February’s episode of Two Pint PLC was the first time Laurence and I returned to a topic that we’ve covered in a previous show. This time technology means online media, discussions and course work. In episode 004 we tried to decide how screens compared to paper copy. This month we have a similar substitution: how to online materials (videos, discussion boards, or assignments) compare to in-person instruction (lectures, discussions, or class tasks)? I was surprised to find how emotional the conversation became, but we both had our “moment at the pulpit”. Upon reflection I see that our reactions were really a reflection of how these topics hit the core of who we both are as educators.
Social Cues in Online Media
I view education, at its most fundamental level, as a tool with which we can improve humanity. Laurence pushes me to remember that the education system must serve persons, which is different from serving people. Our humanity is our greatest asset. Efforts like Khan Academy, Brilliant.org, and content specific services like Bozeman Science all make learning available to people who would otherwise have few or no opportunity to learn what they want to learn. “Better than nothing” isn’t good enough. We must find ways to make those services better serve each of those users as a person. Providing more humanity to their online experience ultimately means we’re providing more learning. That makes personalization and social framework more than a detail or nicety… it’s best practice.
Laurence persuaded me to re-emphasize my focus on humanity, but I’m still uncomfortable. I personally prefer the sterile, efficient environments that most people find off-putting. Now, I must set aside that discomfort in order to be responsive to this new research. I will look at the online discussions I assign my students and find ways to introduce more social cues. A colleague of mine uses Voicethread, a service which allows students to easily make videos to replace the text-based online discussions with which I’m familiar. It’s no replacement for a discussion in a classroom. It is, however, better than the wire-frame monkey I’m currently using…
Innovation in Education
There is a quote from Marzano that hung in my classroom every single day I was a high school teacher: “A guaranteed and viable curriculum requires the combination of an opportunity to learn and time.” That’s it. Our prompting article points out that often a guaranteed curriculum is confused with a consistent curriculum. We both pounced on this fallacious assumption. Innovative teaching must be, by definition, disruptive. Effective teaching must be responsive to individual student needs and interests. Even Marzano, the source of the maligned phrase guaranteed and viable curriculum, clearly state that education can’t be standardized.
We are clearly not taking a controversial position in arguing against top-down management of the classroom experience. What we both emphasized in our conversation is that teacher agency is not a license to do whatever your whims may dictate. Accountability for our choices, reflection on the efficacy of those choices, and improvement of our practice by pairing that reflection with implementation of education research are all things administration should expect of teachers. For both students and staff, be united in our goals and priorities. Not our behaviors.
Episode 013 Reflection
Reflection makes us better educators, and writing is a good way to wrestle with thoughts half formed and inarticulate. This is my (Michael Ralph) reflection on the discussion of a prior episode.