I am pleased to see this article in the Washington Post: Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’. Howard Gardner is the most prominent voice in the area of multiple intelligences, an idea that has been co-opted by proponents of learning styles, which I have already stated I don’t believe in. The article clarifies Gardner’s stand on what he means by multiple intelligences, namely that the brain functions as a set of connected but autonomous processors. Gardner clearly distances himself from (and actually chastises) those who misinterpret his work.
That’s a meme question that has been floating around for a while, but now I’m pleased to say that there is a pretty clear explanation. Here it is in two short video collaborations from Veritassium and Minute Physics:
Today I played the Deer Game with my grade nines to illustrate population dynamics, limiting factors and carrying capacity. We usually iterate a dozen or so times, counting and recording the dear population on each turn, and then enter the results on a spreadsheet and graph it when we get back to the classroom.
Well, this year I did something a little different. I created a Google sheet, and created a chart based on a set of (presently empty) cells. I left this display up in the classroom when we went outside. During the game, I recorded the results each round on my phone, in the same spreadsheet. So when we wrapped up and went back to class the graph was already waiting for us on the screen. As a bonus, we ran this activity with two classes combined, and both classes could see the same data.
Yesterday in class one of my students asked “am I sciencing right?”
After giving him a high five for cleverness, I got to thinking more seriously about that question. In courses like Drama, Art, Music, and Physical Education the students spend a minimal amount of time learning theory, and maximal time practising it. Doing it.
In Science, at least in the introductory courses, there seems to be so much emphasis on basic facts that there is little time left to do science, or as my student would to science. Now, admittedly, there is several centuries worth of background to what goes on in our daily lives. Even up through much of my undergrad studies my courses were pumping me full of background knowledge, with little emphasis on doing science. It wasn’t until my undergraduate thesis and grad school that I got to actually science.
I have long posited that the real success of education cannot be determined in the short run. How a student does on the next test is not really a measure of the effectiveness of teaching. We really need to look down the road at how students are faring a year, or two, or five later to get a real sense of how what we have taught has been useful or effective.
A recent reunion, where I met students from as far back as 13 years, gave me a (admittedly somewhat uncontrolled and subjective) sample of how my students have done. And you know what? There is not really a strong correlation between how they did in my classes (or school in general) and how they did later. While many students who did well in school continued to do well in university and career, it is also the case that many who were “troublemakers” in high school went on to be very successful (some even becoming teachers!), while some who were excellent students in school went on to perfectly uneventful and mundane post-secondary study and careers.
I was at the Google Apps for Education Summit a few weeks ago. Lots and lots of great stuff, interesting talks, interesting discussion between talks. But there is one thing I learned that I really REALLY must not forget as I plan my courses for next year.
You see, the GAFE summit was held at a high school in Kitchener, and I spent two days sitting in chairs, at desks and in the auditorium. And dammit, it was uncomfortable. I mean ass-numbingly knee-bangingly miserable. And yet, when we see kids being fidgety in class, we often think it’s because they can’t sit still.
Previously I have written about how textbooks get it backwards, authenticity, using challenge, and all kinds of posts on pedagogy, ed tech, and “21st Century learning” (a phrase I am growing tired of, because we are well into the 2nd decade of the century…). I have also written about various challenges dealing with recent cohorts of students, and how the trend for general disengagement from learning in even a progressive classroom seems to be on the rise. It really is time for wholesale change.
There are lots of strategies I would like to try in my classroom, but I’m not always sure how they would work. But here are a few of the ideas I have been tossing around, in no particular order:
- Make MUCH more use of google tools – I picked up a lot of great ideas at the GAFE summit in April, and I’m dying to put them to practical use. Pages, shared resources, research tools built in, no losing documents.
- 20% time – based on the Google model, where employees spend 20% of their time on a project of their choice.
- On the Fly response forms – using a generic response form and creating questions each day to go with the questions, and/or using it as an exit ticket
- more portfolio, journaling, less testing – build emphasis on ongoing learning, break the dependency on cramming and memorization
- “tests” as formative – Despite making practice tests available, I find students rarely make good use of them, and then doing poorly on a test comes as a complete surprise. I have considered giving tests, just as they are, as a means of providing feedback on what students still ned to know before they complete their work on the unit – whatever that might be.
- “streamed” course for layering/differentiation – allow students more choice in how they complete each unit. Offer perhaps three “pathways” through a unit, from more traditional reading/lecture/worksheet, to grad-school like complete independent research, with a kind of hybrid/pbl in between.
- change the way I assess. I need to a) make students more independent and responsible for their own learning, b) make it more meaningful, ans c) make it less onerous for me.
- flipped classroom/blended learning – get more videos up, migrate my notes online, build the course in google sites as a sort of online textbook, complete with embedded docs for students to contribute like a wiki
- Project/inquiry based learning. I really like the concept of the modelling method. The problem is that much of the material in grades 9 and 10 is purely factual, which leaves little room for inquiry.
- introduce students to formal logic early. Hey, it’s science. Causation vs correlation is something science students really need to know.
- make simple interactives. Flash, Construct 2, whatever. But something that can be embedded.
- 3 before me – help to emphasize that I may be AN expert but not THE expert, and help break their dependence on me as the sole source of knowledge. They have to consult three other sources (classmates, textbook, internet, for example) before they ask me.
- provide a road map of the course, that students must fill out as they go, with links to their work - students often ask what we did last class, or what we are doing next class. If i provide them with a syllabus/sequence on google drive, they can make a copy, and turn each heading into a link to their own work as we go along.
- change the way I assess – Definitely.
- “do I get it” self-assessment checkpoints
- Incorporate Karplus learning cycle – important, particularly in science, but tricky to make relevant when the information is predominantly fact-based.
- have students measure and graph everything they possibly can – It’s science. Measuring and graphing are what we do.
- Maker Spaces – I love the idea of a maker space classroom. Making something is an incredible exercise in problem solving in the real world, and students don’t get nearly enough of it.
- Change the way I assess. ‘Nuff said.
We live in a pretty safe world. Or at least, where I am it is pretty safe. Despite the excessive portrayal of violence in the news, the chances of injury from either accident or crime has been on the decline for some time. Parents may become (needlessly?) overprotective, and students can develop a sense of complacent protection. That is, if there is possible danger, that Someone is Taking Care of It.
So yesterday we were talking about the flotsam and jetsam of the solar system – comets, asteroids, meteors etc, and we were discussing the recent bolide over Siberia, the close approach of 2012DA14 on the same day, and the Tunguska event of 1908 – when one of the students asked “So what do they do when they see that one of these is going to hit Earth?”
I haven’t posted in a while. A long while actually. Looking back my last post was in November. Eek. Why? I’m not quite sure. I’m not one who sets an arbitrary “I have to post three days a week or I’ll hang myself” mandate, nor do I feel a compulsion to poset every little thing that comes up. I do this because a) I want to share ideas, b) I want to let others know that they are not alone, and c) the creative process is better than being idle.
I have not been entirely idle in these last few months however. I had the opportunity to lead a terrific group of kids on a trip to Costa Rica, which I will write about someday. I went to the Google Summit for Education, which was awesome, and I had a student die in a tragic accident, which was horrible. But all the while I have been thinking, and slowly putting those thoughts together. Some of those thoughts I think are ready to start leaking out onto this blog…