Thursday, January 31, 2013

Teachers and Deep Learning

Standardized test have been getting a bad rap for the past few years, and now educators are coming up with alternatives. Or at least to supplement them. Deep learning is starting to be introduced in education circles. Are you doing deep learning, or have you even heard of it?

What is Deep Learning?
Well, it would seem it would be the opposite of shallow learning. That is, learning something just because the teacher says to. Like learn the state capitals. Can you go any "deeper" than that? We will discuss that. But in short, deep learning means to go beyond just learning something superficial. To go deeper in the subject, most importantly, introduce a real world connection to what is being learned. Most beneficial deep learning would involve something hands-on.

Here are some examples of deep learning.
For state capitals, for example, a student could draw a floor plan of the departments of the state, and label how each department is run and interacts with the public. Students could even build a scale model. A classroom could put on a play on how a law gets passed in their state.

Now do you get the idea of deep learning?

If your science lesson was on solar power, students could construct a solar project that used solar power to perform some task.

Any subject, it would seem, can go deeper into learning.

Fractions, students could measure pieces of wood, then add up the total in inches using fractions. They could even construct a small model using plans that include fractions in measurements.

We can't give each and every example of deep learning and a school subject, but each teacher should be able to come up with something "deeper."

Here are some generals ideas for deep learning.
Write a script and put on a play, skit, video, or even puppet show. Build or construct something. Draw diagrams. Put together a scrapbook. Keep a journal. Make a game. Design and model costumes. Have a mock trial. Teachers, are ideas going around in your heads now?

Are there problems with deep learning? Yes. Your students will not be used to it, so you will need to guide and sell them. It can be time consuming, and might take away from facts and figures that are part of the core curriculum in them. So, you need to devise ways of getting the core curriculum involved as well. Some projects are better done in groups. You will encounter lazy students. Some parents might object that their child cannot complete things. As an experienced teacher, you should be able to handle all these problems.

Here's two last things on deep learning. One, if you were a GREAT teacher now, chances are you are already doing things like this anyway! It's just good teaching. Second, we will still need standardized tests in some form. It's just the way the real world works. Standardized tests are not going away, and they are actually used in may careers and licenses.

Deep learning should make teaching and learning not only more enjoyable, but more effective!

>> Free worksheets for classroom teachers.

>> Substitute teacher tips and tricks.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Homework does not equal more learning

In the past few years, it seems that teachers have been encouraged to pile on more homework, in the hope that it creates more learning. So, teachers have obliged, and now they seem to be fine with more homework.

However, popular opinion is growing in the opposite direction. More and more parents are beginning to see the burden that homework has put on their children. Many advocacy groups are showing similar opinions.

The conclusion will soon be reached that more homework does not lead to more learning.

It may have the opposite effect. Teachers just scramble to give homework with little thought as to the reason. Just assign something, actually pulling students away from enjoying learning what they are supposed to be responsible for.

AP classes are also being looked at Dartmouth College will no longer give college credit for them in a couple of years.

More homework puts stress on everybody involved with your child's learning. The child is stressed with more work. The parent is stressed trying to fit family time and activities around homework. Teachers are stressed because more homework means more grading, more paper work, and more planning.

Children are in school for roughly 6-7 hours a day. Does it make sense to give them more work? Would you like to work 8 hours, then your boss give you 2 more hours of activity at home to reinforce your work skills? Hardly.

Children need down time to regroup and be kids. They need to socialize and interact with family and friends. A better adjusted student is more inclined to be a better student overall.

Want tips on how to implement homework in your class? Try: Teachers and using homework effectively.

You might also like: Best teacher books.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teachers and Social Media

Everybody is using social media, including teachers. Facebook, twitter, and youtube are probably the most popular social sharing sites on the net. Should teachers be using them? Should schools have rules about how to use them? Is it appropriate for teachers to share classroom photos or incidents? Should teachers be punished for using these sites inappropriately?

Right now, there is a teacher in hot water for posting pictures of some of her students with duck tape over their mouths, with a caption about how to keep kids quiet.

Should that teacher be punished? For what? Using social media or duck taping students' mouths?

You must have a complete lapse of your brain if you use duck tape in that manner, and then post it.

The bottom line is this. Teachers are in the public eye and need to maintain a certain trust level with society. Teachers do have some sort of a moral clause in their contracts, even if this is not spelled out completely.

So why would a teacher jeopardize their career by doing anything inappropriate? Posting on facebook is actually a nonissue.

Facebook is just a way of getting caught.

Do not post anything personal about your classroom, students, or school. That could get you in trouble for violating students right to privacy.

Every teacher should be expected to know what is appropriate to post. Nobody should need to spell that out.

Teachers are under a microscope. Do not give anyone a reason to think you are behaving badly and give them reasons to discipline you.

Even blocking a facebook account to only certain people is not a good idea either, if you post inappropriate things. There is never any guarantee of your postings staying hidden. Why take that chance?

School districts should not need to have a policy. It's just common sense. Do you lack common sense as a teacher? I hope not.

Social media can be a great thing, but it can be a two edged sword. Teachers should especially use it wisely.

>> How to use homework effectively.

>> How to be a teacher.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Should school day and year be extended?

Teachers and public education are under fire from all sides of the political aisle. No state or district seems safe from being pressured into making school and students better. Two proposals seem to be getting a lot of attention these days. Either making the school day longer, or adding days to the school year. What do you think? Do we need to lengthen the school day and year?

The ones who are for it, seem to make the argument that making either the school day longer, or school year, will mean students are in the classroom learning longer. And, logic goes, that if students are in the classroom longer, then they must be learning more, right? It can't be anything but good to make school longer.

Those opposed see no reason to do either. They feel that the schools are not being given the resources to adequately teach students. More money should be spent on schools and students, not longer days or years. They feel they are not given a chance now to teach as well as they should. A longer school day will not fix the problems in public schools.

So what's the bottom line? Making students spend time in the classroom under the belief that students will somehow learn more and better, makes no sense. The school day and year have been roughly the same for a very long time. So, why all of a sudden should it be longer? Money also is not the real problem. Money cannot buy a great teacher, nor can it force a student to perform. Every school in the country is funded for a basic education. It's really what each school and district do with their resources that is the problem.

When I taught in the public schools, I saw an enormous amount of time wasted at school. And I mean wasted as in no real teaching or learning going on. The first and last few minutes of a school day are basically for entering or leaving. Toss in recess and lunch, and you have little time for real instruction.

What are other school day time killers? I would be stepping on a lot of toes if I said what I saw on a regular basis. If you think teachers teach and students learn for 7 hours a day, you are sadly mistaken. Forget about Friday afternoons, especially Fridays before a Holiday break or 3 day weekend. Does your child have a Christmas party? Halloween party? Birthday parties for kids who have mothers bring in cupcakes? Ever here of Friday fun time?

I once was observed a class that could earn free time during the week. That is, for each amount of time they worked and listened, they earned a certain amount of free time on Friday.

Not to mention assemblies, walking to and from recess, library time, and other stuff done during the day that teachers do just to break up the monotony. Sometimes you need a break and just relax, but then why extend the school day? Just causes more time to be wasted.

I know a lot of teachers will be honest and admit that they "waste" a lot of classroom time doing non-educational things. Some would probably say it adds value to the school day.

The real solution would be to get teachers organized now with the time they have. principals need to be responsible for making teachers utilize the school day teaching and learning.

Extending the school day and year will do nothing.

Think about this. If your boss told you that you are going to start working 9 hours a day for 6 days, what you think? Especially if he or she told you that it was to improve quality of your work!

>> How to be an effective teacher.

>> How to be a teacher.