One day, I was reviewing with a high school student for a final exam in history. It was rough going; the material was detailed and complex and this young man’s grasp of both the facts and the concepts was poor.
We plowed on for two solid hours, and then he turned to me and floored me with this question: “OK, now, do you think I know this stuff?”
Truly, isn’t that a remarkable thing to ask? This young man couldn’t tell for himself whether or not the hard mental work he had just done had resulted in “knowing.”
But what, indeed, does “knowing” feel like? How do any of us know whether or not we know?
I love TED talks; I watch them often, I show them in my classes, and I routinely share them with loved ones and students.
There are a number of TED talks that have, without exaggeration, profoundly and permanently changed my own life for the better.
Here’s a Thanksgiving feast for your brain, a few of my favorite websites for educational games and videos:
Sporcle has quizzes on all sorts of subject matter. How well do you know the countries of Africa, or the periodic table, or sports teams? What countries have the highest populations of turkeys?
On Quizlet you can make your own flash cards (online or printed), or use sets in their extensive collection. Brush up on your vocabulary (excellent for test prep!) or your times tables or your French verbs. I really like their “Scatter” game, one of several flashcard-flipping options you can try.
Last week I said that I see value in having kids (and all learners) memorize a certain amount of factual information.
I also said that I’m not a fan of rote memorization of multiplication “facts.” Kids should also be learning when and how to apply all of the four operations to various situations.
I loved rediscovering this little parable the other day; it really kept me going as I sat with student after student, plowing through the same chemistry review packet over and over and over…
Three brick layers were busy at work, and a passerby stopped and asked each what he was doing.
I’m laying bricks, said the first.
I’m making my living, said the second.
I’m building a cathedral, said the third.
Because wait long enough, and some amazingly smart and dedicated researcher might come up with a break-through that changes your life.
Maybe it’s medical. Maybe technological.
Or, as the field of neuroscience advances, the light bulb that clicks on is more and more often psychological.
Why do relationships fail?
When I was thirteen, my dad passed along to me his paperback copy of The Fountainhead, and by the end of high school I had read it seven times. I now know how formative those adolescent years are, how our Self is still forming and jelling during our teens, and so I understand why, to this day, The Fountainhead is such a reference point for me.
This morning we went to the Unitarian Church in Provincetown, a first visit for me as a highly reluctant church-goer. Lately, I’m challenging myself to try and sort out my extremely mixed feelings about attending church. Plenty of atheists go to Unitarian church. I should be able to do this.
Are you like this?
I’m sipping my morning coffee and reading today’s Beyond Blue. Therese Borchard reports that the sound of water calms her down. For her therapist, clouds do the trick.
Knowledge is what calms me down. Information, especially about human behavior, emotions, how the human brain works, always makes me feel better.
When I was in grade school, I could not do well on timed math tests, even the basic add/subtract/multiply/divide tests. If I could do it on my own time, I did well.
Now my grandson has the same problem. When we do the flashcards, he can do them very fast but we make it fun also.
Why do they have these timed tests, like 25 problems in 3 minutes?
How can I help him do better?
There’s a wide variation in how people learn math, and in what math-related skills they are stronger or weaker in.
In my recent post, Midterm Exams and 21st Century Knowledge, I said that we ought to be focusing more on developing reasoning, problem-solving and researching skills, and de-emphasizing rote memorization of names, dates and formulas. Our sophisticated technology allows us to look up data and procedures easily, freeing up our “head space” for higher level thinking. Yet, every year, students are still required to cram for exams by stuffing lots of facts into their brains.
Here’s one of the replies I received: Yes, what the formula is may be important but as long as we know where to find it,it is much more critical to know why, when and how to USE it. So yes, I agree with you. The next thought is how do we change the system and the teachers entrenched in it?
I think that technology is going to be part of the key to a dramatic change for the better in our educational system. Right now there are experimental programs being piloted, including School of One, a system which uses computers and interactive software programs to deliver individualized, self-paced instruction. Kids learn best when they learn at their own pace, and technology can make this possible in ways large-group classroom instruction simply cannot.
I also believe that once teachers are freed from their roles as classroom lecturers and disciplinarians their energy will flow in productive directions. Once technology takes over the bulk of the lesson-delivery process, teachers will have time to help individual students or pursue special-interest topics with small groups. Teaching will become a very different profession from what it is now.
A few teachers, the ones “entrenched” in their old-fashioned roles, will not welcome the change. But I can’t help believing that most real educators…people who love knowledge and are excited about learning…will be overjoyed to spend their careers actively empowering kids to develop into strong thinkers and communicators.