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Philosophy of Education

 

In an increasingly complex and dynamic world, the challenge of an educator is in providing the skills necessary for a student to be impactful in a world that changes as rapidly as their social media status.  The Reconstructionist believed that they should be “using the school to achieve what they considered to be improvements in society.” (Oliva & Gordon, II, 2013) We cannot continue to fill students’ brains with simply facts and figures. Students need to use their knowledge authentically in the world. In younger grades, teachers assign jobs. Children love these jobs because they feel like they are being helpful. As they grow older, we tell them their responsibility is to learn in school. But without having the authentic experience of helping, the students forget much of what they learn. If students can feel a connection to the learning by acting on their knowledge or connecting to their own lives, the retention is greater.

As the sources from which students find information become more myriad and diverse the focus on literacy in all its forms is vitally essential for educators to teach.  We are replacing the textbook with e-readers, libraries with databases, and physical classrooms with online learning, which is connecting students across the globe.  Teachers must recognize and adapt to the technological advances present in today’s schools. Teachers must connect themselves across the globe so they understand how their students can do the same. Many teachers and students use blogs, twitter or other forms of social media to find like-minded individuals to connect with. This enhances their learning by realizing that teachers and students all over the world are having similar experiences.

These changes in education provide exciting opportunities for teachers to make connections with our students in amazing and wonderful ways.  The wealth of information available to teachers equals that which confronts our students.  This information is a rich resource that can add exponentially to our classroom curriculum. Textbooks are being replaced with online databases that are more current. The use of Google Maps and Google Earth helps us understand Geography better. Reading students’ and teachers’ blogs from around the world flattens classrooms to experience other school cultures.  Educators must become learners in almost the same way we are expecting our students to become.  Teachers will grow by embracing the 21st century skills that require collaboration across disciplines, connections between schools, and critical thinking with a global perspective. 

How we recognize intelligence has shifted monumentally in the past decade. Schools need to see “intelligence” in the varied and multiple forms that are the students we teach.  Increasingly, societies understand that to confront the issues present today solutions must be found through creative thought that transcends our traditional educational systems.  Recognizing that within each student there are gifts and talents is the challenge of today’s teacher.  We do not have to be the “sage on the stage”, we have to learn to be the “guide on the side.” Allowing the students to lead and being flexible guides provide us the chance to see the possibilities within each student. Most students have knowledge or connections to share. By allowing students to contribute we are ensuring that learning and growth is a right provided to everyone.

Students must be constantly using their creativity. Sir Ken Robinson states, “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” (Robinson, 2007) We must give our students this opportunity. There are frequently examples of students creating inventions that solve problems. The latest example is a 12-year-old creating a Braille printer out of Legos. (Chow, 2014) Braille printers are more expensive than the average blind person can afford. Shubham Banerjee used legos to redefine how blind people can communicate by making the Braigo (Braille Printer) affordable. If students were given more chances to use their creativity, more inventions might come out of younger students.

Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner gives many examples of this type of authentic, service learning. (Wagner, 2012) In the book, Wagner points out that Rick Miller from Olin College describes the three stages in the evolution of learning. The first stage is memorization-based and multiple choice approach. The second stage is project-based learning, where the problem is already defined. The third phase is design-based learning where students find and define the problem. If schools spend too much time on the first two stages, students will not have time for the design-based learning that will help them become responsible, problem-solving citizens. Students of all ages must use their skills to learn through design-based projects.

In my current school, our first graders study the fairytale Cinderella to learn the parts of a story. The students then each create a “Cinderella” type story with their own twist. We have Spiderella, Roboterella, and many different versions of the fairy tale created. This is an example of project-based learning by taking the structure of a story and creating a new story keeping the same structure. In fifth grade, all students must complete an exhibition. This is very design-based because it asks the students to find a problem in the world and look for solutions. They research the problems and solutions and present what we as individuals can do. They feel empowered by designing their own learning.

From an early age, we need students who will question what is being presented.  As a International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme School, inquiry is at the forefront of our delivery method. We want to prompt the students to ask questions.  Presenting discussions that focus on the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy “encourages students to think intuitively, creatively, and hypothetically, to use their imaginations, to reveal their value systems, or to make judgments.” (Cecil, 1995) Inquiry and curiosity is an aspect of children that some teachers try to hide. Teachers need to embrace the questions, even when they don’t know the answers. Showing students that you don’t know everything and they you are ready to learn with them is very empowering for students.  The “Understanding by Design” lesson-planning method is incorporated in the Primary Years Programme. When we lesson-plan we must always start with the end in mind. We look at what we want to show with our summative assessment and we work backwards on how we will achieve that goal through inquiry with the students.

Classroom management depends on many aspects.  The biggest contribution to classroom management is the climate of the classroom.  The other factors are the relationship with students, expectations of students and reaction to disruptions.  In January, I attended “Capturing Kids Hearts” which had all those factors built into the program.  The program develops “a safe, trusting and self-managing classrooms.” (“Capturing kids hearts”) This idea is based on a poem from Dr. George Luck, “If you have a kid’s heart to get to his head. If that’s not where you start, please do another job instead. Kids must know you to be true And they key to that is without a doubt… YOU! have their head.” (“Capturing kids hearts”)  The goals of the program are to lower anxiety of kids, keep kids safe and enable them to work as a team. This past summer, I worked with students to design a safe, comfortable place in the library where all students and staff can find books and learn. We removed some of our extra bookshelves, brought in more tables for group work, and added pillows and a comfortable silent reading area. The response was unanimous. The library is now the center of the school’s activities. Students feel comfortable, reading quietly, working in a group on research or attending classes in the space.

The reconstructionist believe we can change the future through our students. In order to accomplish this and stay competitive in a flat world, we must make changes to our educational system.  “The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers.”  (Pink, 2006) We must connect with others to become empathizers. We should connect our knowledge to our lives. Students designing their own learning to problem solve authentic issues will have a greater impact than students memorizing the capitals of our fifty states. 

 

References

Capturing kids hearts. (n.d.). Retrieved from (n.d.). Retrieved from Capturing kids hearts. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.flippengroup.com/education/ckh.html

Cecil, N. L. (1995). The art of inquiry. Winnipeg, MB, Canada: Peguis Publishers.

Chow, D. (2014, February 19). 12-year-old invents braille printer using lego set. Mother Nature Network, Retrieved from http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/12-year-old-invents-braille-printer-using-lego-set

Oliva, P., & Gordon, II, W. R. (2013). Developing the curriculum. (8th ed.). United States: Pearson.

Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

 

Robinson, S. K. (2007, January 6). Do schools kill creativity?. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

Wagner, T. (2012). Creating innovators. Scribner. Retrieved from http://creatinginnovators.com/

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