Friday, April 15, 2016

Getting On the Same Page

Educators are talking a lot, and I mean a lot, about both differentiation and individualized learning. Layer on top of that Project Based Learning in which every product or solution will be, yes here is that word, different. Finally Blended Learning or Flipped allows any student to learn at their own pace. But have we forgotten our history?

I would like to use this opportunity to rally for the team huddle. The times in class where everyone comes together to learn together. Let's reference a time in history to clarify why this is important. In the 1950s, during the golden age of television, Hollywood was panicked that the reduction in ticket sales would be the end of theaters around the world. Yet this was not to be, primarily because of what psychologists call the contagion factor. This is the phenomenon that group reaction is much more appealing to us as social beings than individual reactions. In other words, we like the fact that others around us are laughing, sighing, or startled. (I'm not sure of the term for that sound when a person is shocked and inhales quickly.)

Now transfer this to a classroom where every student is working independently or in small groups on a project. Perhaps we have a blended classroom where some of the instruction is digital, some is in small groups. In our high schools or colleges, there could be opportunity for large group lecture but in the lower grades, it doesn't actually exist on a regular basis. So it is up to the classroom teacher to pull together the group. As a learner, perhaps from the old traditional learning styles, I look forward to those moments when we are all on the same page, thinking in unison. I'm sure this is the contagion factor and I see it as part of the appeal of the classroom instruction. We are in the midst of a huge transformation in education that is necessary for our student's learning styles. However, I believe in learning from history. Just as TV did not wipe out movie theaters, neither should independent learning completely remove whole group instruction. I would like to advocate for the last 8 minutes of class, when the teacher becomes the focus, makes all the connections again and creates that class huddle.

There are plenty of studies showing the power of reflection at the end of class but I'm looking for a more meaningful connection from the teacher of what it all means. Something from the teacher, in this student centered world can be as awesome as the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. You might recall the scene when the box that housed the ark was wheeled into a huge warehouse with similar boxes. Suddenly we all exclaimed "oh no!" realizing the impact that everything Indiana Jones had worked for was now buried in government bureaucracy. Remember that feeling as you spoke with others walking out of the theater? Wouldn't it be great to see students with that experience walking out of class?

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