Content vs. How to Make It…

Yesterday’s Cohort 21 F2F session provided a lot of time for putting faces to names, for putting names to schools, and ideas to be flushed out more completely. A few things struck me:

1) When the cohort held the unconference session in the afternoon (examining the role of technology in collecting data for and of learning, as well as exploring personalized learning, the flipped classroom, and inquiry-based learning) there were some communal threads that tied them all together. Namely:
– That assessment for learning (formative assessment) is vital for flipping the classroom to maintain responsive teaching when the learning breaks down
– That inquiry-based learning and personalized learning all have limitations based on the discipline itself, but also based on limitations of resources (class time, funding, etc…)
– That there is still a need to really uncover and explore what these terms mean to us, to our students, and to our administration

2) That there is still a real tension between the future of learning and relationships within our education communities
Shelly Thomas spoke well about the role that teachers play in the lives of students, and Derek Doucet deepened the conversation about learning being a process, a life-long process. It was great to hear these passionate teachers talk about how learning isn’t a means to an end
– However, it was interesting to hear from Adam Caplan who brought the other perspective that try as we might to emphasize the journey, for some (both parents and students) education is just that: a means to an end.

A few things have coalesced for me around these last two thoughts. I was reading this article in the Globe and Mail about Student Stress Rising at Post-Secondary Application Time where we learn about one student’s goals:

Toronto student Amir Alizadeh-Ebadi, 17, studies till 2 a.m. almost every night so he can maintain his almost 90-per-cent average and compete with others applying to university science programs. Mr. Alizadeh-Ebadi has applied to U of T, McGill University, Queen’s University and the University of Western Ontario. He is already thinking ahead to graduate school, and is considering applying to the United States then.

Mr. Alizadeh-Ebadi wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. His dad is a doctor, and, with his parents’ encouragement, he sees a future for himself there. Still, the pressure to get into a competitive program can be overwhelming for him and other top students.

We have to acknowledge and empathize with the goals of students, and that there is a fine line between guiding them as life-long learners, and guiding them to appropriate post-secondary pathways.

Another piece that struck me was an article shared yesterday about the role of face-to-face practices in 21Century learning. Where is the role of the teacher. It emerged as we viewed a video about 21st century learning where one of the talking heads said that “we must do this in person first”. He was referring to the thinking skills required for effective online learning. The article that was shared yesterday was about how old-school (I use that term fully aware of its irony) teaching is still effective. “Student Prefer Good Lectures Over the Latest Technology in Class” addresses the point that:

The results indicate that students and professors don’t always agree on what works best in the classroom, says Dr. Fusaro. “Our analysis showed that teachers think that their students feel more positive about their classroom learning experience if there are more interactive, discussion-oriented activities. In reality, engaging and stimulating lectures, regardless of how technologies are used, are what really predict students’ appreciation of a given university course.”

So as we move forward in the Cohort we should move forward with, as Tim Hutton wrote about earlier on, cautious optimism.


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