Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Proof Is In The Pudding: Connect with a Kid

 The Proof Is In The Pudding:  Connect With A Kid
            In the 1980s, the movie Teachers was released.  One of the characters was called "Ditto," because each class period,  each student in his class would pick up a ditto (handout) go quietly to his/her seat and complete it during the class period while the teacher read the newspaper.  At the end of the period, each of the students would file past the teacher's desk placing his/her completed ditto into a basket never interacting with the teacher who was still reading his newspaper.  On one particular day, the teacher has a heart attack and dies behind his newspaper, but no one notices. Class period after class period, each student picks up his/her ditto, completes it, files past the corpse without noticing the deceased teacher until the end of the day.  Today's teachers do not know the joy of having fingers indelibly stained purple or the ecstasy one attaines by sniffing fresh dittos.  The ditto is dead, but is it really?  Today's dittos are mindless activities on laptops, and I-Pads while the teacher sits at her desk with her I-Pad or laptop staring blankly at a macaroni-and-cheese recipe on Pinterest or emailing her friends.  Ditto really is not dead. 
            Ironically we call this a connected classroom, but it is anything but connected.  Students are staring into their laps smiling as their nimble thumbs tap text messages on their I-Phones hidden beneath their desks while their teacher shops on Amazon on her computer.  There is no human interaction, so just like the character, Ditto, on Teachers, this teacher could die behind her monitor screen and class after class could wander in, pick up an I-Pad from the workstation complete his/her assignment, return their I-Pad and leave without noticing. Yet our schools are accredited based on how well they are connected to technology.
                Thirty years ago, a parent once said to me that one day teachers will be replaced by computers.  I am afraid that may be true if teachers continue to use computers in this way.  We will continue to see more K-12 on-line schools and teaching as a profession will disappear.  That is unfortunate, because students learn so much more and enjoy learning when teachers engage them in real human interaction.  Computers are a tool that when used well enhance learning.  They should not replace discussions, problem solving and positive emotions that only occurs when one human being (a teacher) engages another (the student).
                In the early 1980s Madeline Hunter created, “ Models of Mastery Learning” https://www.csun.edu/~sch_educ/eed/holle/PACT/planning/Lesson%20Planning.pdf where she identified the steps of teaching:  First, the teacher should use Anticipatory Set:  getting the students attention and motivating them to want to learn more.  Second, the teacher should have a clear Objective, a statement that communicates what the child will learn or be able to do at the end of the lesson.  Third, the teacher should have an Instructional Input.  A clearly stated plan of how the teacher will deliver the learning to the student.  Fourth, the teacher should Model the Learning;  thus, providing an example for the students to see and understand what they must do to accomplish the objective.  Fifth, the teacher should check for understanding.  This is an informal method of assessing if the students understanding of what information they are to learn and how they are going to present it to the class. Sixth the teacher should provide Guided Practice.   This means the teacher engages the student and together they create the learning.   Research shows that for struggling learners to be successful the Guided Practice segment of their learning should be longer to ensure that they have mastered the skill before proceeding to the final step.  Last, but not Least, is Independent Practice.  During this segment of learning, the student demonstrates that he has mastered the skill by performing on his own.  Madeline Hunter’s research shows that the struggling learners require more interaction (Guided Practice) and less time working independently.  If teachers us Madeline Hunter's lesson design, teachers are engaging with students for 5/6 of the total teaching time.  Students are working independently for only 1/6 of the time.That means teachers, turn off your electronic device, get off your bottom dollar and teach (a verb which mean you have to do something) these kids.   When students are given I-Pads and a disengaged instructor, they are being cheated out of their education.
                Madeline Hunter’s design still works well in our twenty-first century learning model. All teachers need to recognize that computers are tools, not teachers.  Wander about the room, sit down with students while they are writing and give them more Guided Practice to improve their writing.  This certainly beats writing comments on essays late at night and watching students wad them into balls and throw them near (but not in) the garbage can.  By doing this a higher number of your students will be successful.
                The proof is in the pudding is an adage that means you shouldn’t evaluate the quality of a meal until the final course, the pudding, is eaten.  Likewise we can’t judge the quality of an education until these students become productive, happy citizens.  The end of year test is not the pudding, only the end of another course.  Nevertheless, our past experience should tell us that for students to truley flourish, they need human interaction, not just computers.  Connect with a kid.