For this assignment, I created a podcast called “Science/Fiction” (or perhaps Science-Slash-Fiction” to add emphasis to the slash). The idea behind this podcast was to spark the imagination of the listeners. As a Science teacher, all too often I see student that become disenchanted with science because so much of it seems to be fact memorization. While I can sit back and be amazed by the work of Charles Darwin or Gregor Mendel, student don’t see it that way. So, I wanted to create a podcast that reminded listeners that there is a connection between real-world science and science fiction. Through this series, listeners will see connections between dreams of the past and the realities of the future (or present).
In the pilot episode, the four topics I chose to look at were the possibility of bringing extinct species back to life using their DNA, parasites that infect the brain of their hosts turning them into zombies, the ins and outs of time travel and science fiction devices that will soon be a reality.
This was a very enjoyable assignment. While I can’t say I am natural at podcasting, I do feel like the process is a great learning experience that helps you delve deeply into topics that are interesting. I would love to make this particular podcast a series in which my students are the contributors.
What is the daily experience of most teachers? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it is, sadly, a fairly isolated experience. I plan my lessons on my own, I prep them on my own, I deliver them on my own and evaluate their effectiveness on my own. Do I do a good job? I like to think so. I also work hard to stay innovative and to make the work and learning interesting for my students. When push comes to shove, however, my students are working in isolation much the same as I am. They are studying Biology (or Chemistry, or whatever subject I happen to be teaching) in isolation from other disciplines. Sure, I like to slip in historical context when I can and I certainly help them through math skills, but the reality is that this type of isolation just isn’t real…except in school.
What happens when the students toss their caps and head off into the real world? They are asked to complete projects for work that integrate all of the subjects they learned separately in school. In some ways it seems like learning to hit a golf ball by learning small parts of the golf swing, the initial takeaway, taking the club up, starting the downswing, etc., from different coaches, only to ever take a full swing when it really counts- on the course. Chances are the first few times you try that full swing, it will be awkward and not so successful. The same goes for those first integrated, real-world projects. Awkward and, perhaps, unsuccessful.
What would serve the students better? An integrated curriculum. A curriculum in which they develop English skills, Math skills, Science skills and all of their other skills through work on the same project. A chance to see how the world connects outside the classroom walls. Imagine a student who spent their time in school in this fashion as they attack that new, but familiar real-world project when they get their first job. To say the least, they will be better off for the experience thay had in school.
So how does a school deliver such an experience? To be honest, I don’t know. It seems to take dedicated teachers, hard work and long hours. What I do see, however, is that the first step is to create a culture of collaboration. Administrations must make this a priority. Creating lines of communication between faculty members is the essential first step to building an integrated curriculum. Perhaps replacing faculty meetings with grade-level check-ins is a start. Simply getting teachers together to talk about what they are teaching and how they are teaching it. Can’t you just imagine the conversation as teachers begin to see the overlap in their subject matter. It seems to me, it wouldn’t take much for that conversation to turn into an idea for small-scale collaboration, which could lead to…who knows.
The reality is that such conversation would not likely turn into a fully integrated curriculum. That type of teaching is just too complex to come by through sheer enthusiasm. But, the conversation is the starting point. The communication between the people students spend their day with. The realization that there are common goals and ways to make every subject more relevant, real and meaningful.
I like the sound of that.
“In your Module 3 Reflection extend your linkages between theories of learning, theories of educational technology and your own classroom instruction or professional practice.”
As I look back at the past unit and reflect upon how what I am learning is being utilized or seen in my classroom teaching, I must admit that I am struggling to make the connections. When I say that, I mean that, while I am getting a better and better understanding of constructivist theory and how students may best learn, I am struggling to incorporate some of this in my classroom. On aspect that i have used is the Jigsaw Activity. I had in fact assigned such an assignment just before being assigned this one myself. Students were to go out and become experts on a topic and then report back to their primary team. As the unit progressed, it became clear that this was both an excellent tool for learning and a difficult tool for some high school students to embrace. In the end, some people became experts and others did not.
There is no doubt in my mind that I am becoming a better educator through exploring various learning theories and methods for teaching. There does come, however, a time when the theories must be applied. It is in this area that I struggle. How to actually get the students to engage fully is troubling. So many students I teach, and I teach at a private school where motivation is relatively high, have become jaded and are not willing to embrace new methods. As the year as progressed and I have included technology in what I hope are meaningful ways, many students have expressed there own frustration. Many want to have me at the board telling them what they should know, rather than constructing their own knowledge. In this is a great conflict that I am still trying to resolve.
With all this said, I do think that it is very important to acknowledge the place theory has in my journey. This knowledge is forming a foundation upon which I will be able to build the lessons that students will engage in and get the most out of. I very much look forward to learning how to apply the theories.
At the end of each school year, once I take a breath and have a chance to catch up with my family, I get truly excited about the coming year. The plans seem to blossom in my head. Ideas pop up
constantly about how I can change my class to what I truly want: a student-centered, experiential classroom. As I learn more about epistemology and the application of different learning theories in education, I realize that I lean towards the constructivist way of thinking. In my ideal classroom, students would engage daily in learning experiences that gave them core pieces of knowledge in Biology. They would then run with their passions to explore their own individual areas of Biology. I would be at hand for guidance and explanation as needed. Technology would be integral to what we were doing. Students would blog to help further ingrain their understanding and share their ideas with the world. They would connect with scientists in the areas they find most interesting. They would use various forms of multimedia to create projects that enhance their learning and help teach their classmates.
That’s my vision at a time of the year when anything goes.
When fall rolls around once again, the pressures of the real world being to weigh on me. How do I build such a curriculum? How do I deal with unmotivated students? How can I break students out of the mold that has them creating such poorly designed and shallow projects? How do I grade anything they do? How do I explain my vision to doubtful parents who are wondering if the grades will be good enough to get their child into college? The questions go on and on. The path to my goal seems like a very challenging one.
Sadly, this tends to lead me back to where I have been for a decade and a half. Lecturing, assigning classic homework and testing knowledge that the majority of students will lose within months if not sooner.
This year has been different. We are a few weeks in and I have yet to lecture. While we are moving along at a slower pace, the students have been allowed to be active in their own learning. They aren’t off exploring the world every period, but they seem to appreciate the fact that they are in control. Technology is creeping in, but slowly. I am working towards a class blog, but find myself so busy that it is hard to feel that it is ready for launch.
The good, no great news is that I still believe. I am plowing ahead. looking back, it was just two years ago that my idea of technology in my classroom was a digital thermometer. I have changed as a teacher in the past two years. At least in how I look at my classes. The shift to a discovery learning model has been slow, but I have worked towards that end and will continue to do so. Technology is becoming an everyday component in my class. Students collaborate and share notes and their first multimedia “test” is on the horizon.
So, while I am gaining a better and better appreciation for the philosophy and psychology of education, the road to my dream becomes a bit clearer. As long as I keep moving, someday the road will seem less unsure and my vision will be realized.