Over spring break, I had a lot of things that I read and participated in a lot of twitter conversations. During that time, I wondered how school could be changed for the better for our students. One of those things is to allow student choice.
This is where the problem for today comes in. I am in the middle of my BioMed class right now and my students are working on a project where they discuss cholesterol. The assignment lists the following:
The assignment can be done in a variety of formats. Suggestions are brochures, newsletter, PowerPoint, poster, webpage. I even gave an example of my 9-page spread project, movie/video, etc. It amazes me how students want to take the easy way out and do the PowerPoint as their choice. A couple of the students are branching out and doing the 9-page spread. In all, I am disappointed by the inability for students to be creative. I know that I have to teach them to be creative.
I asked the students if this was hard for them. A couple of them said no. Others gave no response. I followed up with "Is the project hard or coming up with an idea for presenting it hard?". Many responded that coming up with their way to present it was the hard part. For all of their educational lives, students have been told when they can go to the bathroom, when to get out their workbook, how to do their worksheets, how to write their name at the top of the paper, and the importance of memorizing facts so they can be regurgitated on a standardized test at the end of the school year. There is zero option for students to be creative and do things on their own.
Moving forward with educational reforms and incorporating the 4Cs in the classroom is going to be a challenge. I can see how teachers would want to give up and not do project based learning because of the lack of creativity that will take place with students. I also see how this is going to have to be modeled for students in order to be able to take their learning to the next level. I'm sitting here typing this and listening to students talk about SnapChat and other means for communication. I just had an idea of a presentation that could take place using pictures and SnapChat for creating this project. Do I give students that idea for doing this? Or do I let them continue down their path. If I give that idea, it is my idea; not their idea.
George Couros (@gcouros) has really great ideas for being innovative. The frustration that I have today from my classroom is a mere blip in the challenges that our students will face if we do not improve the delivery of instruction and allow them to explore their interests. We need to create the interest in the students first and foremost. From there, educators must foster the drive to inspire creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication skills. Without these skills, our students will fall behind their peers in other countries. I am not willing to let another year of students pass through my classroom without learning these important skills.
I am thinking already about how I will do this for next year. When we are learning basic classroom procedures, this will be part of the discussion. I know that each semester is going to be a challenge with changing students and not having the same students. Is it worth taking the time? Absolutely!! I may differ from other colleagues when I say this, but, my content is not as important to me or my students as teaching them life skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.
Today's reflections come to us from Mr. Kevin Self. Kevin is in his second year as a teacher at Pike High School. Prior to this, he served as a school administrator and teacher in 4 other schools in Indiana. He has taught multiple levels of science during his 20 year career. Technology and creativity are a major part of his classes.