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teaching – edu|FOCUS
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teaching Tag

kids watching movie in classroom

Visual Media in the Classroom

Visual media in the classroom should not be a replacement for hands-on learning or teachers by any means but that doesn't mean they can’t serve a purpose to the classroom. While a number of people would disagree with me, and sometimes for good reasons, we know for a fact that the average person is a visual learner - we learn quicker through imagery and sound than we do through traditional methods like reading. For example, I think it’s still important to have students read books for a literature class, but this question had me wondering if teachers should show movie adaptations of those books afterward? When you bring this idea up, the first thing parents ask is whether or not it defeats the purpose of reading the book if kids could just skip it and watch the movie? I think, as with most things a balance has to be struck but videos and visual media are as important as books if we want kids to actually absorb what they have learned. When I was in school, I remember we watched a lot of videos in place of class time, and I looked forward to those times, because watching a movie was the fastest way to pass the time in class. And to make it better, the average class time is 45 minutes, so most of the time we would have to take 2-3 classes to watch the whole movie. Now that I'm older, I realize that not only did it feel like we were passing time, but we actually learned a lot that I still remember to this day, because I learned it visually and without any stress or pressure to learn. I think a lot of us might remember watching episodes of The Magic School Bus or Bill Nye the Science Guy in science class. My parents remember Reading Rainbow and Electric Company. The school I went to had 1st through 3rd-grade classes watched quite a bit of Veggie Tales as well. I believe the movies and shows we watched provided equal educational value to the books we read and instruction we received. I've come to find, the less stressful the situation, the easier it is to absorb and learn. Visual media makes the learning environment less stressful, in my opinion, making it easier for today's students to absorb information. To make visual media effective, however, there should be reflective discussion and follow-up work after the movie or show is over. One example is when my English class was watching the movie Glory which is a movie that highlights the contributions and struggles of black soldiers who fought for the North during the Civil War. The teacher had us taking notes during the movie, so that we could complete an assignment around the civil war and how people used the English language to express themselves compared to today. In that experience, I feel we all learned a little more about the civil war, about the contributions of black soldiers in the North, and...

Newton’s Laws of classroom dynamics:

Back in September I got to watch a lot of great learning. I also listened to teachers worry about both the physical mess in their room and the mental mess in their heads. Then went home where I am reading a book on Isaac Newton: The result is that I have discovered Newton’s Three laws of Classroom Dynamics:   The first law of classroom dynamics: Learning is not Passive...

Community Support Leads to A Quality Education

Reading Endre’s previous article on what is a quality high school had me thinking back on my own experience. I’ve mentioned before that my school district was well mixed, urban/suburban, and on the lower side general academic achievement; nothing to be particularly proud of, but it definitely could have been worse. We were fortunate enough to have resources like musical instruments, a theatre department, enough lab materials for each class to share, gym class equipment, and relatively updated textbooks. Walking into the building, you’d expect a well-functioning, happy learning environment. And for the most part it was, for the people who wanted to be there and knew how to make the most of our limited, but adequate resources. But, again, motivation was the biggest hurdle that most students (and some faculty members) had to get over; a lot of students just weren’t motivated enough to care. And I think this is a big part the whole education experience that shouldn’t be overlooked – how to create a community that encourages an importance on education, while still making it enjoyable for everyone involved. If this problem had a simple solution we wouldn’t have any issues with any educational departments anywhere.  But the changes need to start in the community. Let’s take for example my high school, which was affected by NCLB because of poor test results, and in my senior year we had a complete overhaul of how our school day was divided.  The entire student body was split up into 6 areas of interest/concentration, and apart from our required core courses, we had to choose our classes based on those small “communities” we were placed in: performance arts, business, visual arts, engineering, health and science, and law/criminal justice; the Small Learning Communities system, which was almost like fulfilling a college major.  I think the idea behind this change was to keep students interested in their classes and hoping that their grades would reflect this.  But with the way things were scheduled, it made it difficult for say, a visual arts student to take a particular health-science elective that may have sounded interesting.  For the most part, students were stuck with a curriculum filled with classes based in one medium, which made classes seem disproportionately challenging, and limiting in regards to what every student had a chance to learn. But it wouldn’t matter because each student would be (in theory) churning out good grades to report, which was the most important thing when it came to getting funding. Again, since it was in my senior year, I was only subjected to this new system for a short while, and I don’t really know how things ended up in subsequent years since it was beyond my caring (an error on my part, since I do live in the community).  But after browsing the school website for a little bit, it seems like they did away with the communities and went back to allowing students to pick electives on their own. But one thing potential positive that came...

The Other Half of the Cup

This was originally written and posted Oct. of 2013 I don't re-post work often, I once again find myself in a place where I need to be reminded that there is more than just platitudes behind the meaningful work we do. The month of May with all the press, and anxiety of testing can get us frustrated as teachers. It is difficult to see the beautiful forests of education when you are being thwacked with tree branches. It a tough job.  As the post-it on my wall reminds me "the job is bigger than you, always was, always will be." 51 million kids are going to be going to public schools this year That almost 90% of the kids in the U.S. go through the public school system. 47% of those kids are in the free or reduces lunch program which is the politically correct term for families that have personal knowledge of the poverty line. The curriculum someone else created for us to teach in first grade has been pushed to down and is now supposed to be taught in half-day kindergarten classrooms. No one in government can seem to agree on what they think we should teach and none of them seems to be smart enough to ask the teachers that might actually be able to come up with an answer. The conservatives think we’re idiots that are brain washing their kids, The liberals think we’re to be pitied and brainwashed like idiots. So then I step back, and I do what I have told my students to do.  Turn off the noise, and look for some the facts The fact is we have some serious issues in public education, and lots of people are pointing those out. What seems to fly under the radar of people is other side of that fact list.  The fact  that we have had serious success as well. So I am making an active choice to look at my educational glass as half full… and in need of repair The dropout rate has dropped consistently over the last 40 years. The literacy rate in the US is 99% for those 15 years old and above. More students than ever before (21.6 million or 68%) will be going on to some kind of secondary education this September. 9 of the last 12 presidents have been gone through the public school system. Since 1901, 555 Nobel Prizes have been awarded.  338 of those prizes have been garnered by the U.S; more than a third of those were students from our public school system. In 2013, 5 Americans won a Noble Prize, more individuals than any other country.   Four of the five came through the public school system. Wynton Marsalis, Carlos Santana, Maya Angelou, Andy Warhol, Steven Spielberg, Colin powell, Alvin Ailey, and Blake Shelton, Ben Carson,  Warren buffett, Tom Brokaw, Mitch McConnell, Christ Christie, Toni Morrison, Mit Romney, Annie Liebovitz all graduated from the public school system. Six of our Supreme Court justices are products of a public school education. I am not saying the public education system is the US is perfect, I am telling you...

STEM Education grows from the Root

When the world talks about STEM education for the most part they talk around elementary teachers rather than to us.  Not as an insult or slur upon our value, simply as a mater or course. Most “real” science does not start until middle school or even high school; and for schools in poverty perhaps not even then. However, with the need to develop more students ready to step into STEM careers, and the corresponding efforts to grow educational foundations in those area elementary science will play a pivotal role. A 2012 report on student motivation toward STEM careers, out of The University of Nevada (How to Motivate US Students to Pursue STEM Careers by Md. Mokter Hossain, Michael G. Robinson) seems to disagree. Their paper suggested “Students need to be inspired in STEM subjects beginning in the middle school grades with course work extracurricular activities focusing on honing problem solving skills in the high school grades.” While I have no issue with the research of the Nevada team I believe their conclusion is short-sighted on two fundamental points. Students are not inspired by course work and extracurricular programs. They do those things because they have already been inspired.  Perhaps more importantly, waiting to provide inspiration until middle and high school is a large part of the problem. Where the extracurricular programs studied by the Nevada team found success were in projects where students could create and own their projects and therefore their success. These programs, like Science Olympiad and First Robotics are building and inspiring students to continue to pursue lofty and rigorous goals. However these activities are limited to those teens that already see appeal in such groups. In effect, they enhanced the growth rate of the STEM but not the root. A child’s opinion and attitude toward both math and science is formed long before they enter middle school.  Even the most conservative estimates suggest that student perceptions of their own abilities are established by seven or eight years old. While there is a clear distance between perceived ability and inspiration, there is also a tangible link connecting the two. Students, who do not feel they can be successful in math or science are less likely to be inspired to do math and science. Planning to ignite a flame in the belly of young science students in middle school is akin to trying to gather firewood on a rainy day.  The task is restricted to those that have been sheltered from the storm unless someone was smart enough to plan well ahead.  If parents and teachers do not create a receptive and fertile field for STEM inspiration in elementary school the quality and quantity of science programs in middle school and beyond will only serve the a same small percentage of the population. When we are successful we feel empowered to continue; the rush of dopamine through our brains masks the memory of painful struggles and past loss to convince us that we our masters of our own destiny. Students that are successful in math and science work harder than...

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