Monday, March 21, 2011

A Philosophy of Learning.


I believe in student-centered learning. A school exists for its students. I am an unrepentant constructivist. I define constructivism as developmentally appropriate learning that is student initiated and directed that is supported by the teacher and classmates of the student. Like Piaget, I see play as instrumental to student learning as it is quite literally, practice for life. I also believe, like John Dewey, that learning should have a practical aspect to it. Learning should be hands on. I believe in dialogue and story telling as the primary structure for communication in a learning environment. Like Jerome Bruner and Roger Schank, I believe we organize our world with narrative order by telling stories and that we should encourage students and teachers to interact in this way. School should prepare us for the world by allowing us to interact with the world. In this technological flat world this is very possible, necessary and doable.

The primary task of a teacher in my view is to discover the passions of the students and to connect those passions to the curriculum in the classroom. The student needs to feel safe so that they will try things and risk failure. Students should proceed at their own rate and not be penalized for failure but rewarded for success. Assess from 0-100 to reward rather than from 100-0 to penalize to put it in grading terms. You score points for what you know rather than lose points for what you do not know. Progress is marked by benchmarks set by the teacher and student. I believe that the learning environment should be a constant dialogue between the members of the class with each other and the world around them. Technology should play a large role in expanding the world of learning. Students should be engaged with the real world.

Students should have real world experiences in their learning worlds. We should strive to put students in situations where they are practicing being what they are interested in. Rather than studying history for instance, students should practice being historians by writing history. Students should be journalists by creating newspapers and magazines. If a student wants to write, the student should publish short stories and novels or magazine articles and journal articles. Students should be encouraged at all times to share what they learn with the world. The purpose of the school should be to put the students’ names in lights. The classroom should be a dialogue and have no physical limits or time boundaries. School should be a place where students and teachers share stories about the world around them with each other and with the larger world through the use of digital technology. The learning environment should be as interdisciplinary as possible. Curiosity should be encouraged rather than destroyed as it is so often in schools. Student interests should drive the learning, not a fixed curriculum.

Everyone in the learning environment should be encouraged to see the world from as many vantage points as possible. That is how a community begins to join together into a new vision of sharing and collaboration. Imagination and creativity are the special traits of human beings that schools should be trying to encourage in everything that they do.

I believe every adult is a teacher in a school. Human beings learn best by example. Our every action presents a way of being to our students. That is a tremendous responsibility that I have always been anxious to shoulder. When we leave school at the end of the day we should all have sore shoulders from all of the students standing on them and leaping into the new world.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Booge in his element....

I love to play chess. I love to be in an imaginative world when everything that happens happens because of what I choose to do. It can all be calculated, figured out, determined.

I think that is why I like teaching so much. The way we do school is so much like a chess game. It is all calculated, all figured out, all played within determined formal rules. The difference is that there is no opponent in school, no dialectic or feedback loop in school, so it never seems to change. That is why I hate it so much!!

No two chess games are ever the same because there is a partner or opponent, in the game who joins in the creation of ideas that are played out on the board. Chess is a collaborative exercise in imagination. School is not, at least in the predominat paradigm. No two schools are ever really that different because there is no interplay of ideas, especially in schools that pride themselves on being content driven! They are all the same, independent or public.

School, like chess, is not about real life. School is artificial and so is the learning that we do there. It is formal and in the long run, the content is meaningless. Its rewards are external and therefore not self sustaining.

Real learning is done in the muck of living. Games like chess and school prepare us to play real life, but they are so far removed from real life that we often confuse them for it. The real problem with school is its own exaggerated sense of importance....and the learners are never allowed to play and collaborate in the outcome. School is all about teaching and never it seems about learning. Chess is all about imagination, and never about doing. The teachers think they have all the answers when they do not even know the questions!

The big question is, who would come to school if we didn't make them! Who is in their element in school?