In with the Old

Since logging on to social media, especially Twitter, I have had my eyes opened to a plethora of new ideas: new technology, new ways of thinking about instruction, new ways of lesson planning even. The majority of what I read, I find enlightening and exciting. Over and over I hear the chorus of “There is a new way of doing it; Jump on board!” And I am ready to jump!

But there is another chorus singing, not so loud, but they are still being heard. This one sings the song, “If it isn’t new, don’t do it at all.”

I love the fact that education is changing. But just like we shouldn’t keep doing things just because it’s the way it’s always been done, neither should we toss out lessons just because they have always been taught. Believe it or not, some lessons have been taught for years because they are important to know.

This post was inspired by a Twitter conversation about whether literary terms such as alliteration and metaphor should still be taught. The impression I got was that it was foolish to continue to teach these obvious useless ideas.

While making a case for alliteration is a little hard, metaphor is important. Making comparisons between two things is a critical thinking skill. Metaphors and other comparisons show up often in good writing, and students need to recognize and understand them as readers and use them effectively as writers. Is the complaint against teaching the word? Against teaching the concept?

The same could be said about writing. While we do use too much paper, waaaayyyy too much paper, we still don’t live in a completely digital society. I communicate with my friends and family mainly through email and Facebook, but I still write thank you notes, messages home to students (not all who have computers at home or cell phones in their pockets), journal notes, etc. I often find myself jotting down ideas and organizing them when I am without a computer nearby. Perhaps when the technological world becomes more affordable to everyone, then we can reconsider the issue, but right now I can’t afford to buy an I-phone or fix my laptop.

And if I can’t afford it, there are a lot of other people who can’t either.

The world is changing. We have to change with it. But absolutes aren’t the right way to go. The idea that public education needs to be gutted where we dump everything and start over is as ridiculous as the idea that we should only change a few little things here or there.

Please understan, I don’t think we should keep everything or that technology isn’t important. In fact, I have become a convert to how powerful tech tools can be to the myriad of kids who don’t fall into the “good student” mold. Good teaching doesn’t come from blanket statements. Education policy does, but not good teaching. Good teaching comes from reflection and analysis and talking to colleagues and parents and students. It comes from giving them multiple ways of expressing themselves and teaching them the vocabulary to discuss their thinking. Education is about details. Think about everything individually and how it connects the big picture. Keep what works, store what works sometimes, toss what never works….but don’t just the whole dang ship because you don’t like the the paint colors.

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1 Comment

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One response to “In with the Old

  1. You raise an important point: we need to put learning first, identify essential outcomes for students, and then plan to allow all students to reach those outcomes. We can’t rush into using a tool without thinking through whether or not it aligns with learning’s purpose. I took many a plunge this year in my own efforts to address students’ motivations (love of social learning, love of inquiry, love of of production) and to reduce paper, and have loved it (http://www.misterteacherperson.blogspot.com). Keep reflecting and analyzing and please share out the tools you find that complement the learning kids need

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