes, just the ones I liked and can apply msyelf in. I guess I need to change my attitude and find a way to increase authentic learning in my class according to the interests of the students. I want to help them find projects that can have a voice and place outside of the classroom context. However, I repeat the question I’ve read several times in this blog; how can we find the balance of letting the students choose what they learn, while still fulfilling the state requirements we are obligated to?

  38. Amanda Stewart November 19, 2007 at 1:05 am #

    I am responding to Janae’s comment…I also am very aware of the fact that many teachers use their same lesson plans from year to year. I hope that I will be able to constantly be engaging myself with learning so that I will be able to share the passion and excitement that I have for my own subject (History) with my students. I have seen a great example of a teacher that I have been observing. She teaches a World History class to 11th and 12th graders and was able to get a specialized class developed in this World History class. She has turned the class into a World War 2/Cold War class and the entire focus of the whole semester that the students are in the class is on those eras. It is an example the the teacher going above and beyond what the curriculum requires and engages her students with the interesting subject matter. She did have to get permission to do this class but now that I look at it, I see that there are so many more resources that she could use in order to enhance the student’s learning. The school has a mobile computer lab and when the students are required to do any research, they are able to do it right in their classroom with her supervision. I think that her ability to be able to engage herself with a topic that is so interesting to her “rubs” off onto her students and they become excited and engaged as well. I think that as teachers we should always be trying to go above and beyond what’s required because we obviously didn’t become teachers for the pay, but for the opportunity to make a difference in the student’s lives so that they may better themselves and expand their minds while learning life skills as well.

  39. Hollie November 19, 2007 at 8:51 am #

    I believe that most students are in the same frame of mind as Julia. The grade is the only thing that is important. Students know what to do and how much effort to put in to get a good, average, or poor grade. This way of thinking doesn’t lead to life long learning. It only amounts to spitting out information for a test or paper. So, I think its great that you are trying to integrate new ideas in your classroom.

  40. Allison Terry November 19, 2007 at 11:38 am #

    I agree that the teacher holds a lot of responsibility for creating a cooperative and welcoming learning environment. They are also responsible for so much more that it must be overwheming and discouraging sometimes to think about how much influence they hold with their students yet how little time they get to spend with each one, individually and in a group setting. Teachers should branch out thier curriculum and teach students more than how to robotically progress through school but all the responsibility does not lay at the feet of the teacher. Parents and thier feelings toward school are more of a determining factor than any teacher’s actions. As teachers, we need to include the parents in our process as much as possible and truly understand where our students are coming from so we can tailor our instruction to their needs.

  41. Tara Briggs November 19, 2007 at 12:04 pm #

    I liked your story. How have you tried to create a better learning environment? What has succeeded and what has not.

  42. Jeffrey Greenley November 19, 2007 at 12:22 pm #

    My question has to deal with technology in the classroom. This past week I was working with a High School and trying to implement things I”ve learned from this course but found their technology grossly inadequete. What kind of grants exist that teachers can apply for to get some tech in the classroom? Or how did you get your administration to support you with footing the bill for some descent computers for student use?

  43. Joseph Jones November 19, 2007 at 12:37 pm #

    I wanted to comment on what Amanda had to say. After reading the blog I could not help from thinking of my teachers who used the same lesson plans from year to year. To say the least – those classes were terrible. I could have used my brothers’ old homework assignments to get all the answers. I quite possibly could have finished school without doing hardly any homework. That is why when I teach I want to make sure that I am constantly engaging myself in new styles and techniques. I think the best part of teaching is not being afraid of trying something new. One just has to realize that it is okay to do something that isn’t perfect the first time around.

  44. Tom Coxson November 19, 2007 at 12:56 pm #

    With all the talk of “hoop jumping” and standards, I have come to the conclusion that the thing that will help teachers the most to help students love to learn that teacher’s content will be for the teacher to use the standards as an aid and guide. Too many teachers use the standards as a crutch or view them as a barrier to what they really want to teach the students. If as teachers we are excited about every item in the standards and let the students know that we are excited, I think that is the first step to getting them hooked. The second step is to create an environment in which the students themselves can explore the content and get excited themselves. This becomes even more important with the NCLB standards. Teachers must get interested in those standards and rediscover their content areas, I think.

  45. Juliann Little November 19, 2007 at 2:39 pm #

    Thanks for the feedback, Konrad! I found that most helpful. It will be interesting to see how different the students will write and publish their work based on the audience. I believe you are right about how if they are writing for a broader audience than simply the teacher, they will write with more enthusiasm and with more care. The important thing I got from your feedback is the importance of connection with writers and the world. I also saw your web links of plays in SecondLife, which would be quite entertaining and useful in a classroom setting, so thank you.

  46. Kylee Pearson November 19, 2007 at 3:50 pm #

    Reading this blog has been an interesting experience for me. First off, I can’t help but admire Mr. Glogowski’s methods here of validating what we are saying but pushing us to think deeper about what we are discussing. I think that this is a perfect example of what we as future teachers should try to do.

    Second, I am of two minds about the whole ‘jumping through hoops.’ I have a desire to help the students be a path of success. In order to be on this success path, they need to fulfill the requirements. However, I definitely feel that a learning experience is my ultimate goal for these students. I want them to think critically about the material and form opinions about it. One of my professors this semester told us a story about how one day he came to the conclusion that he didn’t go through school to get a grade; he went through school to become educated. Part of being educated is finding those subjects that you are so interested in, you become passionate about them. Therefore, I think it is okay to teach what the state requires, but in theory, I am going to help them what aspect of the material they care about and discover it more in depth. Do you think this is a reasonable goal for the students, or will they just consider this another hoop to jump through?

  47. Allison Koerner November 19, 2007 at 6:00 pm #

    I am so impressed with all of the comments. I have many of the same questions that my peers have posted on here. I am pleased to know that we don’t have to know all of the answers to the questions that plague us concerning education today.

    I feel confident that as long as we remain innovative and creative with our students as we attempt to balance core curricula and our learning interests, we will be successful teachers. The most successful teachers I have ever had are the ones who continued to try new things and who showed me that they cared. As a result, I am passionate about learning. It is my hope that if I return the favor to my future students, their lives will be changed for the better.

  48. Paul McCarl November 27, 2007 at 8:59 am #

    I respect the conversation that has occurred here. It is obvious that we all share a common goal of becoming assets in our students’ learning experiences. Many of us have talked about jumping through hoops, which I believe reflects an understanding that some of what we are asked to do may simply be busy work. However, some of those “hoops” may be better defined as gateways–entrances to paths of greater understanding.

    Can you appreciate literature in any form, whether it is the collected works of Shakespeare or a blog about why purple will be the “in” color this spring, if you fail to learn to read? Can you contribute to the advances of society’s technology with out first learning the mathematics, science, and engineering principles upon which it is based? And in our quest for student driven learning, we need to ask: Is all knowledge equal in value?

    I often feel that our race to broaden our students’ experiences with new technology is much like the path of development in computer operating systems. In 1982, I purchased a Commodore 64 computer. When you turned it on, it would almost instantly go to a screen with a copyright statement and a flashing cursor prompt. By inserting a floppy in a drive and typing a cryptic command at the prompt, I could in a few moments convert my computer into a word processor, a spreadsheet, a database, a video game, or even a communication center (emailing and blogging are just niftier versions of what we called bulletin boards back then). A few years later Apple convinced the world that a GUI (or graphical user interface) was necessary to run a computer. It was quickly imitated by others and a new dilemma was born. In order to run these whiz-bang GUI’s, a computer needed a graphics card capable of showing the interface, a hard drive to store the programs so the user would no longer have to switch floppies, and most importantly, a faster processor and more memory to accommodate the extra overhead of the operating environment. As computers advanced to meet the demands of their programming, inevitably the programmers found new ways to stretch the capabilities of the system. This created a cycle of ever increasing complexity that required faster, more advanced technology to allow it to run effectively. Today, some 25 years later, Windows Vista or the Mac OS X represents the current state of the art in operating system form and function. And to run either requires an advanced video card, a large hard drive, a processor roughly 3000 times faster than a Commodore 64 with nearly 20,000 times the RAM. And yet at its heart it still performs the same basic functions of a word processor, a spreadsheet, a database, a video game, or a communication center.

    Now I would be the last person to argue for a return to the good old days of the Commodore 64. I love my computer and am anxiously counting the days before I can upgrade once more to a bigger, better, faster system, but I will say that the primary functions that I undertake each day with my computer were all adequately performed by my Commodore 64 a quarter of a century ago. I believe that we must honestly look at our teaching with technology methods with the same critical eye.

    A blog is a great tool, but is a conversation online more valid than one conducted in person? Wikipedia can be a great resource, but does that invalidate a published encyclopedia where the information was at least checked for accuracy by a team of editors. A DVD production of a class presentation may have more bells and whistles, but is it functionally any different than a skit or presentation performed in person. In our rush to adopt new technologies, we need to make sure that they are truly an improvement over our older methods or the cost of our upgrade, paid with our students’ time, may be too high. And as we allow our students to find their own path of learning, we must always act as a guiding light that can help them choose their direction.

  49. Allison Jensen November 27, 2007 at 11:26 am #

    After reading everybody’s comments I feel so much better knowing that I am not alone in my fears of teaching and being able to “reach” all my students….I especially agree with Amanda’s comments about continually trying to reinvent myself as a teacher as well as my curriculum and always be looking for new material rather than just stay with my same lesson plans year in and year out. This will also greatly change since technology itself is always changing and I will need to keep up with my students in order to effectively engage them in the learning process.

    Also, I think goal setting is paramount to any education and I hope to facilitate my students in setting their own goals. I have also always been taught that a goal is useless unless it is made known to another person and so I want to encourage my students to write them down, and discuss them with me….That way they will internalize them and actually work towards them….(with my help and pushing hopefully)….

    I too, am a product of the public school system and learned early on how to effectively jump through the hoops….I think this zapped my zeal for education a lot of the time and I hope to avoid this entirely in my own teaching…..

  50. Cali Dansie December 19, 2007 at 2:06 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading about everyones ideas on teaching. This is why i want to teach… i think that so many teachers get all caught up in being the Teacher and making all the rules etc that they forget what their actual job is… to help students become! i will admit that i was one of those students in high school that played the game of school well. i was concerned with every point and if there was extra credit i was all for it. i think that this wore off very quickly when i got to college and started to see all the other things i could be doing instead of going to school… to be honest some of these options would have been more educational than some of the classes i have taken in recent years. But my overall point is that i agree with the concept of bringing the world into our classroom and not letting core curriculum take over our teaching. I will also say that the core curriculum is important because with out it some slacker teachers would really mess up the system. After reading this blog i can honestly say that i am freeking excited to get out there and teach… to really do something… something that will make a difference.

  51. Judi Buenaflor June 6, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    Mr. Glogowski,
    Your teaching strategy of using a blog for soliciting continuous dialogue with your students is a idea which I hope to adapt in the new school year. I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate technology in my teaching and this will be a great asset. The substantive responses from your students prove it validity.

    Your discussion on set curriculum is very timely in light of NCLB. In Pennsylvania, so many schools opted to force teachers to stick to a prescribed set curriculum with no flexibility in order to assure optimal success on our state standardized tests. The bottom line being that the school districts were concerned about funding and not what makes a better education. Engaging students in the curriculum is key as your scenario so dramatically proved when the student only wrote for a grade. Education means nothing if it does not ring true with the students and prove relevant to their lives. John Dewey knew the answer to effective teaching and learning as you point out, yet the years have flown by since he address educational issues and this country’s educational system still doesn’t get it. It will only change one teacher at a time. Your inclusion of blogs to give your students a forum for personal expression is one of your ways to engage your students. I hope it has the same effect on mine.

    Judi Buenaflor

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  1. Networked Learner News » Blog Archive » Conversation with Pre-Service Teachers - Teacher as Learner - July 19, 2008

    [...] of all, thanks to those of you from Brigham Young University who added your thoughts to my first post on the set curriculum. I enjoyed reading your comments and learning more about your concerns and questions regarding [...]

  2. Conversation with Pre-Service Teachers - Teacher as Learner | Networked Learner News - July 21, 2008

    [...] of all, thanks to those of you from Brigham Young University who added your thoughts to my first post on the set curriculum. I enjoyed reading your comments and learning more about your concerns and questions regarding [...]

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