Sunday, August 3, 2014

the art of communicating the art of communicating

My Dad recently discovered a box in the garage full of old high school and college papers I wrote. There was even a Hamlet essay from my senior year AP English class. (I got a B-.) Then there was this one, from the master's degree program at UCLA's Teacher Education Laboratory. I didn't include the date (one of many errors-- check out the "the the" in the 2nd paragraph), but I was in that program from 1992-3, so I would have been 22 or 23 (or 4-5 years older than the average high school senior) when I wrote this. Please read it and then scroll on.

on teaching as an art

Modern learners need to be masters of both content and media. Thought and symbolic representation/communication of thought is amazing and made all the more so by technology-enabled communities. And it's important to be mindful of what we don't know. Although physiology and neurology shed more light than ever before, we have not been able to find or explain the little voice within. So we can't exactly account for consciousness or how we think, which means learning is still a lot like love: an intimately familiar mystery that each of us experiences differently. And love is one of the most popular stories in human history. How many novels, plays, movies, poems, songs...?

Learning is just as intuitive and just as abstract, and it merits just as much freedom of expression. Consider this installation art piece depicting the estimated 857 students who drop out each hour. This is far more powerful and persuasive than an op ed essay: "Presidential Candidates Should Address Education Issues." [yawn.]

So why should an inquiry-based assignment come with a predetermined outcome ('this will be a paper,' 'that will be a poster')? Last year a research team began using mind maps. They wrote all the usual MLA-style text, but they were also able to create a living document with links, pics, vids and other media, and they were able to invite communities to view and even participate.

Start looking into online tools (pick at least three to start, I'll post a list soon) that enable the user to convey an idea or tell a story. As you evaluate them, ask yourself: How do you learn? What makes you lose track of time? Do you agree with the idea of teaching as an art? (Feel free to disagree, it's a free country.) Looking forward to your comments.

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