Monday, January 12, 2009

Links 1-12-09

A Whole New Mind Project - I'm trying to adapt this project to The Poisonwood Bible.

Learner vs. Curriculum-Centered
- A question I ask myself daily.

21st Century Handouts
- I think that's an oxymoron, but it's useful.

Online Reading - Glad to see somebody else struggles with online reading the same way I do.


Eliza Lathrop said...

Neat links, Chris.

I ask myself the "Learner vs. Curriculum Centered" teacher question all the time as well, and I guess I am frustrated by the discussions that treat them as opposing forces.
The link you post notes in closing that most teachers fall between these two ends of the spectrum... although along the way to that conclusion, there seems to be a clear bias against content-based teaching for some reason. The best teachers I've worked with have always found the way to honor both, and, were afraid of neither. I think it is when we choose one approach over another that things go amiss. Having clear curricular content is appropriate in defining the objectives of a class; being responsive to your learners is good teaching. The two go hand in hand, and there shouldn't be a bias against either. The problems begin when we unilaterally value one approach over the other rather than consider how or why a particular method is appropriate to a particular learning circumstance, and try to balance the two.
Content defines a course; it creates the department. To be learner-centered is to be a responsible and responsive teacher. We need to value both perspectives as we teach. To use a worn out metaphor, it is like yin and yang. Harmony gets established in the balanced relationship of the parts; the strength of each creates the need for the other.
In the end, I hope you keep asking the question every day, and embrace the answers that emerge.

C. Watson said...

I think you're right about not choosing and sticking to one approach. I've always tried to live that way. To remind myself, I've never taught the same course the same way. Always rethinking and revising. But I think the reality of content has changed. Content is not scarce. Today, I can take any course from MIT online for free, including lectures and video of actual classes. I can find answers to any content-based question online in a matter of minutes if I know how to search and filter effectively. Moreover, I can find a group of experts discussing that content and tap into that conversation.
The way I'm starting to think about content-areas is as disciplines or ways of thinking. I think that's what makes a department; we all are experts in approaching big questions through literature, reading, writing, and critical thinking. We use the skills inherit in our discipline to address and solve problems, explore new territory, and reflect on our experiences. We may or may not be experts in the same literary "content." The same can be said about any discipline. Of course, there are certain fundamental structures, facts, formulas that spiral up through all disciplines.
On a recent trip, I visited a school that built their departments around this kind understanding of the availability of content. They named their departments accordingly: Mathematical Thinking, Literary Thinking, Scientific Thinking, etc. In this way, they focus their approach and their "content" on the skills needed to be able to approach problems via these ways of thinking.
Thanks for the comment, this is the stuff that gets me excited about teaching and learning!