Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Engaging Students in Real Learning

As the semester winds down, I've been thinking a lot about how much I've learned doing this independent study. I recognize the difference in how I think about this "class," vs. the other three "have-to's" I'm taking. They've been interesting, but haven't generated the same kind of passion and intensity and excitement. I willingly spend HOURS reading and researching Web 2.0, and only grudgingly skim the readings for, as an example, my organizing information class. My only guidance has been the initial planner I set up for myself and the plethora of blogs and books I found. Gurus like David Warlick, Will Richardson, Doug Johnson, Joyce Valenza and Vicki Davis act as signposts on the journey, wisely suggesting directions I might like to explore; immersing myself in the ed tech network until I all but live, eat and breathe the stuff has profoundly affected my understanding of technology and its use . I don't know if I would be so melodramatic as to say it changed my life, but it certainly changed how I think about my teaching and, more importantly, my own learning.

As I start making plans for using this information next year, I realize this is what student-centered learning is all about: guiding students to discover and explore their bliss, as Joseph Campbell would put it. While I do have an obligation to teach some content (!), I also want to recreate this experience for my students, to help them find the passion to become motivated self-teachers and learners. Obviously, giving assignments on the use of symbolism in The Joy Luck Club isn't going to do that.

So I'm thinking that, in addition to the usual kinds of assignments--which will now be A LOT more collaborative and student led, I want to give them the chance to research, explore and blog about one topic per semester that's of interest to them. They'll still need to incorporate the writing, technical and analytical skills needed for class, but that should be inherent in the topic, especially as, (Inshallah!) they work deeper into the topic and become more engaged.

I have a paper to write for Friday, then I'm going to sit down and plan out the general overview of how such a project will look. I'll blog it when I'm finished.

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