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Educator Issues: 7/22/07 - 7/29/07

Friday, July 27, 2007

Who are the Experts?

I have a theory. Of course, I'm just a layperson. I've been to many, many workshops and professional development activities in which an expert offered techniques, research, and tools for me to become a better teacher. Some of these have been highly beneficial, others have been purely a waste of time. It's the sifting process, I suppose.
My theory is based on a study in a recent educational publication. The author of the book says that research shows that when laypeople are provided with the time and structure to reflect and share ideas, they often come to the same conclusions as the experts! What a profound finding!!
Simply stated: Schools could have much greater benefits if they sought ways to create reflection time and sharing of expertise among the teachers in the building and between buildings within districts. How much money could schools and professional development programs save if they simply applied their funding and resources to creating time and structure for the laypeople (in truth, these are the professionals who have been trained to educate others and who know their schools' struggles most clearly) to reflect and share ideas. Granted, the danger is that when given extra time to collaborate, some may waste the time and not dig deeply to find solutions. Also, it can be refreshing to have an outside perspective from someone who is truly qualified to offer assistance. But, it seems that this is such a largely untapped solution from which districts could benefit.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer Science Institute

I just spent a fantastic week working with a fellow presenter (two, really, including our RPDC coordinator) and a group of 8 wonderful science workshop participants. We had so much fun designing meal worm habitats, investigating a worm factory with all of its decomposer residents, learning about G. W. Carver, taking a nature observation walk, checking out a stream table, studying soil, creating a candy rock cycle and awesome edible rocks, and making expandable paper books. We took an entire afternoon to look at and share useful websites. Each teacher had the opportunity to create a "portaportal" to store and organize their sites of choice. The teachers became researchers in competition as they completed an information "scavenger hunt" using the parts of nonfiction books to find answers to questions. An excellent presenter came from NASA to do some hands-on activities with group. Finally, the teachers investigated forces and motion by creating "dragon racers" and measuring their movement on various materials.
I think my favorite time was designing paper airplanes and helicopters and testing them. The teachers did such a great job coming up with a testable question, carrying out a fair test, recording their results, and sharing their conclusions. Some of them even dropped their helicopters from the second floor balcony of the university center during their experiment stage. It was true, engaged, high-level learning. I was so pleased to see that the teachers often discovered some of the same difficulties as students do. Some became uncomfortable, at times, if a question arose to which they did not have an immediate answer. They were such a great group with good attitudes about learning. I sure hope all of them recognize that this sense of confusion and being unsure of an answer is a common struggle our students face. It is a struggle that is to be embraced rather than avoided.
I also loved the sharing aspect of this group. Every participant had something valuable to offer to the group at various times. I believe they are all excellent teachers and the fact that they were there and willing to participate to such a great extent reveals this fact. I'm privileged to have been part of this experience.
For those teachers who took part, thanks for being such delightful participants. I hope to have an opportunity to work with you again in the future! Remember, today is the first day of the rest of your life! Let it be an AHA! day!
Enjoy Pictures Here