Utne Reader Project, June 1998

greenspun.com : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

UTNE Reader, "Learning in the Key of Life" June 1998 - Jill Herzig As I read this article, it motivated me to reflect on my teaching style. In today's society we are pushed to teach all the traditional subjects as well as an influx of computer technology. More technology, if necessary, is encouraged in place of history or science. The thought is, one day, everything we will ever need will be at our fingertips. It will no longer be necessary to visit new places or meet face to face; it will all be within the reach of our keyboard. I have witnessed this evolution in my own school, the need to keep up, to not be "left behind " in the age of technology. I have to agree with the article that we are heading blindly into a medium that will change drastically in the next century. Reflecting on my own college courses in computer technology, I can safely say the lessons learned have no practical application in today's computer world. This is a scary trend since only fifteen years have passed since these "cutting edge" classes were mastered. In discussing this with my colleagues, I see a familiar trend. Many of the older educators have a fear of computers. They see this medium as ever changing and confusing; the little information they have gathered over the years has become obsolete. They do not want to invest a great amount of time in learning; it is easier to use the traditional paper and pencil methods. I understand this frustration and have felt it myself. The terminology is expanding rapidly and the capabilities of the computer itself change drastically in a short period of time. My reflection then lead me back to the article on the importance of education. What subjects or ideals are necessary in teaching today's young people? We must keep in mind that many of these students have more computer knowledge than the adults around them. I was lead to the authors concept of "slow knowledge" taken from David Orr, of Resurgence magazine; that this concept should be in the forefront of our minds. He states, "slow knowledge is knowledge shaped and calibrated to fit a particular ecological and cultural contextits aim is resilience, harmony, and the preservation of long-standing patterns give our lives aesthetic, spiritual, and social meaning." He continues with the thought that we are concentrating too much on "fast knowledge" and technology. We are trying to fit this in at the forefront of the curriculum while instead it should make way for the more important areas of learning such as the study of the beauty in life around us and the rewards of deep reflection. In the teaching environment I work in, we are exposed to daily religion classes and weekly worship with the church community. I feel this encounter with our spiritual self and the contact with older members of our parish is an intricate part or our curriculum and is just as important to the development of the whole students as any academic class. It educates the students to have compassion and forgiveness while showing the importance of unity. We will need these traits in the future if we can believe what the author Jon Spayde notes. We are going to need thinkers to care enough to save the planet from ecological disaster or unseen threats to our new technological society. We are losing sight of this as a nation of "fast knowledge". We must continue to nurture the humanistic traits that we have and take lessons from people who have gone before us.

One of these early thinkers as stated in the article is Socrates. His ways of teaching made an impact on me because I am currently teaching my sixth grade class about him and the role he played in Ancient Greece. In my investigation of Ancient Greece I came to understand that all students of philosophy were taught with open-ended questions and given the encouragement to dig deeper into their answers to find a truth they could understand. They did not have universities or schools. They aquired much of their learning from the people and first- hand experience. Using this as a basis for reflection, I began to examine my own methods of teaching to see if I had a "take it to the streets" approach. I found that in the subjects I perceived as interesting and motivating the tendency was to delve into the material and guide the students on a journey of knowledge. These endeavors usually took us to the library, on the Internet, or out into the community where we learned new and exciting things that furthered our education and increased our thirst for knowledge. In reflecting on the traditional ways of teaching, I agree with the writer. I agree that many traditional teaching styles are in need of change. Jon Spayde stated that "we must abandon the notion that learning is a time-consuming and obligatory filling of our head, and replace it with the idea that people cannot learn what they do not love." I would restate this to read a student cannot gain lasting knowledge on a topic that does not intrigue or interest them. It is our job as educators to create and maintain an environment that encourages a student to "fall in love" with a topic, to dive deeply into the material and be consumed by it. In discussing this with my colleagues, they agreed with this principle. One teacher was quick to note that her class was so motivated to learn the Latin names of certain animal species that they didn't even mind that they were late for lunch. She had tried a teaching technique that encouraged the students to take the initiative and use the knowledge to teach younger students what they had learned. As I reflect on my most successful lessons, I see that they are the ones that I created out of a love of the material and in teaching these, I used methods that are exciting for me as well as the students. The subject matter can be of any nature. Many of life's most important teaching moments are not found in the classroom itself but in the world around us. If we take advantage of the resources we have and look at all topics as a potential for learning we are doing a service to the children by not limiting them to the areas that we find limiting ourselves. We must teach "slow knowledge" as a primary goal, while we use technology as a way to enhance this objective. We must never stop learning as educators. If we do, we will lose our effectiveness as good teachers. We may find that in some cases the role of educator and student is reversed and this is fine. In life, there are times when the students themselves become great teachers. They can teach us important lessons about life. We just have to keep an open mind and remember all of life is a learning environment and we cannot limit ourselves to school and books but must use all that has been created for us.

Answered by Jill Herzig (herzig@northwinds.net) on November 03, 1998. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-- Anonymous, November 04, 1998

Moderation questions? read the FAQ