Over the last ten years, I have seen a huge shift is the ability of my student’s to “learn” new material. It is almost as if there is something standing in their way. This is not rocket science, if you look at my school’s test scores you can see that there is a disconnect somewhere. I believe this disconnect comes from the lack of preparation my students have when it comes to understanding information.
Learning is something that takes time. It is something that cannot easily be gained. It is hard and sometimes very frustrating. But in the end a person who truly “learns” something is better off than someone who simply learned to pass a class. In my opinion students who learn material to solely pass a class have missed the boat. Usually they cannot use the information they have just been taught. They have simply memorized for the time being. As teachers it is our responsibility to help our students become critical thinkers and lifelong learners.
One of the best ways to support learning is to have teachers “pay attention to the incomplete understandings, the false beliefs and the naïve renditions of concepts that learners bring with them to a given subject” (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000). As teachers we make the assumption that all students know the same material when they set foot into our classrooms. However, we need to realize that the learning needs of all students are usually not taken into account. Therefore, students come into classrooms with varying degrees of understanding. This lack of attentionto student understanding is tackled by Bransford, Browning and Cocking (2000) “superficial coverage of all topics in a subject area must be replaced with in-depth coverage of fewer topics that allows key concepts in that discipline to be understood” (p.20). So many teachers have raced to cover the benchmarks ad standards that going in-depth in a topic is not a reality. Preparing student to take state mandated testing is more important. In the long run are we truly preparing students for their futures?
This school year I had the amazing opportunity to teach a Holocaust history class. This is one of my favorite classes to teach because the students usually do not get to really understand what happened during this period of history I did not have list upon list of standards to meet, so we were able to really discuss and dissect topics. I felt students were able to truly dive into how the Holocaust came to be, how it was carried out, and how it ended. The only negative I truly experienced was that the students were at such varying levels of understanding. I believe that is order to “counteract these problems, teachers must strive to make students’ thinking visible and find ways to help them reconceptualize faulty conceptions” (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000). My students needed to be able to express their understanding openly. They needed a chance to show what they have pulled away from what we were studying. I felt lucky to have such an experience, because I know many other history teachers feel like they have to stay on target to meet every standard set up by the state.
With technology, I feel it is utterly important for students to be able to bring what they know to the table. In many instances our students have a greater understanding than most adults. They have computer knowledge that has come about from trial and error. By using things such as blogs, web pages, Twitter, and Skype, students will be able to take what they love (because really, what teenager does not love technology?) and expand on their learning to make them a more successful learner, thus, creating a shift from being a novice learner to becoming an expert. I feel that everyone in the field of education will benefit. By using technology, I believe the playing field will become more level. Let’s face it, in many districts students are using outdated materials that do not relate to anything they use in their lives now. By understanding the shift to technology and embracing it, students will gain a greater understanding and appreciation for what they are learning and what their strengths are. With this idea there is a possibility of greater collaboration and student centered learning. Teachers need to embrace the technology that is before them, and allow students to shine in the areas they are comfortable with.
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/catalog/9853.html