My think tank team got together today and discussed some really great WHAT IF questions that inspired us to think about potential solutions for our wicked problem.
Our wicked problem is Rethinking Teaching which ultimately means we want to find a way to redefine what skills, resources and support are necessary for the 21st century learning environment. In essense, we have trickled down this broad topic into three main key ideas to push us toward the best “bad” solution. Those key points that we have
Visually this is how I personally have been thinking or imagining how our wicked problem would eventually find potential solutions or a best “bad” solution:
We came up with three questions to help push us ultimately toward our solution for Rethinking Teaching:
How can we prepare teachers to utilize student led-questioning and inquiry based questions in the classroom?
How can legislators implement better policies to provide support and resources to all educational institutions?
How could we use technology to assist teachers in innovative thinking?
As a group we came up with a total of 18 questions that will take about 5 minutes to answer. We are planning to send these questions out through our professional learning networks so that we can get a varied mix of responses. These responses will remain anonymous and we will analyze them to better understand our wicked problem and suggest a solution.
If you are reading this blog please consider answering this short survey about the wicked problem of Rethinking Teaching in our professional context.
I have crafted this survey for an assignment that is part of my graduate program in educational technology at Michigan State University. I also hope that the results will inform discussions and planning for technology integration in the work we do together, and with students.
Please complete this survey no later than Friday, October 13, 2017. Thank you very much for your time and insights.
Understanding the importance of one’s own Information Diet can help navigate through the wondrous perils of the 21st century. As an information consumer it is important for me to educate and understand how the algorithms of social media and the world wide web present information to me daily. More importantly, understanding affinity spaces and filter bubbles created by these algorithms can not only help me make more informed decisions daily, but also be able to pass this general knowledge to my students as they are consumed with technology and information almost every moment of their young adult lives.
This week in CEP 812 our focus is on our own Information Diet. I watched the YouTube video of Henry Jenkins discussing Participatory Culture and how we make content both in person and online to share our creative ideas or opinions. In this video Jenkins asks the question: “How do we grow from our participatory culture to participating in our political and civic structures?” By addressing this, he is hoping that consumers and creators will take what they are reading, learning, doing and creating online, and find ways to become more engaging, not just for themselves, but for a larger, mass audience. His example about using Wikipedia in the classroom, is a great way that teachers can support using online community-driven resources to teach and participate with others who are interested in similar ideas (or books, projects, etc).
In James Paul Gee’s (2013) book, The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning, Gee talks about filter bubbles and how the internet, based on the interests we share online, create filters (or algorithms) to only show us information that we would be interested in. For example, even if you don’t share what political party you are affiliated with Facebook, the company still will label you as a specific political affiliate based on the stories you share and/or the public figures and pages that you follow. From there, Facebook will be more likely to only show you stories from specific political parties or share advertisements with you based on the political label you are associated with.
Even with all of these filter bubbles already established by the Internet, we then have our own “confirmation bias,” where we seek out information that would support and confirm our own beliefs; potentially ignoring anything that isn’t what we agree with.
Beyond the participatory culture that we have, the filter bubbles that have been created for us and our very own confirmation bias, some may worry that all of this constant information we are exposed to online may negatively impact how we are able to create and think daily.
I think that it is possible that we have already been consuming quick facts and bits of information constantly, especially with the invention of the SmartPhone, we are constantly bombarded by information every moment we touch the phone. And those quick bits of information aren’t necessarily accurate, nor are they real.
Looking at my own behaviors and that of my students, the moment we get a notification to our phones, we automatically reach for the phone to start consuming. And whether we want to or not, we have our own biases and filters to the information that we are given. The wicked problem I face as an educator is what are the limitations and expectations of the Information Diet my students (and myself) experience daily and how can I help my educate my students to be better consumers (or thinkers) when they are accessing this information online?
Thinking about my own Personal Learning Network (or PLN) of other educators that I interact with regularly, I think this directly effects how I not only receive information, but also share information. As soon as I receive information that I think will change or make my job as an educator more difficult, I immediatley share it on Facebook, Twitter and/or in-person. Normally that information is coming directly from my filter bubble of liberal mindsets and that may not always be a reliable source.
Not only did I really enjoy all of the readings and videos presented this week in class, but it really forced me to think about what information I consume daily. Thinking about it, I went immediately to Twitter and looked at everything that I have been following. Mostly educators, technology enthusiasts and the like — and I thought about who and/or what I could follow to open my eyes to other people or companies to follow that may not necessarily be something that would follow regularly. I added our current Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, as I don’t agree with her strategies at the moment and also added twitter accounts that specifically post about being both for/against Core Curriculum standards. I am a huge advocate of Apple’s platforms, so I decided to also follow other platforms like Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows Twitter as well.
I did the same thing with my RSS feed, adding more news feeds that don’t necessarily follow the same educational and political viewpoints that I currently hold. For example, adding Fox News, the National Education Association and various feeds that talk about No Child Left Behind. I also deleted a few feeds, like Huffington Post, as I have found out through previous HuffPost journalists that the organization mostly focuses on “click-bait,” rather than accuracy.
I also tried finding blogs and articles from sources that don’t agree with the Foreign Language learning requirement of high school students in the state of Michigan — seeing as that is more specific to my current career.
After adding these sources to my own infodiet, I think this will help me have more of an open mind (and filter bubble) as I research my Wicked Problem Project (or WPP), as well as how I interact directly with my PLN. Having a wide range of viewpoints (both conservative/liberal and or for/against) on topics involving education will allow me to think about my WPP with an open-mind (maybe even with a blank canvas). It will also allow me to be more open with what information I take in and force me to gather and share different perspectives and viewpoints with my professional learning network . Ultimately this will allow me to be more realistic (and accurate) with my own inquiries and solutions as I navigate through my wicked problem project on rethinking teaching. And in turn, as I work with my Think Tank for this project, my partners will also become a part of my PLN.
Moving forward into week 2 of CEP 812, I read through the first two chapters of Warren Berger’s (2014) book, “A More Beautiful Question.” Berger, a journalist, decided to understand more about “the power of inquiry,” as he discovered that for many people, “their greatest successes — their breakthrough inventions, hot start-up companies, the radical solutions they’d found to stubborn problems — could be traced to a question (or a series of questions) they’d formulated and then answered,” (Berger, 2014. p. 1).
I too understand the inquiry that goes into journalism and felt connected to Berger when he was sparked to follow through on this topic after discovering it from a completely separate project he was working on. As an educator, I can agree to an extent his questioning of the current U.S. education system in that students are forced to sit still for hours at a time and have all of the right answers. “…Many educators and learning experts contend that the current system of education does not encourage, teach, or in some cases even tolerate questioning,” (Berger, 2014. p. 46).
Berger interviews Harvard’s Tony Wagner, who explains that:
“‘Somehow, we’ve defined the goal of schooling as enabling you to have more ‘right answers’ than the person next to you. And we penalize incorrect answers. And we do this at a pace — especially now, in this highly focused test-prep universe- where we don’t have time for extraneous questions,’” (Berger, 2014. p. 46).
This, in particular, is what got me thinking about the school that I currently teach at. I teach at a charter high school in Detroit where the majority of our students are reading at an elementary (some at a middle school) level. We are constantly bombarded by tests, this year alone, we have already scheduled our students to take the NWEA test four times, ANET testing four times, SAT, Work Keys, MSTEP (and I’m sure there are more tests that I am forgetting). We are constantly pushing our students to work toward exams and offer incentives to students who test well and achieve high scores. I feel this takes away many opportunities for our students to be creative or more inquisitive in their classes because they are expected to remember facts for a test. And when a teacher’s “effectiveness” rating is tied to the students’ test scores, I think that there are times when many educators feel bombarded and/or rushed to not only teach the curriculum but also get students caught up on the previous curriculum that they are so behind in.
In the second chapter of Berger’s book, he asks the question: “If we’re born to inquire, then why must it be taught?” He discusses the Right Question Institute and their involvement in helping educators and businesses teach their students (or employees) how to ask questions and how to evolve their thinking through questioning. This section was the most impactful for me because it had me thinking about my own classroom, and gave me ideas on ways that I could impact the students I teach daily.
I am quite grateful that I am a Spanish teacher — technically a required elective class— so I feel I can be more creative activities with my students. The “Question Formulation Technique,” from Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana’s Right Question Institute is something I’d like to incorporate in my own classroom. It allows students who normally sit in pairs (or groups) to ask questions (rather than answer them).
The program designed for K-12 classrooms goes like this:
1. Teachers design a Question Focus (Q-Focus).
2. Students produce questions (no help from the teacher; no answering or debating the questions; write down every question; change any statements into questions).
3. Students improve their questions (opening and closing them).
4. Students prioritize their questions. They are typically instructed to come to an agreement on three favorites.
5. Students and teachers decide on next steps, for acting on the prioritized questions.
6. Students reflect on what they have learned.
(Berger, 2014. p. 65)
I think incorporating activities like this into my Spanish class will give ALL students an opportunity to participate (because they’re not required to KNOW facts), and it will allow them to participate more in how they are learning (and even what they are learning). It will also provide them the necessary support to know how to formulate questions that will get them to solutions in the long-run.
As educators, it is our goal to help our students continually grow and if we prevent them from understanding how to question more openly and freely to find new ideas, we are doing them a disservice (more so than when we don’t teach them straight curriculum facts).
Ever wonder how to ask the right question? Check out this video from Hal Gregersen during a TEDxYouth Talk about people can learn how to ask questions to navigate the challenges of today.
Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: the power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.