3 rules to spark learning

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In his talk “3 rules to spark learning” Ramsey Musallam, a chemistry teacher, talks about the importance of putting learning into the hands of students and teachers should create lessons that foster creativity and a want of learning in students. He sums this up in three simple rules that he applies when creating lesson plans. One, curiosity comes first. Two, embrace the mess of trial and error. Three, practice reflection. He learned these rules from his surgeon who performed a life-saving surgery and wowed Mr. Musallam with the confidence that he had approaching the surgery. The surgeon told Mr. Musallam the he was curious and wanted to know all he could about the operation about what worked and what did not work. The surgeon also explained that had embraced the mess of trial and error (which I would not want to hear from my surgeon) and he reflected and designed a procedure that he performed on Mr. Musallam to save his life.

These three rules struck a chord with Mr. Musallam and changed his teaching style. He wanted to create a strong sense of curiosity within his students; he wants them to ask questions. That is where meaningful learning happens and he makes sure to build that into his lesson plans. He embraced trial and error in order to find the best ways to teach the students. He is open to change. This ability to change is evidenced in his third rule of reflection where he is open to looking at his teaching to see what works and what doesn’t.

And he gets a good response from his students. I was terrible at chemistry so this might be a convoluted explanation, but after modeling the ability to hold a piece of paper with the mouth of a liquid filled cup held upside down (a vacuum, I suppose), a student sent him a video of her covering the mouth of a jar with her hand a candle in it. When the flame was extinguished, she was able to lift the jar with her open hand as though it was glued to her hand, an extension of the lesson in the classroom.

http://www.ted.com/talks/ramsey_musallam_3_rules_to_spark_learning

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Education in the World Today

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I read several articles from our Evernote notebook. I read 50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education, Why It’s Imperative to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill, 18 ways to promote creativity in your classroom, How do inquiry teachers teach?, and 4 Things to Consider As You Allow Phones in Class. The one thing that I thought tied all of these articles together was creativity. Some of these ideas resonated with me, others seemed outlandish and I could not bring myself to agree with what the author was saying, particularly in 50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education. Indeed, these things were crazy. The article I most agreed with was How do inquiry teachers teach? and I thought that it had great advice for teachers and a good approach on education.

The articles certainly were creative. 50 Crazy Ideas argued that students should be allowed to use smartphones in class and that schools should become “21st century cultural centers with cutting edge experts, technology, and programs” and “treat the goal of education as self-knowledge: Who am I, and how do I relate to the world around me?” These echo the sentiments of Why It’s Imperative to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill. In this article, the author suggests that students need to think and question in order to come to important conclusions. The author notes that this starts in schools, and students need to ask questions in school, and teachers need to encourage student questions. This idea of questioning is the core of inquiry teaching and How do inquiry teachers teach? touches upon how teachers need to encourage students to ask questions and take control of their learning, not just talk to students. Students should be the ones doing most of the talking and questioning, and the teacher should build the learning around students. All of this ties into allowing students to be creative and take control of their learning. The article 18 ways to promote creativity in your classroom, expands upon this by giving ideas on how to foster creativity such as “Ask for multiple possible answers to questions or multiple possible solutions to problems,” “Use technologies that encourage creativity,” and, perhaps my favorite idea presented, “Modify your discussions to allow for divergent ideas and interests.”

It is clear to see that these articles promote creativity and a more student centered learning. I agree with the points that I’ve quoted and I think it exemplifies the type of teaching I want to do. Students should be the ones who take control of their learning and ask questions and have the freedom to pursue these questions. To this end, I agree with the article 4 Things to Consider As You Allow Phones in Class, particularly the last point about discipline. I don’t think phones should be banned and they can be used as learning tools, so long as they are used correctly.

While I agree with much of the material in the articles, some of the suggestions in 50 Crazy Ideas To Change Education are almost too absurd for me to take seriously. For example, the author suggests that schools should “Make school walls invisible—literally made of glass.” To me, that lends itself to distractions as students will, more than likely, find ways to amuse themselves through interactions with other students in classrooms. Additionally, I’m sure point number twenty “Treat the best teachers like rock stars: Give them reality shows, endorsement deals, and huge contracts” is a joke. I don’t disagree with it, but reality shows and endorsement deals seem like big distractions from teaching. Sure, excellence should be recognized, but in a more appropriate way. Lastly, I disagree with the idea that schools should “Push the government out of schools completely.” Of course, government intervention can be a problem for schools by forcing teachers to teach only to standards and test scores, but there are many communities that can’t afford to fund their own schools. I do think that government should help to fund education, but they should also allow teachers more freedom to be better educators and allow students to learn, rather than force them to teach only to standards and test scores.

I think that pre-service teachers should embrace technology and the benefits that it can bring, but they should also embrace a student centered model of teaching. Students should be able to take control of their learning while the teacher guides them to learning goals. Teachers need to embrace and encourage creativity, and not fear giving up some control; they should relinquish some control to the students. Yes it is hard, and yes it is uncomfortable, but the results, when done properly, outweigh the work and discomfort while learning how to best incorporate students into the learning. When pre-student teaching last semester, I found that when I taught at the students, they listened, but they did not necessarily learn. When I put together a group exercise and let them share their ideas, they took a lot more from the lesson and I think they learned a lot more. Student input and creativity is important. I also think it is important to use technology to reach these goals.

Links:

50 Crazy Ideas To Change
Education
: http://www.teachthought.com/learning/50-radical-ideas-change-education/

Why It’s Imperative
to Teach Students How to Question as the Ultimate Survival Skill
: http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/03/why-its-imperative-to-teach-students-how-to-question-as-the-ultimate-survival-skill/

18 ways to promote
creativity in your classroom
: http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com/blue-skunk-blog/2014/3/10/18-ways-to-promote-creativity-in-your-classroom-everyday.html

How do inquiry
teachers teach?
: http://inquiryblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/how-do-inquiry-teachers-teach-2/

4 Things to Consider
As You Allow Phones in Class
: http://www.edudemic.com/4-things-consider-allow-phones-class/