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EdTech Update





Core difference between a librarian and a classroom teacher


"This is what I think you need to know." Classroom teacher
"What do you need to know?" - Librarian

Over simplification, of course. Great educators are a combination of teacher and librarian. But at the core, I believe the mission of the librarian and the classroom teacher stem from the source of the content and skills being taught.

"Relevance" is at the forefront of many educators' discussions. In an interesting article by Peter Greene in Forbes, "Teachers, Please Don't Make Your Lessons Relevant", he gives relevance a different twist:

...Connect your lesson on parts of speech to a current popular song. Assign persuasive essays about something the kids are into today. Could we do an essay about the rap? I hear that teens very much like the rap these days.

But the problem is not teachers who are clueless about what a relevant connection might be. That's correctable (I still want back the hours of my life I spent watching The Hills so that I could follow student discussions). The problem is less obvious than the natural consequences of living on the other side of the generational divide.

Tying a lesson to popular culture as a means of providing relevance is shallow and unimaginative. Tying a lesson to a problem of relevance or need to the individual him/herself is deep and requires time and patience. And as I suggested in the The quiet disruption, it may be the students themselves who make their learning relevant:

Given an Internet connected device, whether personal or school-provided, students can self-individualize their learning during class. If a teacher has not made a persuasive case for the importance of knowing subject-verb agreement, double-digit multiplication, or the historical importance of the Crimean War, students have an alternative to glassy-eyed submissiveness or defiant rebellion. They can learn about things of interest and acquire skills of they see of value.

Students in our libraries seek individually relevant information, resources, and reading materials. Librarians honor those unique needs by not just supplying the requested materials, but teaching students how to find it and evaluate it themselves.

The honor paid to relevance may be the core difference between classroom teachers and librarians.


BFTP: Johnson's Theory of Multiple Creative Abilities

I've written briefly before about how we need to expand Sir Ken Robinson's statement "We should not ask if a student is intelligent, but how a student is intelligent" to read "We should not ask if a student is creative, but how a student is creative."

I've been thinking (ouch!) about this statement- an absolutely critical understanding for all educators to internalize, given both the vocational and personal abiliites needed for success and happiness in age of automation and outsourcing,

Howard Gardner in his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences suggested educators expand their view of intelligence. Rather than just thinking that kids who could read, write, and do math well were smart, Gardner asked us to recognize those students who were artistically gifted in the visual and musical arts; those who excelled physically in sports and dance; and even those who might exhibit spiritual and ecological abilities beyond the norm. I believe this had a positive impact on education.

I am humbly suggesting we also expand our view of creativity. While related to intelligence, creative abilities combine originality with craftsmanship to good produce something that has value. Talent and giftedness are a natural ability to exhibit craft in certain areas of creativity.

In a somewhat arbitrary fashion, I’ve chosen twelve areas where I have seen students at all age level exhibit creative abilities and grouped them.

Artistic creativity

1. Writing/Presenting/Storytelling
2. Graphic artistic (drawing, painting, sculpting, photography, designing)
3. Musically artistic

Academic creativity

4. Numeric problem-solving and coding
5. Scientific inventiveness
6. Content-area specific creativity (history, languages, literary interpretation, etc.)

 Physical creativity

7. Athletic/movement (Sports, dance)

Interpersonal creativity

8. Humor
9. Team-building/ interpersonal personal problem-solving
10. Leading/Organizing
11. Motivating/inspiring

Academic survival "innovation"

12. Excuse-making, teacher manipulation, cheating, etc.

I am very interested in hearing from you, Blue Skunk readers, about whether this makes sense. Whether the organization is appropriate (I am thinking about how we may assess, teach, acknowledge these areas). What I've left out and what shouldn't be included.

And of course, I'd love examples of students exhibiting creativity in any and all of these areas. 


Original post 2/24/14


The Hiking Club Challenge

As the map above shows, the most distant state park in Minnesota from where I live is over six hours away by car. I'm assuming that is when the roads are neither flooded or snow packed. Not always a good assumption to make given weather we've experienced this year.

I have never been to Lake Bronson State Park, nor had I ever intended to go, before learning from a couple of hiking companions about the DNR's Hiking Club. This "challenge" was devised by Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources to promote activity in the state's 70 state parks.

While over my 30 year residence in Minnesota I've managed to get to 23 state parks, this challenge is a great incentive to explore places I'd may not have considered otherwise. And to actually experience them by hiking a recommended trail.

For $15, one purchases a small booklet at a state park office that serves as an official checklist for completing each of the identified hikes in individual parks. The hikes range in length from 1 to 6.2 miles and (so far) they are well marked. Somewhere along each trail is a sign with a "password" hikers record as proof they have completed the hike. 

Last weekend I finished two hikes:

Jay Cooke State Park just south of Duluth:

The St Louis River from the Hanging Bridge

and Split Rock State Park just north of Two Harbors:

Iconic view of Split Rock Lighthouse

Moronic viewer of Split Rock Lighthouse

I've been thinking a lot about the root of the word "recreate" - to re-create. As I transition from a world of work to a world of retirement, I expect "re-creation" to play a large role. I have always loved hiking, bicycling, and other forms of travel, but they were always apportioned out as my vacation days allowed. 

No more. Watch out park rangers - I'm on the trail! 

Any similar challenges in your state or country?