The past seven weeks, my think tank team, consisting of Mick Haley,Regan Kwong and myself, have worked tirelessly on the wicked problem of Rethinking Teaching. We began tackling our wicked problem with a brainstorm of all of the questions that we have surrounding rethinking teaching. After much deliberation we broke down the questions into what the top 10 questions from the brainstorm and dwindled it down to the top 5 questions:
After much research and conversation, we came down to the three questions that ultimatley together could help us find the best “bad” solution to our wicked problem..
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?
After even more research, we decided to poll our Professional Learning Networks and created a Google Form Survey that was sent out and available for participants to respond for 1 week (from October 6, 2017 to October 13, 2017). In total we had 68 responses (mostly all educators from a wide range of locations), check out the questions and responses HERE.
After gathering the data and analyzing it, the next step to the process was finally coming up with the construction of our three-tiered solution to Rethinking Teaching. We decided to go with a PADLET to express our solutions to this wicked problem.
Although we came up with an idea that would show our best “bad” solution to rethinking teaching, I think the beauty in the entire process of experiencing this problem, is the idea that there really is no best solution to rethinking teaching. The question to all educators of How can we rethink teaching or more specifically, how can we rethink teaching to educate our 21st century students, doesn’t have a perfect solution. In fact, “to quote David Cooperrider, a beautiful question never sleeps,” (Berger, 2014. p211).
If anything, this wicked problem project provides some basic insight into some of the steps all stakeholders in education can look at to help reshape the way we educate our future.
Berger asks us to think about what our life’s beautiful question would be, and although, I don’t think I have yet stumbled upon my overall life question, I will say that the book helped me think about several questions directly related to my career and to think about where I am personally headed in my career as an educator. Ultimately, I want to be able to make an impact — so my beautiful question is “How can I make an educational impact?” — with the students that I teach at the high school level and the adult-learners I teach at Apple.
This past week we were introduced to Thomas L. Friedman’s idea that intelligence (or your IQ) eventually won’t be as important as someone’s curiosity (curiosity quotient or CQ) and passion (passion quotient or PQ) for creation. In breaking down my infographic, I decided to talk about the differences between passion and curiosity and how I feel connected to those as a student and as an educator. I thought about other beautiful questions that someone might ask as they learn more about PQ and CQ and connected it with my passion and curiosity for technology both in and outside of the classroom.
My goal as an educator is to continually ask those Why, What if and How questions in and outside of the classroom. I want to be able to provide my students with an opportunity to ask questions, use technology and collaborate with each other. And through TPACK, I plan to continue creating innovative and engaging lesson plans and collaborate with my Professional Learning Network while also continuing to expand who I follow within my own filter bubble so as to stay open-minded.
Finally, as I was working on this, I started thinking about how the role of an educator is changing. Especially since it’s common for those outside of the school setting to think that technology will wipe away (or replace) educators. So I decided to ask one last question — Are teachers obsolete?
It honestly feels like we (in the education system) are in the midst of a major change in the way we educate and become educated in the 21st century. Eventually the role of teachers will no longer be direct instructional practices as they once were famous for. No longer will the classroom look like one teacher in front asking questions, while students sitting in rows are answering those said questions. Teachers will be required to facilitate and mentor students to ask their own questions, discuss and collaborate with their peers and come up with their own solutions.
This week I got together with my Think Tank for my Wicked Problem Project. We brainstormed questions revolving around the wicked problem of Rethinking Teaching. After spending some time looking at the problem from several different standpoints – stubborn teacher, student and policy maker, we came up with three different sections to look at overall:
Use of Technology
These were the three main topics that came up as we ran through all of the questions we came up during our question brainstorming activity in week 3. After participating in the roundrobin discussion, we decided to prioritize our questions and came up with the following WHY questions:
Why can’t the teaching and questioning be put into the hands of the students and away from the teacher?
Why can’t traditional education change to be more hands-on?
Why can’t there be more support to help teachers experiment in the classroom?
Why are laws based on student performance on standardized assessment proficiency?
Why can’t teacher performance be based on collaboration throughout the district or based on teacher creativity or teacher-student relationships?
After breaking our generalized topic (rethinking teaching) into specific questions my further research this week based on these questions has shown me how important this topic really has become as the 21st century has changed the way students gather information and work in a classroom setting. I even came across an article from The Atlantic that questions the whole role of the teacher in general and asks the question of whether teachers are even necessary anymore. I am curious to see what the teaching profession could even become as rethinking education is a topic on the forefront of many policy makers and educational institutions in the United States.
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.
This past week in my CEP 812 course, we were introduced to various kinds of problems that we face regularly. Educators consistently learn from, create and help students understand and solve problems that fall under the categories of well-structured, ill-structured or wicked problems.
Focusing in this week on ill-structured problems, an ill-structured problem is one that Coulson, Feltovich and Anderson (2004) has described as learning situations in which, “many concepts (interacting contextually) are pertinent in the typical case of knowledge application, and that their patterns of combination are inconsistent across case applications of the same nominal type” (p. 641). Ultimately it is a problem where there isn’t one exact solution (like a well-structured problem), but rather one must look at multiple variables and be flexible in coming up with a solution (which the initial solution could potentially change or need a varying response at a later given time) to the problem.
As a Spanish teacher, I regularly face ill-structured problems in that I have to help my students acquire the necessary tools to be able to read, write and create in a language other than their primary language. I took some time diligently looking at what needs I consistently see in my classroom and I chose to look at the specific learning disability (SLDs) involved with basic reading and comprehension. My ill-structured problem is reading comprehension.
“Much evidence exists to indicate that phoneme segmentation – the ability to separate a word into its constituent phonemes – is strongly linked to reading disability and plays a primary role in the speed of initial reading acquisition. Poor readers have been found to have difficulty making explicit reports about word segments at phoneme level and their poor perception of phonemes negatively affects word decoding, the most fundamental problem for poor readers at all age levels,” (Sparks & Ganschow, p. 293).
Students who have a specific learning disability in basic reading and comprehension have difficulty understanding phonics and thus a greater difficulty decoding meaning from what they are reading. Ultimately, this makes it difficult for the student(s) to reproduce written or oral information in the target language after they’ve read in the target language.
Much of the structure of Spanish levels one and two are based around the key development and understanding of vocabulary and grammar structure to be able to reproduce thought through written and oral formats. When students have difficulty decoding words and comprehending sentences in their native language, doing the same thing but in a secondary (or foreign language) in theory could be just as difficult, or even more difficult.
“The theoretical assumption underlying our position is that individuals who have difficulties in the rule systems of their first language are likely to have related problems as they begin to learn a second language. For example, if a student has a poor phonological skill in the native language, concomitant difficulties will be experienced with the phonology of the [foreign language],” (Sparks & Ganschow, p. 290).
As discussed by Jonathan F. Arries, in his article entitled “An Experimental Spanish Course for Learning Disabled Students,” Arries talks about how a high school Spanish teacher had demonstrated a technique to help students with a learning disability comprehend the key vocabulary and grammar in a lesson.
“The teacher pre-taught the component graphemes and phonemes in the lesson and required her students to manipulate them multisensorily. She required her LD students to first look at the grapheme, listen to her pronounce the phoneme, copy the syllables, and finally say them aloud to a classmate. The objective of all these steps was to increase the probability that students would correctly read, write and remember the content of the vocabulary and grammar lesson,” (p. 113. 1994).
Reading as an ill-structured problem doesn’t have a specific answer, nor is there one specific way to address reading comprehension difficulties in a foreign language classroom. After talking with some of my peer educators and wanting to integrate more technology tools in my foreign language classroom, I found the website Quizlet to be a powerful and free (with additional paid options) source to help facilitate learning and understanding for a student with a learning disability in the foreign language classroom.
Quizlet allows the teacher to create a set of vocabulary flash cards, attach pictures to them so that meaning is given to the specific flash card, as well as provide the pronunciation of the word(s) with a click of the mouse. The website will store those word sets and students can refer back to it at home or from a mobile device and use it to study or play games from those vocabulary sets.
Ultimately, I believe Quizlet would enable a learner with a specific learning disability for basic reading comprehension to thrive academically because it allows them an opportunity to break down the structure of the vocabulary word through a visualization of the vocabulary terms, listen to someone pronounce the words and provides them with multiple ways to practice those functions both in and outside of the classroom.
Check out my screencast on Quizlet here for further information about this wonderful digital tool:
Arries, J. (1994). An Experimental Spanish Course for Learning Disabled Students. Hispania,77(1), 110-117. doi:10.2307/344462
Arries, J. (1999). Learning Disabilities and Foreign Languages: A Curriculum Approach to the Design of Inclusive Courses. The Modern Language Journal,83(1), 98-110. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/330409
Sparks, R., & Ganschow, L. (1993). Searching for the Cognitive Locus of Foreign Language Learning Difficulties: Linking First and Second Language Learning. The Modern Language Journal,77(3), 289-302. doi:10.2307/329098
Spiro, R.J., Coulson, R.L., Feltovich, P.J. & Anderson, D.K. (2004). Cognitive flexibility theory: Advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. In R.B. Ruddell, N.J. Unrau (Eds). Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading (5th Ed., pp 640-659). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.