Education, Motivation, Teaching

A Few Thoughts on Motivation

I’m currently reading about student motivation and how one of the things I should do is figure out what is “real” to them. What their reality looks like. I know many of my students last year had a part-time job because they either had to buy their own clothes and gas or they had to help pay the bills at home. I remember thinking that I couldn’t force them to learn something as pointless as chemistry when they had real-life problems to worry about. This is why it’s so important to me to teach things that matter. Teach skills that matter. Don’t get me wrong, I think chemistry and algebra and the other subjects are important, just not as important as helping provide for yourself or your family – especially when you’re planning a career as a mechanic or accountant or something that has nothing to do with chemistry.

I need for the things they learn to be relevant so that I have the motivation to teach it just as they have the motivation to learn it. That’s one of the reasons I’m so interested in project-based learning. And why I was so interested in the education chapter in the “Abundance” book discussing the fundamental things students need to learn to be successful. I want to feel like I am teaching my students skills that will stay with them, not facts that they will soon forget. I hate wasting time – mine or others’. I very much teaching concepts for the sake of teaching concepts. Students need to know how to apply what they learn in creative ways to solve problems.

While I do have academic standards that I have to teach, they can be a result of teaching more important skills. I can use PBL’s and similar type lessons to teacher collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. Due to the nature of the projects, they will also learn specific chemistry concepts along the way. Since they learned these concepts as part of a bigger picture project, they should also be able to remember the concepts longer. The projects will also help with self-confidence, speaking in front of others, reading and writing, and research skills.

My ideal class would be me teaching every concept with a PBL, but I don’t see that as reality. Especially teaching two subjects in only my second year. I haven’t even honed my classroom management plan. But maybe. The reward would be great and surely I have the ability and resources to do this. At least with chemistry since I’m more familiar with the subject (it’s the only class I taught last year). And I have two great teachers on my chemistry team and two great math teachers on my algebra team. So maybe I can pull it off. I’m actually a bit doubtful, but I know that if I push on and pretend that I know I can do it, I’ll be a lot better off and have a better shot of doing it.

Either way, I have to make one by the end of the week. I’m in PBL training and that’s the end goal. I’ll go more into that later. This was supposed to be a short thoughts post. Oops.

What non-academic skills were you taught, or do you wish you were taught, in high school?

Teachers, do you ever feel unmotivated to teach your content because you feel it’s not important? What skills, lessons, or content would you be motivated to teach?

Children, Family, Kids

What To Do with Children (no, seriously, please tell me)

I clearly do not know how to handle children that have been put into my care. Surly teenagers, that’s my jam. Even pre-pubescent pre-teens I can handle. But young children, I haven’t a clue. I can’t even play Clue with them. I can’t play most games with them and the youngest is nowhere near ready for jigsaw puzzles. Those are my go-to moves and I can’t even use them, but at 6 and 3, there’s not much I can do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these kids, but I think sometimes it’s hard to tell in the way I show it. They are my boyfriends’ girls and the most important two people in his life, even though we don’t get them often. They are adorable and funny, but also stubborn and annoying. They laugh, they cry, they puke, they sing, they dance, they whine, and they won’t eat the food we put in front of them (which, my sister says is total karma).

I probably come off surly around them, but I don’t mean to be. I don’t feel surly. I just want them to be good kids, and I tend to go over-board controlling on things that I feel responsible for (thank you responsibility strength). So, I end up telling them don’t do this and stop that more than I say good job and keep it up. I don’t mean to. Really I don’t. I just want them to be good kids. But what defines a good kid?

Just like in the classroom, I think what I need is a set of definite expectations and rules for the kids to be successful kids. That can help a lot with using positive language instead of negative language. Instead of saying “don’t complain” I can say “is that being grateful? No? Then let’s try being grateful instead.” I swear I did more of that last time we had them for more than a few days, but I think it may have taken a few days to get there. My boyfriend has even said, “I know you don’t like the girls” to me before, which hurts because it isn’t true at all and I hate that I might come off that way. I swear I don’t mean to. It’s hard for me to try and rationalize with a human or is unable or barely able to rationalize. How else are you supposed to interact with someone?

I think a lot of it is the blatant selfishness of the kids. But it’s not just them. It’s all young children. And they really aren’t that bad compared to other kids I’ve seen. It’s in their nature and enforced in our culture. With this land of plenty, they have room to want things because all their needs are met and then some. So, being a tiny, adorable human that the world clearly revolves around, they want and want and want. Then they are so disappointed when you say no, it makes it seem like they don’t care at all about what they do have and everything that you have given them and done for them. It’s hard to be nice to someone like that. It makes you not want to do things for them. So, I’ve been saying don’t whine and don’t be selfish instead of be grateful, and I come off like I don’t like them.

But they do like me. They shout my name and run when they see me. They give me random hugs that melt my heart. They call mean ‘aunt’ because they want to feel connected to me more than just some girl in their life. And they love for me to do things with them – when I can figure out what to do with them. I suppose they are quick to forget the “don’t do this” and “stop that”s that I feel like I am constantly saying to them. But I don’t. I hate feeling like I have more negative interactions with them than positive ones. In the classroom, it’s good to have a least a 3 to 1 positive to negative comment/interaction ratio. I wan’t to apply that with these kids, too.

Back to needing expectations. Expectations will help me keep the important stuff in mind and let everything else go. They’re still unique humans after all, and I need to let them be them instead of being so controlling. Below I’m going to try and sketch out some expectations and what they mean in order to be successful and happy children.

  1. I expect them to be respectful. This means saying ma’am and sir.
  2. I expect them to be polite. This means saying please, thank you, you’re welcome, and bless you.
  3. I expect them to be grateful. This means showing appreciation for the food they get, the things they get, the people they get to spend time with, and the places they get to go and things they get to do.
  4. I expect them to want things, but to be graceful about it. This means politely asking for something and then saying yes sir or yes ma’am and moving on when told ‘no.’
  5. I expect them to be healthy. This means eating a good portion of the vegetables and meat we serve them and staying away from anything with sugar.
  6. I expect them to be children. This means playing, laughing, singing, blowing snot bubbles, crying, falling, puking, and giving random hugs that melt your heart.

I understand that number 4 may still be unrealistic for the younger one. Maybe even the older one. Or maybe we just haven’t gotten a chance to work on it enough. At least with these expectations in mind, I can use more positive language to steer them towards expected behavior and away from negative behavior, instead of just telling them to stop the negative behavior.

I still have no idea how to handle the younger one when she completely ignores me telling her to do something. But her dad doesn’t seem to fare much better, so maybe there’s not a good way. Or maybe we’re both doing it wrong. Suggestions?

How do you interact with children this young? Do you have any games or activities that an adult could do with a 6 and a 3-year-old? We take them to parks and play places and the pool, but I want something indoors that I or we can do with both of them that doesn’t involve watching TV. Do you have any suggestions or insights for someone who isn’t used to interacting with young children? I clearly need some help in this area and would love to read your input, insight, and suggestions. Thank you.

Education, Technology

Abundance in Education – This Time it’s Personal

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the last few posts, I summarized the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“This Time It’s Personal” (186-188) is the last section in the Education chapter. It emphasizes the fact that everyone has different learning preferences and with technology being the educator, every student can have their own personalized learning experienced. They quote James Gee talking about the superior testing method of video games to standardized tests. Video games are constantly testing a student’s ability to solve the next problem, and until they do they can’t continue the game. Games can also collect a lot of data on each student as they progress. Personally, I don’t like standardized tests because the who class becomes focused on teaching to the test instead of just teaching. It means that information must be presented in a way that would help a student pass a test rather than really learn the material. It discourages hands-on learning because that’s not how tests work, but when I tested my students on what type of learner they were (visual, auditory, or kinesthetic), the majority were kinesthetic (hands-on learner). This means that the standardized tests are a poor method for assessing their learning.

What do you think about the future of education and technology? What vision do you see for our future classrooms? I see students getting a personalized learning experience with games, reading and writing activities, video lessons, and virtual labs.

 

Education, Technology

Abundance in Education – The Wrath of Khan

Image is from the Khan Academy Facebook Page

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the last new and next few posts, I am summarizing the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“The Wrath of Khan” (184-186) talks about the start of Khan Academy and it’s mission to provide free education to anyone with an internet connection. Salman Khan was tutoring his younger cousins via short videos that he posted on YouTube. His cousins prefered the videos to in-person tutoring because they could pause, rewind, skip ahead, and re-watch. They could learn at their own pace.

Khan Academy’s mission is incredible to me and I had no idea that they basically have full on courses you can take on so many different subjects. I usually just use it to show me how to solve complicated math problems in higher college math courses. According to the book they partnered with the Los Altos School District in California to basically create a flipped classroom. Assigned homework was in the form of Khan videos and class time was utilized to solve problems on the Khan site, which the students received points on the site for doing.

Students would get merit badges for every so many points and getting the points and badges became addicting to many students. This hones with an earlier section in the book that said that learning needs to become addictive. I have always found that getting points and showing percent complete has made me want to strive for perfection in video games. This sounds like it can create a similar desire. It promotes mastery-based learning if the students are striving for 100% on one skill in a subject before moving on to the next. This is something I absolutely want to look into more.

Have you used Khan Academy to learn anything? What was it and did it work for you? I would love to read about your experience implementing any aspect of Khan Academy in your classroom.

Education, Technology, Video Games

Abundance in Education – James Gee Meets Pajama Sam

Image from here.

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the last few and next few posts, I am summarizing the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insite on each section.

“James Gee Meets Pajama Sam” (182-184) is my favorite section so far. It’s about video games and learning. Apparently, video games actually teach stuff – who knew. Dr. James Gee got into research of video games and learning because he wanted his six-year-old son to develop better problem-solving skills. He got him a game called Pajama Sam. It was more difficult than expected, but very engaging – like many video games can be.

Video games aren’t as relaxing as watching TV. Many of them provide a constant learning curve or creative outlet. He explains how Pokemon can help teach young children to read because the game is designed for 5 year olds, but the reading involved is at a 12th grade level, requiring that a parent read allowed for the child until s/he gets the hang of it. “World-building games like SimCity and RollerCoaster Tycoon develop planning skills and strategic thinking,” (183).

Games can be incorporated into learning to teach fact-based subjects, visual coordination, creativity, collaborative skills, and more. They take students through the scientific method as a student is presented with a new problem, has to analyze and develop a hypothesis to deal with said problem, then test it out and take mental note of the cause and effect.

Some teachers have been using video games in the classroom. For example, “Jeremiah McCall…makes his students compare the battle depictions in Rome: Total War against the historical evidence,” (183-184). Lee Sheldon decided to use a game-based grading system where students come in on day one as level 0 characters and work to achieve level 12. This means that everything they do in the classroom gives them experience points to help them level up – just like in a video game. I actually had this idea when I was considering teaching middle school instead of high school. It kind of got shot down by a few peers (mostly because I shared it as a grain of an idea and not a full, thought-out plan), but this has certainly renewed my interest in that concept. I still think it would work better in middle school or lower, but maybe it would work with high school students. I could also ask my kids next year what they think about the idea and then share the idea with my peers here (who are a lot more supportive than my previous ones).

The book also mentions a school called Quest2Learn in New York. It is a public school founded by Katie Salen and it has a “curriculum based on game design and digital culture,” (184). I wonder how I can incorporate video games into chemistry and algebra. We have virtual labs that have “games,” and those do get some of the students more engages, but they’re not the same as an actual video game. This is certainly something I will want to look into more as the school year goes on while I lesson plan, but probably won’t be something that gets fully developed in my second year of teaching.

What do you think about incorporating gaming in the classroom?  What game-themed things would you be interest in trying or seeing in a classroom? Have you introduced any games as part of your lesson? How did it go?

Community, Education

Abundance in Education – Another Brick in the Wall

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the next few posts, I am going to summarize the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“Another Brick in the Wall” (179-182) talks about how schools were set up in during the industrial revolution and are set up like assembly lines where a bell sends a group of students from one class to another to all be taught the same subjects at the same age. For 150 years the way schools run has not changed and Sir Ken Robinson has been a voice calling for reform, saying that schools squash creativity and hold back potential.

A big issue the book points out is that no one can agree on what comprises success, so we don’t have an agreed upon set of goals for schools to accomplish. This leads to students going to college without being able to apply their knowledge (if they even retained it), interpret complex readings, think analytically, perform research, or write clearly. The book states that “50% of all students entering college do not graduate,” (181) and those that do graduate are not really ready for the workforce. I know I wasn’t ready to be an engineer after engineering school. I had a steep learning curve in the office after school and I feel like I didn’t even apply a lot of what I learned. Much of the stuff I did apply, I had to re-learn or refresh my memory.

I read a post a while back by an american teacher who taught in another country (Finland, maybe) and high school was at least set up with specific goals in mind. Students could choose between three different high school programs based on what they planned to do after school: go into the workforce, go to a trade school, or go to college. Each program was catered to prepare the students for where they planned to go after college. Students also had more options in classes to cater to what kind of trade school they would go to or what they planned to major in in college. I love this idea. It offers a clear purpose with specific goals for the school to accomplish with the students. And the students get to feel like what they are learning is applicable to their own lives. They also only go to school from around 9:30 to 2:30 so they are just taking advantage of the peak performance hours for teens and not burning out the students or the teachers, but that’s a rant for another time. (I so wish we did that here for our poor kids.)

Back to the book. This section goes on to mention that memorizing facts isn’t a needed skill in a world with Google, “but creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving” are the major skills needed to succeed in today’s workforce. They also still need the three R’s and corporate executives say they want people that “ask the right question,” (181).

Schools need to change, but how is the question. They need to more entertaining than TV and video games and learning needs to be addictive. I have no idea how we achieve that, but I can at least try to incorporate those bold skills into my chemistry lessons so they are learning the material and the skills they need to be successful. What ideas do you have for incorporating teaching creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving in a chemistry or algebra class? How do you teach those things in your classes? As a parent, what skills do you want to see your child gain in school? As an employer, what skills do you see are lacking that need more support?

Education, Teaching, Technology

Abundance in Education – One Tablet Per Child

My mother is reading this book called “Abundance – The Future is Better Than You Think” by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. She marked a chapter titled “Education” starting on page 174 and told me I would be interested in this. I am. If you’re interested in education, not just teaching, I think you would be too. In the next few posts, I am going to summarize the sections in this chapter so I can remember them and hopefully you will likewise find it interesting and provide your own insight on each section.

“One Tablet Per Child” (177-179) talks about the importance of students having access to technology and the internet, especially in higher poverty areas where students are less likely to get a good education. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an organization that attempts to get a laptop, chomebook, or tablet in the hands of every student. The program has been very successful dropping truancy to zero, which means that students are feeling that what they are doing in school actually matters.

They quote a book called “The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – And What We Can Do About It,” by Tony Wagner. It talks about how half of the students that drop out of high school do so because they don’t feel like what they are learning is relevant, not because they didn’t have the ability to finish. I’m with them. I came close to dropping out because I felt like high school was a waste of my time. Luckily my parents would not let me and I had a lot of support to stay in school.

Having technology and teaching students to use it to learn whatever they need to learn is a transferable skill that applies to today’s world.  Maybe I should work harder to have more technology in the classroom. We have access to chromebook carts and ipad carts as well as the computer room. But it’s all first come first serve. I’m also not sure how to utilize it in a way that would make content more meaningful. Just more computerized. How do you use technology in the classroom to make the content more meaningful?

Do you agree that providing a laptop, chromebook, or tablet for every child would benefit their education? Why or why not?