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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

In a corporate setting, it’s rare to find someone who is good at curriculum design, writing training and presenting training in a classroom.  They are very different skill sets that take a long time to get really good at.  As a result, most organizations hire different individuals to fill these roles.  Traditionally teachers have done all these roles and I would suspect, some are better and some of these than others.  It also leads to making every classroom different.  And based on normal statistical distribution, some are excellent, some are mediocre and some are really bad.  Therefore, I think it only makes sense to reexamine what teachers do to see if the quality can be more consistent and that teachers focus their time on what they do best or that we find teachers to fill much more defined roles.

Since my degree was in teaching history, I’ll use it as an example.  However, what I purpose should work for anything.  First, there is a lot of history that is simply about telling the story.  While there is a lot of disagreement about interpreting the story, that basics of what happened are fairly standard.  So what’s the best way to tell the story about the War of 1812.  I think the worst way would be a lecture.  For one reason, once you’ve heard it, it’s gone.  And second, half the class is already nodding off.  While there may be great lectureres, the vast majority of history teachers probably don’t hit that standard. 

Last week I saw a history channel special on the War of 1812.  Because of the reenactments and the high production values, I really learned a lot that I had never heard before.  While these are expensive to produce, if the cost is divided among 150,000 classrooms each year, year after year, it’s probably not.  The idea of giving the same content in a high quality is attractive to me.  Maybe if you identified the best lecturer or the top 10 and they gave all the lectures via web conference that might work as well.

No the teachers role is to discuss how to intepret are to apply the lessons of the events.   However, every teacher doesn’t need to figure out how to do this.  This can be standardized using the best practices and creative input of the best of the best.  A teacher can focus on practicing and getting really good at being a discussion leader and coordinating the learning activities recommended.  If this is structured well, class should seem more similar than different.  I shouldn’t make that much difference which school you were in.

I know your saying, but what about the differences in students.  While some students do need more help that others, they all need to learn the same things.  I think it’s important to not affect those who are doing just fine by those who aren’t.  Other teachers could specialize in helping those who need more.  Some may simply need to repeat things two or three times.  Trying to do everything for everyone in each classroom is a losing proposition. 

Finally, let’s talk testing.  For history at least, I’m in favor of eliminating all multiple choice, fill in the blanks, matching and true/false tests.  While  they are easy to score and compare, they really don’t test deep understanding and the ability to apply what’s learned.  Tests should all be writing and speaking on a topic.  In fact, I don’t like to do these as a surprise.  I think students can be told on day one what they will need to write and speak about so they can prepare along the way.

If these same type of testing is done year after year, students ability to write and speak about history will greatly improve and that’s really the point of teaching history.  This does put the pressure on other classwork to teach writing and speaking but I’d say that was a good thing.  Learning how to write well takes a lot of practice and it’s not just English classes.  Think about how many pages a student should write in K-12 to become a good writer.  If everyone wrote a page a day, that would be about 2,400 pages.  Maybe about 500 presentations.  I think that might do it.

Bottom line until we challenge the idea of teachers doing traditional things in traditional classrooms we will always have the good, the bad and the ugly of education.

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What’s a Blovel?

I’ve been considering writing new book. Maybe a sequel to Learning Paths. I’m also considering writing a novel. That’s when I came across the concept of writing a novel through blog posts. There is a whole online world of blog novels called Blovels. I haven’t read any of these novels yet but here’s a link to read a few. http://blovelspot.com/browse

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Uploaded by Nuigurumi

Check out this article.  It appears that the top ten novels in Japan were written on mobile phones.  I can hear the click-clack of thumbs now.  If getting rid of keyboards is happening soon and literature is being produced on a IPhone, what does that mean for traditional education. 

I can just imagine Shakespere now, writing Hamlet with the Verizon network people following him.  Can you hear my writing now?  How about now?

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Uploaded by cdevroe

I just read a fascinating article where Bill Gates predicts the end of the keyboard.  He says with the advancements in things like touch screens and voice recognition, keyboards will become less and less important.

 So what does this mean for teaching kids how to write?  Do you teach them with paper and pencil?  Do you teach them how to enter with a keyboard? Or, do you teach them how to talk into their computer?

I think some of the best and easiest to understand writing is when someone write the way the speak.  That is if they can articulate their thoughts.  I know that some people are still holding on to their old Royal typewriters and some like the feel of pen and paper.  I’m sure future generations will feel the same about their first computer they could talk to.

I think the world is going to get a lot noisier.

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Uploaded by Joseph Dath

 On a gut level, you might say that kids today just don’t read and write like we used to…or most adults just don’t read books. 

However, when you dig into it a little what’s really evident is that reading and writing have changed so much that comparing the past to today is comparing apples to oranges.

Here’s what I mean.  It used to be that you wrote long letters to friends and family and dropped them in the mail box.  In fact, a lot of history is recorded letters.  The civil war is a great example because it is one of the most documented wars because of all the letters.  The big change is not a decline in writing but a decline in using a paper and pen.  If you added up all the emails, text messages and posts on social networking sites, the amount of writing is massively greater.  Think about when congress wants another departments emails and the get several million emails to look at.

Well what about newspapers.  No one reads newspapers like they used to.  This is an absolutely true statement.  The reality is that people are probably more engaged and interested in their world, but news print just doesn’t cut it.  I could wait for old news to appear on my door step or I could just go to Yahoo news and see what’s happening right now.  A newspaper might offer you two or three columnists on a subject while you can go on line and get a hundred different points of view.  Newspapers also have to compete with 24/7 cable news and sports.  I remember rushing to the paper to get the sports scores in the morning.  Now I can watch the ticker on ESPN or call them up on my cell phone.

I know you’ll say, what about books.  No one reads books any more.  I’d say some one has the be reading books because the number of books in print each year has exploded.  Today about a 100,000 books are published each year.  If you read a book a week, you’d be reading .005% of the new books.  Hard to keep up on your reading that way.  Think about all the people who used to own a really good set of encyclopedias.  Their basically worthless today because if you want the knowledge of the world a quick Google search will work and you can get everything in multi-media.

So here’s a good question, have we change the way we teach reading and writing to fit a new world or are we still in line with the 1950s?

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Uploaded by funny adress

I see a lot of blogs that are very heavy text often just one long paragraph.  While content is king, you have to do something to attract and keep people’s attention. 

Here’s a couple of things I’ve done to try an make my site more readable. 

  1. I start with an idea and then go look for a picture that expresses the idea.  In this post, I just wanted a picture to grab your attention.  Nothing like a dog with three balls in his month.
  2. Then I try to get across my point in a series of very short paragraphs.
  3. I try to keep my post to something that you can read in just a few minutes.  If I have more to say, I can always write another post.  Also if you exhaust a topic, what are you going to write about tomorrow.
  4. Keep to your theme but don’t be too predictable.  This blog is about learning so I always try to connect it in some way, but the range of topics is fairly broad.
  5. I also prefer a narrative style so it sounds like I’m having a conversation with the reader.

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After reading lots of blogs and especially the comments, I think ranting is very poplular.  Sometimes it’s just an argument for the sake of arguing.  Here’s a interesting video that’s a lot like some of the blogs.  It’s also good for all the Monty Python fans out there.

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