I read an interesting blog post today about teaching, but not in the classical sense of teaching. The post was written by Michael Wesch of Kansas State University about 'Anti-Teaching.' If you have been reading my blog and other educational blogs over the past week, the name will sound familiar. Michael Wesch is the creator of the video "The Machine is Us/ing Us." The post surrounded the structure of his introductory Anthropology course at Kansas State University. There are over 200+ students in an intro Anthropology course... now that is impressive. The culminating activity of the course is a World Simulation. Watch the embedded video below.
The major points of the article surrounded the idea that students learn best when they have to teach themselves and apply the knowledge they have attained in some quantifiable way. The phrases like: problem solving, thinking outside the box and active lifelong learners were used to define the characteristics we would like all students to exhibit. The journey, as we are reminded by others in the educational community, provides depth and clarity to students in the way they internalize and personalize academic material.
A good part of the article, emphasized 'Asking better questions' of students. While we would like think that students would be 'self-actualized' in their educational life, we know that the reality is always much different. So, as we ask students questions we are providing a path, or trail of breadcrumbs for them to follow to the goal. This is much like the methodology of a socratic seminar. The questions we ask of students must push them outside of the comfort zone they have enjoyed in their earlier years.
The one book, Dr. Wesch cites is: Teaching as a Subversive Activity, by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner. In public education, with NCLB and other government mandated testing we must ask, "What do students need to know for the test." The question we need to be asking is, "What do students need to know for their future?" How do we do both? This is part of the question I have been trying to answer with Global Communications. Part of what we have learned is that we are chasing a moving target. There are innovations that come along, some times weekly, that allow us to do something that has has a significant educational impact, while at the same time teach the skills that will assist students in meeting the requirements of standardized testing.
This year, we have learned a lot about the right questions to ask and when learning when it is appropriate to take off the training wheels from the Internet and the read/write web. I don't know what next year will look like, but I think we have made a great start.