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24 January 2005: Who's in Charge Here? (2 of 4)

There’s two things to love about this kind of teaching by empowering. First, this kind of teaching is effective—really. Put simply, how much more do you learn when you choose what and how you study? What if your college professors had demanded that you make flashcards, even though you knew that re-reading the text would help you more? What if your college professors gave every person exactly the same amount of time at the same time of day to finish their work? Sounds insane, right? Especially to a nocturnal student like myself. The truth is, this is often what we do to our students. We tell them how to jump through our hoops without equipping them with strategies to help them learn. If we train our students in learning strategies that serve the multiple intelligences, they will then have the ability to choose for themselves how to learn the material. They key here is to make sure they know how to use the strategies, and to hold them responsible for their own learning. Talk about empowering.

25 January 2005: Who's in Charge Here? (3 of 4)

The second reason we should love teaching by empowering is because it makes our job easier. Empower students to solve their own problems by training them in conflict management and communication skills. Then, take Referee out of your job description. Give students their choice about how the room is decorated and with what, then assist them. Teach students to check their work with a calculator, dictionary or (gasp!) teacher’s manual. Allow them (after training) to work in collaborative partnerships. Invite them to help make decisions and solve problems about instruction, management, and curriculum. The hard part about empowering is that we have to trust our students. We have to trust them to make good decisions, to care about learning, and to take responsibility. Of course, if we’re not already dedicated to teaching them these things, what will allow us to teach them anything else?

26 January 2005: Who's in Charge Here? (4 of 4)

Oh, if it were only as easy in practice as it is in a blog. Like I said, I like to be in charge. Most teachers do. My solution, though, is to monitor my own teaching style. Instead, I try to capitalize on that place where my students can learn from each other, books, and experiences and limit that place where I expect them to learn from me. And in my experience, this is one of the fundamental difficulties of learning where I learn and teaching where I teach. My experience is that the kind of people who choose to be teachers are very often the kind of people who like to be in charge. So, what kind of things can teachers be in charge of while still empowering their students? Be in charge of classroom morale. Be in charge of seating arrangements, because there are some things that teachers just know better. Be in charge of training students to succeed. Be in charge of representing your students to the site and district administration (but let the students help). Do these things, but challenge yourself to allow students to be in charge of every decision they are qualified to make.

27 January 2005: Rocks and Chalkboards (1 of 6)

I recently read an article by Michael Apple (), discussing some issues surrounding technology in the classroom. Originally written in the mid-1980’s, his ideas have been updated for the new millennium.

Throughout the article, Apple makes many interesting points about things teachers may take for granted in their use of technology in the classroom. He argues that although many of us believe that computer literacy is a growing requirement for economic success in this country, the explosion of computers into the workplace actually creates more unskilled jobs than any other type.

Beyond that, he sites several studies that indicate that the use of computers in classrooms around the country actually serves to maintain class stratification; If you are poor and black, you’re probably using the computer for skills practice, but if you are rich and white, you’ll probably learn basic programming skills.

28 January 2005: Rocks and Chalkboards (2 of 6)

Although I want to encourage you to examine the way you implement technology in your own classrooms, this article led me to reflect some on technology in the broader sense, and what it has done to and for public education.

One of the first things they teach in undergraduate anthropology courses is that technology has a much broader definition than most believe. In our current society, technology is inevitably linked with computers, and almost always with communication. One almost never hears the idea of technology linked with, say, a toilet’s flushing mechanism or a new garden shovel, but that’s part of it, too.

Stone tools represent the earliest technology developed by humans. Rocks with either naturally or intentionally sharpened edges made life much easier back in the day. May not seem that impressive in the context of where we are now, but at the time it was invaluable. As it turns out, those rocks were our first step towards the internet. So, what’s the classroom equivalent of stone tools?

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teaching quote of the day

Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand.

- Chinese proverb

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