Interact, engage, learn

I am always amazed by the connections I can find between the different blogs I read on a regular basis.

The first post I read today was from Bee, who wrote about how stifling school feels to her, now that she is back from sabbatical.  She says:

Going back to school in February just confirmed once again that change just does not seem to happen in closed environments.  Same conversations in the teachers’ room, same unsolved problems from 25 years ago and endless meetings, during which there is more red tape than a decision to act….

And of course, classrooms are no better.

Teachers drone, kids get bored by looking at the nape of the same neck for hours and cannot sit still.

And it is true — that is how so many, many classrooms are at any and all levels.

Then I moved on and read a post be Patrick over at Chalkdust 101 about the need for our students to really interact with what we are trying to teach them if we want them to learn anything.  He says:

The person doing the talking is the person doing the learning.

He has some wonderful graphics — one of PET scans of people engaged in different “learning” activities.  It shows increased involvement of different parts of the brain as the person is more active, more engaged in the learning.  Please go to Patrick’s post to look at that picture if nothing else.

So how do we move from Bee’s classroom with the droning teacher to one that engages students in their learning?  Bee explains that technology alone isn’t the answer.

With instructional technology alone, the difficulty in staying on task – they connect to social sites, message their friends, play games. Same problems as ages ago, just “enhanced” by educational technology.

So what’s the answer?

Patrick refers to a model developed by Fisher and Frey that shows a shift from teacher responsibility to student responsibility.  But this isn’t a permanent shift, with the teacher working his/her way out of a job.  Rather it is a shift within a lesson or a unit.  It starts out with me as teacher giving a focused lesson and then gradually turning responsibility over to the students.

I like to think this is something I do, but I am not sure I really do it.  I think I have a tendency to skip some of the steps.  And that can place too much burden on the students.  As I am struggling right now with my classes — or rather some issues in some of my classes — this is something I need to think about more.  What do I need to to do to ensure that my students are really engaged and learning?

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One thought on “Interact, engage, learn

  1. pjhiggins says:

    Nancy,

    Thanks for the links to the post; it was a wonderful experience at ASCD being able to really dive into the idea of engagement. Despite my technology background, I have come to realize that it almost doesn’t matter in terms of what the students are learning. Students need to have a vested interest in what they are doing, and they need to be in the right state.

    The model shown to me by Fisher and Frey actually stems from a model that has been around since Pearson and Gallagher (1983), but when you really look at it, it is a wonderful way to transition from a culture of direct instruction to one that involves student collaboration and both group and individual accountability.

    Is what we are seeing from this push for 21st Century skills anything new? Or do we have practices already out there that could help our students be engaged? I think so.

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