Thursday, July 18, 2013

Technology as the Differentiation Silver Bullet?

I believe in the U.S. the goal is to give every child an excellent education so they can have the knowledge, skills, and ability to choose what direction they want to take their life. This doesn't always happen (especially in high poverty areas) but I believe that is still the goal. What is the role of differentiated teaching then here in the "land of the free"? How can we help the students who are excelling continue to progress and not get bored, and the students struggling to also move forward and not get overwhelmed or depressed? Is technology the answer? Mmmm. 

An Nguyen - Flickr
I recently had a short and enlightening exchange with two friends about this TED talk below. Check out the talk and add your voice to our little conversation if you would like. Differentiated education is incredibly important, and I think everyone understands that to a certain point. But in the United States we tend to have a harder time than some other countries such as Germany because we don't put our kids on official track to specific trades at an early age. 

Perhaps there is a role here for pop culture and media literacy in general. Using digital tools offers students many ways to approach an assignment, and also can fuel interest and relevant work for students far ahead or behind the main objectives of the specific grade level . . . I don't know, I need to push that idea around for a little. 

And now, the TED talk. 

If you made it through this whole post - don't forget to leave your thoughts in the comments box below!  Polite disagreement is welcome so please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Teachers Learning, Learning Teachers

In the midst of trying to learn how to be a better teacher, I realized today that I have forgot one important thing: the best teachers are the best learners. In this little summary from BYU's Center for Teaching and Learning, the point is made; "We can become better learners, and by being better learners, we will be better teachers."

The days are incredibly full here in Tulsa, OK where I am teaching entering 1st graders a short summer school class with a focus on the basics of math, reading and writing. Not only do we teach but we have lots of sessions to listen to, work to complete, and reflections to reflect. Today was a little different for me. One of the sessions was all about helping students learn about the writing process and to do so our trainer had us quickly go through the process by writing a poem. 

It has been a long time since I have written a poem. It was a really fast, but wonderful experience! Here it is. 


I am from -- Provo. 
Where mountains reflect,
the open space is clear,
strong and familiar are the snowflakes.
Sleeping sunshine talks, and whispers. 
Music moves from the piano,
praying peace into the safe, studious halls.
Scents of curry, or warm bread
comfort and secure me.

My school and my church. 

This is a very rough poem, and I am the first to admit it doesn't really have form or conventions. It took maybe 6 minutes to go through the whole writing process on this because we were being pushed. But I was learning! I had an excellent experience of brainstorming, prepping ideas, revising, editing, and now "publishing" my work. I felt a renewed desire to be a better teacher and to help my students feel a similar joy of writing. 

How often do we as educators take the time to learn or try new things? To keep relevant and influential I think this is a critical thing I must keep doing. If we are better learners, we will be better teachers.