Jan 31, 2012
Comments Off on Mark My Words … Things I’ve Gotten Wrong (Part 1)

Mark My Words … Things I’ve Gotten Wrong (Part 1)

Sometimes, when caught in the moment, I have a tendency to make big sweeping declarations of thought. Those statements that hang in a gallery for all to see. If you are a consistent reader of this blog, you’ll know I’ve made some big, some have said “ballsy”, statements about education, the revolution, pedagogy and what makes a good teacher.

As often as I’ve been right, I’ve been wrong. Over the course of my career in education, I have been wrong many times. My beliefs and ideas around my role in the classroom have changed. And so, here is my list of things I’ve gotten wrong. This is no way a definitive list, but it is the evidence of my reflection on where I’ve come from.

I think it is important to note that we’ve all been wrong. The list of things I’ve gotten wrong in the past is

1. Games = Learning.

On a regular basis I use to play games in class.  I would bring out the Jeopardy game (with buzzers and everything) and we’d play.  Students would be engaged and laughing and shouting out answers, and I thought I’ve done it.  I’ve created a learning environment that is to be envied. I believed that if students were having fun than they must be learning too.  As I’ve reflected, talked, read and researched about he nature of engagement, I’ve often been reminded that many of the “games” in learning, hide learning. They gloss over learning.  They make learning about trivialities, not deeper critical thinking.  My Jeopardy game is on my shelf collecting dust now, I often think I should pull it down and give ‘er a whirl, but I’m too busy actually learning with my students.

2. Tests = Indicators of Success

When I first started, I was all about the test. Every chapter, content quiz. Every two weeks, test. After every unit, I’ve got to test them. I tested them to make sure they were “keeping up”.  When I look back in my files and see the old tests I used to give, I cringe. Multiple choice questions about who said what, why. Worse yet, I use to give zeros to students who missed my tests or have them re-write it at lunch to teach them that tests were important. Again, the more I reflected, talked, read and researched, I felt foolish. I started adjusting my expectations, buffering the responsibilty of the test with other tasks. Sure, I had a balance now. But, I’ve gone even further. Stepping away from tests all together. Nothing in an authentic learning environment is about what do you know in this minute, write it as fast as you can.  Now, that’s not to say that I don’t give exams, I’m mandated at times to do that, but every chance I get, I try to get out of it. Imagine a time, outside of school where you are put under the circumstances of proving yourself like that. Your driver’s test, that’s maybe it. And even that, you can redo immediately.

My distaste of standardized testing is unchanged. I haven’t, nor will I, waver on it.

3. Technology is the answer.

I’m a gadget guy. My playbook, ipad, ipod touch, macbook, blackberry will attest to that. I’ve never understood people’s resistance to the ever-changing new technology. I was making websites in HTML before Mozilla released a second version. But, the thing I’ve come to learn is that technology itself is not the answer. I used to think that if we put it online, or had them type it, or integrated technology to the task, it inevitably made the task better. I was wrong. The task is more important than the tool.  The learning is more important than the task. It is easy to get caught up in the razzle dazzle, shiny lights always attract the eyes, but technology needs to be seen for what it is, an opportunity to use a variety of tools that might make learning more effective, efficient, authentic.


There are more, this is but part one.


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