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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why I don't like Research Proven Methods

I have discovered a paradox. I am a huge fan of science, so much so that I have all but forsaken belief in a divine entity, but when it comes to research into classroom strategies I am repulsed. The key word is strategies. I like research done in the area of cognitive science and evolutionary psychology, but when it comes to practical application into the classroom I feel there is a disconnect.

In the secondary classroom there is a need for authenticity. Like Holden Caufield, high school students can spot a "phoney" from the back row of the classroom. If a teacher does not fully believe in what they are saying, then it will have no impact on the student. Furthermore, the idea that there is a method that is best suited for everyone seems bizarre. Granted we are animals, but I don't think that placing students in a Skinner Box will lead to th desired results, though it may make the classroom quieter.

Whenever I look at GLEs (Grade Level Expectations) or Strategies That Work I just want to say, "duh." Seriously, if you don't know this stuff, then why are you teaching.

What I bring to the Instructional Coaching Cohort

I am a techno-weenie full of creative authentic ideas, and I only moderately offend people with my sense of humor.

To be honest, which is a rarity for me, I have no idea how anyon taught without the Internet. The project I am most proud of currently is the "Creation of the World" databaze. Using Google Earth, Timeline Creator from John Hopkins U, and Microsoft Word I have my students creating a database of world cosmogenies. We also recently completed a multi-draft essay without ever using paper.

Another project which is going into its 6th year is "Alternative Voices," a spoken word CD. This CD, like many of my ideas, comes from projects I do at home. The first time I recorded my voice onto a CD was just to say, "happy birthday" on a song mix. That eventually turned into what my students and I do today.

I have passed this CD out to just about anyone that wants to listen. I love sharing my ideas I have overcome severe stage fright and led several sessions of PD over at the H.S. that I hope weren't as boring as others that I have attended.

I'm not sure that I want to leave the classroom, but I am interested in sharing my ideas. Hopefully, this will help the students and bring me all of the glory that I deserve. However, my penchant for verbal irony may mean that I am not the ideal person for this position.

I wanted to add that I watch T.V. I have multiple media experiences that are a wealth of ideas, but I choose T.V. because it is the most controversial.

I am also a contrarian. I can and will see the opposite point of view.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If we can clone a sheep,

I am calling for an all out ban on the the following cliches. First on my list is, "We don't have to reinvent the wheel." The second is the ubiquitous use of the moon landing as an example of our pinnacle of technological success.

It is not that I am a big fan of reinventing the wheel. It's just that sometimes the wheel is broken or missing. The phrase itself is not offensive it is the incessant and inappropriate use of the maxim. Often it seems to be a dodge. Individuals that are not relishing the upcoming task will quickly blurt out, "We don't need to reinvent the wheel." Often the metaphorical wheel has been misplaced, misused, or misappropriated. At that point what seems like a sage bit of advice is just getting in the way of getting the job done.

I imagine that during period immediately following the initial invention of the wheel people were so excited by the possibilities that there were plenty of patent infringing types that were trying to reinvent it. In fact the first recorded use of this truism was in the opinion of judge in the case of Ugh v. Grunt. At the time of course he was right, but as society progressed the wheel has gone through many iterations adapting to new environments and vehicles.

So the original saying has lost much of its nascent meaning and is frequently uttered by the more stubborn members of committee.

The wheel was the moon landing of its time. Many a cave wife could be heard saying to her husband, "If we can invent the wheel, then surely you can find a way to bring home a decent piece of meat." The wheel of course has been replaced by the moon landing as the pinnacle of success. Surely, if we can put a man on the moon, then there is a whole slew of minor accomplishments that would pale in comparison.

My problems with this phrase are numerous, but high on my list is the fact that the moon landing happened nearly 50 yrs. ago and hasn't been repeated in quite some time. Possible replacements include, "if we can clone a sheep," "if we can make vast amounts of information available to everyone," or "if we can eat genetically modified crops." Seriously we probably have more computing power on our desktop than the entirety NASA had in 1969.

However, my main problem is that this particular giant leap for mankind was a massive government funded endeavour. If the same resources were piled on any of the problems gauged by the success of the Apollo program then I'm positive their solution is readily accessible.

The problem with these or any cliches is that they're easy to say and agree with. They are, however, lazy requiring very little thought from the speaker or the listener. What they gain in flair and efficiency they lose in accuracy and effectiveness. These two particular platitudes have not been excoriated as much as there cousins the "paradigm shift" and "thinking outside the box," but they are equally useless if not dangerous.