Friday, December 19, 2008

We Have to Write the Rest of the Song

The always amazing Anne Smith (Anne, that’s your present for this year, enjoy – but please don’t open it until December 25th) asks her students to reflect on their learning over the past semester on their class blogs (Period 2, Period 4, Period 5, Period 6). The prompt varies somewhat by class, but here’s a sample:
What changes have you seen this semester in regards to your education? What role did technology play in that change? What role did the constructivist philosophy play in that change? (constructivist-students becoming producers of information, students in charge of their own learning). What suggestions for improvement do you have for me next year? What are some of the things you would suggest I do again?

Make sure to include specific examples and expand on each other's ideas.

Your feedback- honest and reflective- is important!
It’s very interesting to read through the student responses. Now, these are responses that are public and the students obviously know that Anne will read them as well, but I still think they are pretty representative of the students’ thinking. Anne also has them regularly do reflections on their learning in class that are not public (just submitted to her), both for feedback and also for metacognitive reasons.

There were many great comments that I could pull quotes from and it was hard to pick, but here’s an excerpt from StephanieL (emphasis added by me):
I guess right from the very first day, I didn’t expect normal. The very first day of school, Smith told us that this was ‘not education as usual’ and that we had the ability to ‘change the world’. It really hit me that day. Smith also introduced the idea of challenging the system – something that we’ve been returning to periodically over the past four months. The projects that Smith faces us with are entirely different than anything I’ve ever tried in my life. She gives us the ending note, and we have to write the rest of the song, so to speak.

. . . We can teach each other tenfold better together, than any teacher would be able to standing alone. All Smith has to do is make us think. And I won’t deny, I have thought so much in this class.

I really don’t think that anything needs to be changed, because as the year goes on, it changes itself. We can change things. We do change things. Giving a set idea to change wouldn’t allow freshmen of next year and the years following to make changes of their own. Smith wasn’t lying when she told us that we can change the world. We’re changing the world by using laptops, and by being who we are. I hope that eventually, everyone will be able to use these laptops; perhaps not the ones that we’re using to wrought our ideas into virtual text, but just to use them. If people avoid using technology as substantial as this, they’ll be losing every experience that you get from this class, and this form of teaching. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the laptops, Smith, and individual thinking has changed my life. I’m not going to be the same person ever again. Yes, this class can change the world, but it can also change us. It does.
Not every student will feel as Stephanie does, nor will every student be as eloquent, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that we are doing a terrible disservice to our students when we deny them the opportunity to reflect on their own learning, in both public and private spaces.

When was the last time you provided your students with that opportunity?


  1. Isn't this what every teacher is hoping for, that somewhere out there a student's life changes because of what the teacher has done.

  2. One of the best ways a teacher can assist a student in creating change for the better in their life is to do so "without getting caught". By this, I mean that remaining subtle and apparently in the background while carefully crafting situations where a student is "set up for success" and thinking they did it all on their own is a wonderful approach.