Wednesday, June 30, 2010

EDUC 511: Taxonomic tea leaves

This afternoon we practiced classifying questions you could ask a student about an article they had read according to the types of knowledge being considered (factual, conceptual, procedural, or metacognitive) and the types of thinking involved (remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create). This is based on a learning taxonomy according to Anderson et al.

We spent a solid 15 minutes discussing whether the question, "Which of the three trend lines on the graph in the article shows the greatest amount of change?" represented engaging students in

a) factual knowledge (reading data in front of you, with Understanding / Interpretting cognitive processes)

b) conceptual knowledge (steeper lines represent greater change)

c) procedural knowledge (do you know the process for reading a graph)

The problem is that any of those answers could be valid depending on the context -- depending on the intention of the teacher, and the background and knowledge base of the student.

Then we spent another 15 minutes discussing whether it's possible to use this taxonomy in a unique way -- whether there can be a single correct answer, or whether the individual diversity of minds and cognitive processes makes it impossible for the taxonomy to be unique.

The professor is advocating for a common language to describe thinking, which is fine, and probably useful for lesson planning and aiming to provoke a diversity of types of thinking from your students. But assuming all the students will use the same knowledge and cognition categories to answer a given question just doesn't seem possible to me. It's non-unique, because people are non-unique.

This is probably why I've always shied away from the social sciences -- the fuzziness of it, combined with the discipline-level impulse to overlay scientific precision on human messiness. Wish me luck with ed school.

My favorite phrase from the readings for today:

"Many of the classifications and categories students encounter represent relatively arbitrary and even artificial forms of knowledge that are meaningful only to experts who recognize their value as tools and techniques in their work."

The taxonomy is definitely seeming arbitrary and artificial to me today. We'll see if I become expert enough to value it in my work.

EDUC 504: Memories and Standards and Games, oh my! (Reflection on June 30 Class)

First in a series of posts reflecting on class meetings of Education 504: Teaching with Technology

I have been pleasantly surprised by how all the different classes (5 and counting -- we'll get the sixth in a few weeks) in the SMAC program have been focused on the overall teaching experience in addition to the specific subject matter of the class. That trend continued today with the exercise in discussing our best and worst memories from our high school experience. (My best was my high school orchestra trip to Europe, which provided an exciting adventure, an experience of independence, challenging and beautiful musical performances, and lots of fun with great friends. My worst was when my classmates and I made two different teachers cry due to our disengagement due to their challenges in teaching us.)

That being said, I was a little surprised that we spent so much of the first class (an hour?) walking down memory lane with a pretty lose connection to technology in teaching. Probably valuable overall, and I understand that the instructors wanted to emphasize the focus on Teaching, not just with Technology, but I'm not sure about the use of time.

I thought the technique of using the google form embedded in a wiki was brilliant (it is possible I'm too engaged by shiny tricks), and I look forward to using that to aggregate student responses in say, a pre-unit base knowledge evaluation.

The next hour spent on the national technology in teaching standards was a bit murky for me. I understand that there's a tension between making standards so general as to be useless and so specific as to be stifling. I think these standards were aiming for a middle ground, but ended up being fairly mushy -- abstract but convoluted -- language. I would have been greatly helped by some non-prescriptive concrete examples, and indeed the only way I made sense of it was trying to come up with what they might concretely look like in our "cafe chat" groups.

I'm intrigued by the discussions of texting and video games and looking forward to learning more about how to use them to engage students in meaningful learning, and also how to set appropriate guidelines around their use.


Testing 1 2 3 - This entry is testing uploading from MacJournal, which is the software I use to write and save blog posts on my computer.

This has the advantage that my precious writings are forever preserved on my hard drive, and not at the mercy of google (or whoever).


This blog has been created for a course on Teaching with Technology in the University of Michigan Masters of Arts with Certification program in Secondary (grades 6-12) Education.

The course requires regular posts reflecting on class readings and discussion. I'm also planning to use it for other reflections on the MAC experience that I am happy to share with my classmates and my friends from outside the program. I'm hoping some of my teacher friends outside the program will read and comment.

My name is Emily. I'm coming to teaching via science (undergrad majors in physics, geosciences, and integrated science, and a Ph.D. in earth science), business (three years at a management consulting firm), and a long history of volunteer teaching and tutoring (most significantly in Peace Corps Ghana). My teaching majors are Earth Science, Physics, and Math.

I'm hoping the program will help me be a better teacher -- my time in Ghana taught me that I enjoyed teaching, but that there are lots of ways to do it badly... too much lecture, moving too fast for the students who need more time, moving too slow to keep the fastest students challenged, too little connection to the practical realities of my students' lives, too much concentration on passing a high stakes test. I want to learn some strategies for doing it right. Or at least better.

Thanks for reading.