Tuesday, August 6, 2013

High Flight

John  Gillespie Magee, Jr

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, --and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of --Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air...
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew --
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

Friday, May 3, 2013

On MOOCs and Mastery

Savoir-Faire Is Everywhere!

Savoir-Faire in Search of the Cheese

There was a TV cartoon mouse character from the distant 60's who, in pursuit of the cheese, would say, "Savoir-faire is everywhere." And he was. He had the know-how, or the savoir-faire, to steal those delicious cheesy lumps right from underneath the nose of the cat.

Now, learning isn't cheese. But it is something desired and pursued by many. It can be found in many places too. Not in traps, although some of our students think of it that way. Still, it takes know-how to find it and even more effort to make the knowledge your own.

We are told that Abe Lincoln, as a lad in the 1830's, found an education in the many books he read by the light of the fireplace. His mother, Nancy Lincoln, urged him to read, and she was there to help with difficult words and passages.

Socrates had such a teacher's touch that he could elicit knowledge from the brains of his students by just asking the right questions. He believed all knowledge was innate, and it only took the right questions to free it. Even if that were true, and I doubt it, not many instructors have the gift of Socrates. 

When Edison invented talking movies back in the early 1900's, he opined that films would soon put most teachers out of work. The same was expected of TV in its early days. It never happened. I remember "The Continental Classroom" on public TV back in the early 60's. It helped Sputnik-era math and science teachers improve our skills. But those TV lessons had to be followed up by onsite classes at a nearby campus where we could get answers to our many unanswered questions.

100 years, post Edison, with all its promises to revolutionize education for the better,multimedia has never fully delivered what many promised. Neither did the ancient scrolls in Aristotle's time, nor the books that fill the libraries of the world. Reading them wasn't enough. We had to connect ideas, extrapolate, explain, apply, recreate in order to make the knowledge of others our own.

The latest proposal is MOOC's (Massive Open Online Courses) which open the televised lectures of thousands of fine teachers everywhere to the public to view anywhere. It does provide an opportunity for forums of questions and some answer, but far from the personal and often helpful connections students find in a typical classroom.

I don't know about you, but had I not the help and interaction of other learners in the courses I took, I doubt I would have learned it as well as I did. The more abstruse the content, the more necessary the access to a community of learners to ask, share, puzzle, solve and resolve. 

So, how well will these MOOC's work for learners today? It first begs the question of one's motivation to learn. Without wanting to learn, you can proceed to not learn from any source. We have many K12 learners today for whom this is a serious issue.

How do we connect and enable all those who will need help organizing, understanding, asking, solving, and showing that they know? Texting is about as much help as Twitter. Videochats show promise, but you need to find a suitable study-buddy. Helplines could help, but could be costly. Retired teachers could assist if we can find a way to share their expertise.

One thing is clear: we need far more know-how to know how.

So what's your savoir-faire that can help more learners learn more?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Response to Opinion Column from:
The New York Times:
"The Kids Are (Not) All Right"
Published: April 17, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

In Search of Commonsense: It's Far Less Common than It Once Was...

Having recently celebrated my Golden Anniversary as a teacher/educator in K12 and Higher-Ed, I find myself more puzzled than ever. You'd think experience and training would reduce my puzzlement, but for me, it's only added to the growing list of my unanswered questions.

Lately, I find myself a Popeye (if needed, you youngsters out there can Google it), wondering what to do about the blustering Blutos and irresponsibile Wimpys of the K12 world who still don't get it. 

The Man of Spinach was fond of saying when he had been forced to his limits, "That's alls I can take! I can't stands it no more!" I can't either. 

There is no free lunch, folks You have to earn it. If you want a hamburger tomorrow, you'd better work today.

Likewise, if we want skills we can use tomorrow, we need to learn them today. We are, each of us, responsible for earning our own education. 

I found this inspiring and insightful video courtesy of my Twitter colleagues this morning. Watch it. It's what we want our learners to be able to do instead of taking more standardized adieus about nothing.

If you can teach, you truly know it. No standardized test, no test, period, can ever show what learners know, better than the learners actually showing what they know. Listening helps a learner and so does watching. But nothing beats doing. When you do, you understand. Show us what you know.

Let's be clear: It's not about more testing of non-standard learners. It's not about trying to make students more standard by using useless bits from tests that are standardized. We are all different. Our needs are different. So are our goals.

Lack of learning is not the fault of parents, although they can help. It is not the fault of teachers, but they can assist us too. We all need to work today for what we want tomorrow.

The responsibility to learn falls first in the hands of the learners. Each and everyone of them needs to create, own, follow and report on their own personal learning plan. They need to tell us what they know (who knows better than they do?), what they don't know (repeat the last question) and what help they need to master their learning goals.

Mark Twain said, "Commonsense isn't near as common as most folks think." We've been looking in all the wrong places. If you want commonsense, or even uncommon sense tomorrow, you've got to start working on it today.