20121012_083443.jpg Laying the Foundation: Exposure

Please watch this short video: The Answer is "C"

If you asked an educator to define their philosophy on education you are likely to get a myriad of responses. The discussion can quickly degenerate into a conversation about any number of topics from the standards movement and accountability to 21st century learning and the Common Core. Whatever the answer is, the truth lies somewhere in between. For me education is about exposure, observation, and production.


Today's schooling is driven by standards mastery. In practice this means pouring through curriculum at a dizzying pace only to teach and reteach until 32-150 students are able to show mastery (often as low as 70% is passing) through the process of answering a series of multiple choice questions. The three inherent problems with this approach to education is that it narrows the curriculum to what is tested, the tests can be gamed, and students are stuck never really applying any of the content that they have learned. If we are to ever move away from this type of learning then we need to give our students the exposure to tools that will allow them to produce, respond, and share.

20121018_124054.jpg Harvest.JPG Ashlyn Mike Project.JPG

Exposure is about giving students access and exposure to many different tools. The pictures above and the story below illustrates how this works in practice.

My principal recently called me at home. He asked me to help him with a project. He explained to me that he needed to make a digital version of a graphic organizer for a project he was helping his son with. I asked him what program he was using to create the graphic organizer. He explained to me that he was using Microsoft PowerPoint since he was going to eventually need to share presentation with a large group of people. I shared with him that PowerPoint probably was not the most efficient tool for building a graphic organizer. I guided him to Microsoft Word and began to try to explain to him over the phone how to create his organizer. After about ten minutes he became frustrated. I told him that my fifth graders could whip this out in 15 minutes for him. He said that it sounded like a challenge and that he would come into our class the next morning and present the challenge to the class. The next day he dropped by and presented the challenge to the class. He went on to tell them that he needed a graphic organizer and asked them how they would go about making one.

Nearly every student raised their hand. They gave him advice on three different ways that they knew how to accomplish the task. He then went on to ask them create one for him, and to up the ante he said that it needed to be done in 15 minutes since that is what their teacher said they could do. "I will be back in 15 minutes to see what you have produced." The students were engaged and excited. They nearly ripped the hinges off their Chromebooks trying to be the first to meet this challenge (Who says today's students aren't motivated and engaged). Over the next 15 minutes students created. They used Google Draw, Pixton, and Mindamo (A Chrome App) to complete the task. Once more the principal needn't even come back to our class since his inbox was soon flooded with graphic organizers coming from Google Docs. He did, however, return, and had the biggest smile on his face. He came back with three of the 32 graphic organizers he had received. He had printed them out (How 1.0 of him) and came back to explain that he was amazed and impressed. "You guys," he said "really are being prepared for the future."

On the surface this may look like nothing more than a cute story. But it holds in it many valuable lessons about teaching and learning.

It is Hard to Build a House Using a Spoon


Anyone who has ever tried to open one of those stubborn plastic packages would attest to how frustrating and sometimes dangerous it can be to try to do a job using the wrong tool. In our story that is just what my principal was doing. He did not have experience using different tools so he didn't know which tool to use. If we as educators don't step up and expose our students to a variety of educational tools how will they be able to meet the challenges they will face in the future.

Engagement is in the Eye of the Beholder


Today's students are not disengaged because society made them that way. They are disengaged because we made them that way. We have spent years putting them in rows and delivering curriculum to them. We value quiet, obedience, and one correct answer. We call on one student to read aloud, one...or maybe two to answer a question, but what about the other 30? We have them fill out worksheets we never correct, copy notes they will never use, and memorize things they will forget tomorrow. But when we expose them to a wide variety of curriculum, when we give them the tools to produce things, and set them up with opportunities to apply this knowledge: They amaze

Also see: The iAM project , Cultivating the Teachable Moment, Observation and Inspiration., Tony Wagner.