Saturday, February 4, 2012

Just Stop

For a dude with a grand total of 100 or so tweets, I blew it up today for about 20 seconds.  As I mentioned in my tweets, I learn a lot from twitter every day.  I've only been using twitter for about a year or less and most of the time I've been what my gamer self would call a lurker, meaning that I've read just about everything but rarely contributed.  I'm still that way for the most part.  There are folks out there with some immense knowledge and who obvious surf the web like I did in my pre-child days.

And I am hardly an follower of a lot of people.  I think I follow 50 or so people at the moment, though I've been adding pretty well lately.  Most of these are folks involved in flipped classrooms and other folks I've found through following them.  There are a lot of supportive people, willing to be innovators with boldness, which is awesome, and I suspect is happening a lot in a lot of places.  I follow a lot of hashtags too, #edchat, #flipclass, #edtech, etc, etc...

Today, the negativity, wow...

I have a quote on the wall of my classroom that says you don't help the weak by tearing the down the strong. (paraphrase).  My own personal mantra now for education is that you don't make your own system work by tearing down the system of others.

There are thousands of good, quality educators out there who are very lecture centric, who give homework, tests, quizzes, etc much like teachers for the past few decades.  And though this may come as a surprise to some, they are effective at it, they get results, students learn and are inspired.  Let me share my own anecdote.

I didn't think I was going to college at all in school because of the cost.  When it turned out that I was going to go, I had to start at community college.  Community colleges get derided all the time for being "grade 13" or super high school, and I think there is some degree of truth in that.  But easily the most influential person on my teaching career was a teacher there.  Ed Cameron taught Chemistry and History there, and you may think that is the oddest combination ever.  Probably is.

Mr. Cameron got up in front of us the first day of Intro to Chemistry (baby chem as he called it) and told us we were responsible for everything he talked about, everything in the book and whatever else he felt needed to be tested.  He never did a single demo that I recall, he lectured every day of class, quizzing us as he went, gave brutal tests, poked gentle fun at us and just generally seemed to love his job.

I took six classes from that man...4 in chemistry and 2 in history.  I spent a year as his lab assistant, during which he always referred to me as Anthrax.
My two undergraduate degrees are in Chemistry and History...

I know what the naysayers will cry out...but you were one kid, what about all of the others.  I don't know...all I know is that his effect on my life is immeasurable.  Every day I hope I inspire some student like he inspired me.

So what does that have to do with people denigrating others on twitter?  Most of us agree that students learn in different ways...But instead of extrapolating this to say that effective teaching can happen in a number of ways, we focus on our own favorite hobbyhorse and assume it is "the best".  That on its own is ok, if you don't believe in the way you teach, change it.

What is not ok, and leads to the dark side, is the idea that your way is the "only" way.  A lot of folks who want to attack certain religions as exclusionary are just as apt, if not more so, to excommunicate other educators for what they see as heresy.

You believe strongly in inquiry based methods, PBL, game-based learning?  Awesome! I like a lot of stuff there too and am trying out a lot of that stuff.  But it isn't the only way.  Whiteboarding isn't a religion...or shouldn't be.  Salman Khan isn't the devil just because you think it is just lecture repackaged.

Lecture isn't the devil either....

I don't use Khan Academy stuff, but I can see the appeal.  Do I think it replaces teachers? No, any more than I think I don't need to teach my classes because I make videos.  Do we doubt that a lot of students learn a lot from Khan Academy?  I for one don't.  I don't think it is a silver bullet or a panacea, but if it helps some, great.

Yes, the goal is critical thinkers, students who can think on their feet and problem solve, not just regurgitate information or solve the problem the same way they saw someone else solve it, I agree.  But how does tearing down someone else's method help?

I see people on twitter raging about things and often quoting research that shows it isn't much more effective than something else.  Where is their research showing the be all end all effectiveness of their way?  Isn't there...

This post will end here because I've probably gone on too long, but the next time you want to tweet about how stupid, ineffective or inefficient another teacher's method are, ask yourself where your own motives are, and if you are the ultimate fount of wisdom.  If you really think they are deluded or harmful, enter into a dialogue, don't stand in the town square (twitter) and rail against them...democratic education is what most of us want, not demagogic.

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