Which Way to Oz?

When Gardner states his belief that “…today’s formal education still prepares students for the world of the past, rather than for possible worlds of the future” many educators will nod in agreement. And yet, what are we doing to change that looking backward mentality?

The resources available to educators today are astounding, perhaps we might also say, overwhelming. How can we find the best way to approach our planning and teaching? How can we best reach our students? His research on mulitiple intelligences tells us that there is no one correct or best way to reach each and every student. We need a diversified approach, taking into consideration the varieties of ways in which individuals learn. Gardner states that if a subject is worth studying, “it is worth studying deeply over a significant period of time using a variety of examples and modes of analysis”. And in so doing, “Any lesson is more likely to be understood if it has been approached through diverse entry points.” (from Points 2 and 3, How To Discipline a Mind in Chapter 2)

With this in mind I searched through Discovery Streaming for video content which would support my goal of helping students to better understand the concept of “Digital Citizenship.” I have chosen this content area because although I work with teachers across the curriculum and may help to develop projects in science or social studies, health or religion, I feel a personal responsiblitiy as the “tech teacher’ to promote digital citizenship.

The video content I chose is “Internet Safety: Pitfalls and Dangers“, slightly over 16 minutes in length but available in six segments. The video also provides a review segment, a video quiz, blackline masters, and a Teacher’s Guide, as well as a sample letter to parents on the topic, asking them to also be involved in the discussion with their child. An especially nice feature of this video is the fact that the date is 2008, so the message is very timely for today’s student.

How shall I use this video? Let me count the ways…

  1. Each topic can be presented first by asking about students’ prior knowledge or pre-conceived notions and then playing the individual segment to reinforce, clarify, or correct what surfaced in discussion. Each video segment can then serve as a jumping off point for a more in-depth look at the topic within the unit on digital citizenship.
  2. The video segments could be placed as links in Assignment Builder, where students could view/ or re-view) and respond by summarizing the key points, either with in the builder or in an individual blog post. The accompanying supplementary materials provide questions that can be used as a quiz in the builder also.
  3. The video segments could also be embedded on a private wiki (which I use with each of my classes) to allow for viewing both at home or school, with discussion questions and students responses taking place in the wiki discussion area.
  4. Individual segments of the video could be assigned to groups of students to role play an appropriate scenario that represents the do’s and don’ts being presented. In this way there are “performances of understanding: (Point 4 How to Discipline a Mind) allowing students to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the topic than merely memorizing the “right answer”.
  5. Unfortunately this is not an editable video. If it were we could do such things as take an image or frame and perhaps add talking bubbles or narrate over it. I believe it would be permissible, however, to turn down the sound and have a student summarize the content of a segment on social networking or online shopping for use within the classroom only. A student could create a slide show in which the segment was embedded, and I am assuming still voice over that way, as long as the slide show were presented in class only. And of course the review segment would summarize and reinforce all the content and discussion and could serve as a unit wrap-up.

Having listed all this, I am faced with the age-old dilemma that in providing a variety of entry points and allowing different ways for students to demonstrate “conceptual ablility”, a unit of this nature could stretch out for weeks and weeks with a class that meets only once per week. When we are faced with curriculum guidelines that basically call for content that is “a mile wide and an inch deep”, how do we reconcile that with Gardner’s call for core knowledge to be “intense and acquired in meaningful context”? This has been my stumbling block with projects I have suggested to teachers who are worried about all they have to “cover. Until some of that pressure is removed, many teachers are afraid to go too far in depth and then “fall behind” in the curriculum. And with the ever-present state testing, what are we to do?

Yellow Brick Road Second LifeIs there an Emerald City of education where all these concerns can be resolved? If Gardner had a visiting superintendent who wanted to see examples of such-and-such because that is where you should be in the social studies curriculum, but instead he as the teacher had done a very in-depth project that took several weeks, how would he respond to the question? Does this say to us that there needs to be a revolution in thinking “at the top”? We educators have brains, and heart, and (for the most part) we ARE striving to create life-long learners. We need to gather up our courage and creativity and keep trying to do what will allow our students to “come to enjoy the process of learning about the world” and see learning as a joy rather than a chore. Perhaps we can see Emerald City in the distance, but the yellow brick road sure has a lot of bumps along the way.

2 thoughts on “Which Way to Oz?

  1. I loved this post and want to share it with the class. I appreciate you taking the assignment to another level.

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