Monday, October 21, 2013

Philosophically Speaking

     At some point early in my career, I labeled my philosophy of education as “constructivist.” Although I’m better at it now than I was 21 years ago, I've always felt that students should be actively involved with their learning to truly learn. I strongly feel that a teacher’s pedagogy should involve methods of teaching that encourage kids to discover, discuss, analyze, and verbalize new information. I've experienced many lessons over the years that kept students excited and engaged merely because they “owned” their learning.
     In a constructivist classroom, the teacher’s role is as important as ever. The teacher must plan lessons and manage the classroom in ways that allow students to take charge, yet still be productive. Teachers in this type of classroom must train themselves to ask the right questions, and lots of them, while encouraging students to work out the answers for themselves or with partners. Teachers must find ways to activate students’ prior knowledge and help them make connections to new information. Most importantly, the teacher needs to constantly foster good relationships with students so that all of this interaction is possible and productive.
     After twenty-one years of teaching, I am sure that there are some things about my philosophy of education that have changed. Much of the basic foundation, however, has remained intact. The biggest changes are not related to the philosophy itself, but the tools available. I vividly remember about 19 years ago when another teacher and I were so excited to find a student project on the internet which required students to track the migration of monarch butterflies. To access the internet was such a complicated process that involved no pictures, just text and lots of computer language. The same process now is so much simpler and engaging. Kids can not only access the project but take and share pictures, video, audio, etc. of whatever information they gather. They can create their own blogs and websites, email or tweet results, and Skype with others around the world working on the same project. Technology isn't really a new part of my philosophy; it’s just an always-changing tool that makes the constructivist’s philosophy even more of a possibility.

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