Friday, November 16, 2012

"We ourselves have to be more creative in fusing book and workshop for those who go to school to fashion a better life." Mike Rose in Back to School: Why everyone deserves a second chance at Education. It's a wonderful book.

Mike Rose got me excited about my passion for breaking down the divide between the trades (vocational education) and academics. The "two sides" are indeed unified by the student's need for a job. If you think about it, people go to school--not for pure education--but to prepare for work. Most of us do not have the luxury of just going to school for the sake of learning.

Contextualization is not simply a theory. It is relevance; it is engagement. It is the life or death of our institutions. Bring down the wall!

Therefore Career Technical Education is just being realistic about education. I have been doing this but I feel even more strongly about it now--I want to devote my time to bringing the book and workshop closer!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

I am getting back to my blog. I haven't stopped thinking about teaching this summer. I took a course about how to help students with their online course. I will be teaching a hybrid online Reading and Writing course in the Fall for the first time. A book I picked up in preparing for this class is called Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen. It is a very interesting and useful book, geared towards technology but useful for everyone. Advice such as follow/shadow your students to get ideas about what works, information about memory and how it works--and I am still reading it. 

The book and some other discussions I have had with colleagues made me want to write about a wonderful experience I had as a member of a Faculty Inquiry Network. The kind of collaboration that went on in that project was amazing. People shared ideas around the inquiry/research we were doing on  teaching and what worked. We not only observed each other and made suggestions and worked on bettering our lessons (originally modeled on the Japanese Lesson Study) but our coaches who were leading the overall project came into our classrooms and made observations, helping us hone our research.

I feel that classroom research for teachers, like action research for students, is a very effective form of professional development. One of the things I liked about Julie Dirksen's book is her insistence on "context" in the broader sense of the word as learning environment and in particular, as relevance to the student's interests. Another aspect I liked is her use of examples and stories to anchor all the theoretical ideas. 

The idea of teaching and learning as active, changing, living and growing processes is most important.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jeff Duncan-Andrade is a leader in education in the San Francisco-Oakland area. I admire the issues he brings up and him as a person. Thank you Jeff for your enlightening work. He talks about trauma among urban youth and how precious they are. We need to look at these aspects of education as well--the obstacles, the trauma, the conditions that kids have been burdened with. Here is one of my favorite talks by Jeff--it made it to Ted Talks--Roses in Concrete.
 How do we pay attention to these students who have been traumatized? We try to find their strengths. We encourage them to work with their peers. We give them a sense of worth and connection. Violence comes into our lives in so many ways and it takes generations to change, and violence is transnational, and the damage done, I believe, becomes part of our bodies, our cells and is manifested in various ways.
Linda Hogan, the Chickasaw writer, explains this idea in many of her books--that the violence done to Indians is part of their bodies, not just psychically but physically.
Our precious Oakland kids are surrounded by violence. Think about it! How can they calmly attend school and sit in a lecture without having any feelings or "odd" behavior?
Jeff Duncan-Andrade's book called What a Coach Can Teach a Teacher is a great book to read about teaching. He talks about group work and peer work in a big way. Not every student "succeeds" in our traditional sense of the word but maybe in their own sense of succeeding or maybe succeeding is not important to them. Accepting and affirming a person for their struggles is also valid.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yesterday I went to a training on Integrative Learning from Gillies Malnarich (Evergreen College). It was very inspiring. This is the kind of learning I have been wanting to talk about at Laney. Here is a short summary but there are other materials on the internet that would be helpful too.

I think what I valued most of all about yesterday was thinking, sharing and planning ideas for teaching with my colleagues. This is what I really want to do and get going at Laney and other places. Teachers and others working in community college want so much to improve things and bring the best education to  our students. Building on campus a place or routine or series of workshops on best practices, methodology or simply institutional development and effectiveness is possible. Maybe this could even happen online, but the personal contact is also important.

At first I was disappointed that so few people came because this was an amazing gift to us that Gillies, an experienced instructor and teacher trainer came to us from the State of Washington to share her knowledge and expertise. But then I realized that I got to work with some wonderful people who were really interested in change and improvement and there would be a ripple effect.

We want to repeat these exercises and thinking processes and develop a new kind of Faculty/Staff Development Project, so that others can have these experiences and so we can enhance the idea of learning as a community at Laney. Other Colleges and Universities have built their own Faculty learning centers, for example LaGuardia Community College, North Carolina State University (called FIZZ), Honolulu Community College, and the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Faculty are given help to connect and to meet with each other, to create resources for each other, etc. This is what I dream about doing here. Creating a new tradition of faculty and staff learning from each other for a QUALITY experience for students.

Lately I have been saying--we have to make it worth for students to get an education!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Let's see if I can summarize this idea from the Teaching book I am reading by Ken Bain. The idea of student "stereotype vulnerability" really interested me. This means that even if a student is not explicitly stereotyped, he or she might anticipate that something is being done because of  stereotyping. A Stanford psychologist from Stanford, Claude Steele, actually came up with the term, "stereotype threat."(Steele has an article in the Atlantic that describes his research. It's really worth reading.) Stereotype threat is the feeling when people are "judged or treated in terms of negative stereotype or they could do something that would confirm that stereotype" among those around them (quoted from p. 69, What the Best College Teachers Do, Bain, 2004). A few pages later Bain speaks about Uri Treisman of U.C. Berkeley and his theorizing on teaching Math. Instead of placing minority students who weren't doing well in Math in remedial classes, he suggested putting them into honors workshops, showing how expectations and "creating opportunities" are key.

This next point is what I am getting at. "If these students were performing poorly because they suffered from stereotype vulnerability--which they apparently did--a remedial program would only make matters worse, reinforcing the notion that society thought they couldn't make the grade in regular classes." (Bain, 81)  Other research along this line has been done over the past 10 years or so.

We are faced with data that begs the question--how do we help our students? Let's seriously consider this idea! If we have so-called remedial programs, let's move on and give our students a better experience at college. They come here to learn, not to be treated as if they had problems and deficits.

If you have about an hour, it's worth listening to this lecture on "developmental Math" by Uri Treisman on YouTube.

One of my favorite experiences as a K-12 substitute teacher before I became a community college instructor was watching a Math teacher who came into my 5th grade class just for the Math. He came in and immediately and enthusiastically started the students working on very advanced problems. They were rushing up to the board to answer the questions. Even the student who the homeroom teacher had warned me was "a troublemaker" was excelling! I remember the math teacher shouting at me across the room like a sargeant: "Did you do math like this when you were in 5th grade, Ms. Franeta?" No I didn't, I shouted back. I will never forget the faith, the trust, and high expectations for those students he conveyed in that class.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A friend of mine shared this great little video on education with me. We still live in the age of "the manufacturing model of education." After watching this I do think more critically about what on earth we are doing and how silly this will all look years from now.
The video

I have been interviewing my Solar students about what they got out of my reading class which finished for them mid-semester. I sometimes cannot imagine how bored they must be in some of these classes, but I guess people can get used to anything. The amazing thing is that I interviewed about ten of them and they were all very good at capturing what I was trying to convey in my class--the content as well as the connections I was trying to help them make. They all mentioned that they loved how I used their Photovoltaics book and how I "broke it down" for them. I am so glad the book became less daunting. Of course there are some people who may not have gotten so much out of the class. I got some ideas yesterday about who i could interview who did NOT get as much out of the class. They have been reluctant to interview with me possibly because they did not want to be negative or maybe they had nothing to say. How can I get capture their experiences on video???

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Brain and how we learn fascinates me. I was inspired by a talk given at a TESOL Conference by Janet Zadina in 2009 called Language, Learning, and the Brain. Here are some notes from the presentation that I found online.
Both her work and another scholar's, James Zull (The Art of Changing the Brain), support a lot of my thinking that the way we integrate data and learn is a very complex and non-linear process. We can get data very fast but integrating it is another story that is still being explored. The brain is plastic. Learning is possible and necessary into old age. In an interesting article online she discusses how important emotions, bilingualism, the social aspect, and visualization is. "A growing body of research indicates that it is easier to learn if you visualize information. In addition to providing pictures to be associated with words that are being learned, utilizing visualization is an additional effective tool." The Multiple Pathways Model, Zadina. 
We know that our dreams, for example, are difficult to understand--what are they doing, how do dreams function in learning, why are they important. What do we take in and why? Is bilingualism or multilingualism better for the brain? Of course. Zadina's slogan at the conference was "bilingual is better." Also, I remember there was another talk about dyslexia by someone else, during which I learned that dyslexic brains may actually be called more advanced and these people are more hands-on/kinesthetic learners.
Here is a Ted Talks with Janet Zadina on neuroscience and school reform. She talks about stress, natural disasters, and how music and physical education are helpful to learning. Change is possible and inevitable because of the brain.
I will be writing my next blog about Jeff Duncan-Andrade, a great influence on my thinking about teaching as well.