You've seen it, right? Students work hard to master old ways of learning to please their teachers even as they work to decipher the digital spaces where they increasingly live. They scramble to find a way to use their iPads to print their five-paragraph essays in standard manuscript format, stapled neatly in the left-hand corner. Then they move on to juggle their Instagram accounts, level up in the latest game, browse the Internet for news and amusement, and create videos for a YouTube channel viewed by fans from around the world. This is our students' bifurcated world.
My role as an educator is to pay attention, listen, and help students time travel these two worlds. Thus, I believe in offering them the freedom to explore at the same time that I challenge them to expect more from themselves. I give them choices so they can learn how to choose, ask them to connect and empathize by imagining other perspectives, to collaborate to blend the best ideas possible. Most of all, I try to conjure opportunities for my students to be creative and to make meaning from relevant and joyful connections in their reading and writing.
We must come together to show our students the path to the future -- and then get out of their way, madly cheering their efforts on the sidelines.
A Teaching Sandbox
As a classroom teacher, I continue to explore ways to help my students learn. Here are some recent highlights:
Making Room for Authentic Projects:
- A student teaches herself coding in Episode in order to create a an interactive story on the virtues of gaming.
- Students create a group Instagram account to share oral histories from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.
Teaching Nonfiction through Sustainability:
- Students learn strategies for reading nonfiction text: understanding alternative page elements and images; discerning key facts; filtering for bias.
- Food Detective Teams use design thinking strategies to research, collaborate, and teach about the foods we choose to eat.
- Students ask deeper questions about how their eating choices affect their lives, food production, and the sustainability of the planet.
- Students students stick their hands in the dirt, harvest salsa gardens, and make personal connections to their reading of The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Introducing Global Learning:
- We literally put Hawai'i on the map for Holocaust Remembrance Day as students created memorials to victims of the holocaust and shared their wishes for peace.
- Students and teachers participated in a reading of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars for the first ever Global Read Aloud at our school, connecting with English language students in Finland about their experience.