What Have You Learned Today?

David Warlick’s NECC Prep post on his 2 Cents Worth Blog resonated with me as he wrote about teacher interview questions and textbooks.

One question that I might ask, as a school principal interviewing a prospective teacher is, “What have you learned today?” I’m not looking for teachers who merely know how to teach. I want professionals, for which learning is an active and conscious part of every day life. I’d want to know what they’ve learned today, and what they think about it — might be a useful conversation starter. The other thing that I would ask is, “How would you go about preparing a particular unit (and here’s the good part) without a teacher’s edition to the textbook. …we do our children a disservice by teaching them from pre-packaged, scientifically classified knowledge. It’s teaching by killing the content and mounting it. Our students today must come to learn by living with the content in it’s own habitat, observing, experimenting, exploring, and discovering.

I agree with David’s thoughts. I enjoy learning something every day, and often want to share my discoveries or observations (thus the blog.) I even have a block in my office that reads, “Learn Everyday.” I feel strongly that it is important we model for students the process and joy of learning independently, as opposed to spoon feeding a class of students, “Read Chapter 9 in the textbook and answer the questions on the worksheet.”

I want my daughter to feel confident in her ability to teach herself. If there is a question she wants answered, I want her to know how to find the answer. I want her to be a producer of content, not just a consumer of content. I want her to have skills for the 21st century. Just the other day she made the comment, “I can’t teach myself, Mom.” Such a teachable moment that was. We discussed how she teaches herself everyday, in some way. She is a fan of the digital games, for which she has taught herself how to play. We discussed the strategies she uses during moments of discovery and frustration.

I love David’s quote about using only a textbook series for an instructional resource, “It’s teaching by killing the content and mounting it.” I recently had a college student from Florida knock on my door and attempt to sell me a set of reference books for daughter. I quickly and politely told him he would not be selling me any books. In our digital world, the thought of flat paper references, seems so limited and lifeless. Digital content is alive, growing, and evolving everyday, by the second. Videos, sound, music, animation, and virtual worlds are at our fingertips.

When I was a science teacher, my students used the textbook as a reference, along with several other sources of information. At first, I didn’t even check out the textbooks to the students. It just didn’t seem necessary. But the parents felt differently. I recall one incident when the students found an error in the textbook. We promptly composed a letter notifying the publishers of this mistake. I think in many situations, textbook funds could be best spent on accessing digital resources. Some of our Middle School Science teachers were empowered by their administrators to make their own decision about the spending of textbook funds. While they did choose some paper resources, they also chose to invest in laptops and projectors. Such a smart choice by these teachers.

What have you learned today?

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Image: Amin Tabrizi. Biology Textbook. Amin Tabrizi’s Photostream. 11 Dec 2005. 3 July 2007. http://flickr.com/photos/amin_tabrizi/72684909/.


3 thoughts on “What Have You Learned Today?

  1. Somehow, Allanah, that doesn’t surprise me, after participating in your Time for Online Conference. It is apparent that there are some wonderful things going in in NZ. I appreciate the invitation.

  2. Amazing how things are so different!! As Allanah said, no textbooks here in NZ at primary level…

    Works well for me as I would hate being confined and having to teach what is next in the textbook rather than working to meet the needs of my students and their next steps for learning.

    I love your comment about wanting your daughter to be the “producer” of content… not just a “consumer” – how true that is…. gone are the days when teachers knew all and just spurted out all the knowledge/content for the students to record and remember!

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