Erie 1 BOCES MCTSS
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Information Technology Specialist
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My ever-evolving philosophy of education changes often. I've gone from the “more you throw at the wall; the more will stick” idea to thinking more about the role of a teacher as a “facilitator of learning so students can change the world.” Often these two ideas are diametrically opposed. Too often classrooms are teacher led and not student led. There needs to be an imbalance of student led activities and classrooms.
Just this morning I was in a teacher’s classroom who sent students on a learning adventure: make a piece of art that lights up and moves. I saw elephants, UFOs and a Dr. Mario car. All of these things involved distance sensors, servos, motors and blinking LED lights. Students had to program these devices all the while combining engineering, coding and art. I asked the teacher, “Do you ever have behavior issues?” She said “no” and I of course followed up with why she thought that was so. She said that the structure of this class is very loose. “Isn’t that the opposite of what traditional teachers think?” I asked. This teacher went on to say that she has other classes, like a college prep Math class, that is more constrictive. The Math class is teacher-led and she actually has more discipline issues in that class than her computer-programming/robotics class.
I've also seen a change in some of Meghan Janora’s students. Meghan stated that when she instituted a “Genius Hour” in her classroom students engaged with learning that typically do not put full effort into their work. Meghan stated that student interest changed and many were more invested in solving the problem of their choosing. This is another example of shifting learning from teacher to student-centered.
Typically, traditional teachers see that the best way to have positive behaviors in class is to have it extremely structured. Too much structure restricts student freedom and choice, and is often punitive. It is difficult to have students be responsible for their learning when most of the information comes from the teacher, books or the Internet. I’m noticing that the opposite is true. When students discover or seek out the information so that they can solve a real-world problem of their choosing, that information is more impactful. If students are allowed choice, are challenged, required to think and explore things they are interested in behaviors improve. No longer does the teacher need to focus on the symptoms (poor behavior) and can focus on the cure (interest, creativity and challenge).