Saturday, March 19, 2011

I'm trying to get back into yoga...

I really miss yoga.  Truly.  The longer I go without it, the worse I feel.  The longer I go without it, the harder it is to start it again!  I think I need someone to do it with me, or at least someone to hold me accountable!  Any volunteers?  The video below is of my most favorite yoga-blend activity, it's called "Yoga Booty Ballet."  One of my best friends and I did this video for several weeks one summer.  It's intense, but it feels great!

I read somewhere that 21 days makes a habit.  So I'm starting in the morning with this site:  I'll do yoga every day for 21 days.  By that reasoning, I should have formed a solid habit by March 9th.  Cheer me on!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pink's Drive... a biology teacher's review.

So I've been reading Daniel H. Pink's book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  My curriculum teacher said "you'll love it," and I kind of thought, "suuuuuure," and started reading.  What a cool book it turned out to be.

My fellow students in class know what the book is about, but for students of mine who are curious, here's the tweet from Pink: Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery & purpose.

Autonomy is defined as freedom from external control or influence; independence.  I find that high schools in particular are lacking in this part of "motivation 3.0."  Motivation 3.0 is the "upgrade" from carrots and sticks (reward and punishment) that presumes humans have a "third drive:" to learn, to create and to better the world.  I started thinking about autonomy and this human drive to be such last night when I was writing some homework.

I am going to start asking myself a few questions as I create homework in the future (from page 175 in the book):
  1. Am I offering students any autonomy over how and when to do this work?
  2. Does this assignment promote mastery by offering a novel and engaging task?
  3. Do my students understand the purpose of this assignment?
I want to be able to offer my students autonomy over the assignments, but I think that as a teacher, I hesitate to give up a certain amount of control.  How can I give students more autonomy over their homework?  How can I turn the work into learning?  How can you, the students, claim more autonomy?  What would you have to do to prove that you can be autonomous?

Honestly, I can say that some of my assignments definitely do not promote mastery.  Section review questions and vocab are really just about rote organization of information that we've done in class.  Other assignments, such as colorful essays, are a different way of showing that you have mastery of a subject.  Do you have any ideas for some engaging tasks that will show that you have mastery of the topics we cover?  I know that not all of you find biology to be your favorite subject, but how can autonomy and engagement improve your enjoyment of the science we cover?

What about purpose?  What is the purpose of each assignment I hand out?  I think the general consensus in my classes is that I'm just giving you busywork and forcing you to do pointless homework that you don't like.  Well, disliking the homework aside, I always have a good reason for the assignments I give out.  Even though section review homework does not wholly promote mastery, as it is pretty simple, it does have a point!  The more you expose yourself to the vocabulary, the more likely you are to understand the higher level assignments! 

One final point about the book is Pink's discussion about Type X and Type I behavior.  Type X people are "extrinsically motivated" by things like money, grades, and other external rewards of activities.  Type I people follow a different approach to life built around "intrinsic" motivations like autonomy, mastery and purpose.  These types of people still think that money, grades and other external rewards are important, but they have a different drive.  Type I people have an innate desire to direct their own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better for the world they live in.

Something I knew before reading this book, but didn't realize, was that I want each and every one of my students to be Type I.  I didn't have a name for it like Pink, but I knew that I wanted my students to go on and do good things in the world.  And before you get out into the world to do those good things, I want you to learn.  Your goal throughout your whole life should be to learn.  Something in this book that will stick with me for a long time is this: "With a learning goal, students don't have to feel that they're already good at something in order to hang in and keep trying.  After all, their goal is to learn, not to prove they're smart."  Pink is citing another book, Self-Theories by Carol S. Dweck, that I intend to read soon.

Too often, students think they need to prove something, and they think the only way to do it is to get the good grade.  I sincerely want all of my kids to take a look at their learning, and really push themselves to learn the things I teach, and not just memorize the information for the good grade on the exam.  If your goal is to prove your intelligence to anyone, then you're not learning.  If your goal is to "get through" the class, then you need to figure out a way to enjoy the class and get something from it.  This should be true in everything you do in your life!

Friday, March 11, 2011

TED Talk - Khan Academy!

This is great... and you kids think he's such a dork!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The changing curriculum, then and now.

How has the curriculum changed (the content included) since the 1900s?  This is a question from a classmate, and I found it easy to answer with a quick google search.  As far as America is concerned, it has changed with the times, and changed according to what was happening in the world (not so much about bettering the world, but about how the world was affecting the US). 

Here's a breakdown of curriculum development (and its development) since the earliest part of this century (for high school):
  • From 1893-1930s, it was up to college professors to decide what was necessary "college prep."
    • by 1912, every state had a high school, but only 10% of America's youth were graduating from them
    • in 1917, after some complaining from farmers and labor groups, funds were authorized for high schools to have vocational programs.
    • When the depression hit, many high school graduates were not able to find work because of their "lack of preparation."
  • The period from 1931-1942 saw extensive curriculum development.
    • high school enrollment doubled because American youth couldn't find any jobs and therefore chose to stay on in school.
    • several studies were rolling out that revealed teachers did not follow curriculum models
    • teachers were also encouraged to get to know their students better so they could develop better units
  • Curriculum development was shelved when America got involved in WWII.
    • schools were expected to provide "preinduction training" and to provide war/military industry training
  • After 1946, schools were under pressure from many different groups who had vastly different ideas on curriculum
    • these included: environmental education, global understanding, free enterprise, one world emphasis, air-age education, and physical fitness.  Sounds familiar, eh?
  • In 1957, the Soviet Union launched a satellite into space, creating panic in the States
    • had we fallen behind Russia in general skill sets and knowledge?
    • in the next 15 years, more than $100 million was provided for math & science education
    • textbooks and lab guides were developed that took students away from memorization and toward scientific inquiry
  • In the late 1970s, the NSF (Nation Science Foundation) found that students interested in science careers liked the new courses, but most other students did not.  This sounds quite familiar!
  • After 1980, the structure of public high schools became very similar to what we know now.
  • By the 2000s, "standards-based education" had taken a foothold
    • this changed the measurement of success from "finishing 12 years" to "academic achievement."
And that's what I could come up with at 10pm on a Monday night!  To wrap up, I'd like to add a question or two about the last bullet point.  Was this a good change? Will we ever walk away from the state and national standards?