Thursday, July 8, 2010

New Ideas and Influences: Key Concepts from the Boss & Krauss Chapters

People need to believe in what they’re doing. Teachers need to believe the subjects and concepts they teach are worthwhile. Students must feel what they’re learning is valuable and worthy of study. In chapter 4 of the Boss and Krauss text, this theme of believing in the subject matter resonates through the whole chapter (and subsequently throughout the whole book). Whatever the content, teachers must create in students a need to know and explore, which drives exploration into the territory of the project at hand. This idea of “needing to know” and its resulting motivation has influenced my thinking and attitudes toward the subject matter I teach my students.

On page 63 of the Boss and Krauss, Diane McGrath is quoted as saying that, “[a] good project will…be an extended investigation in which students design the subquestions and the ways of trying to answer them because they believe in what they are doing.” This statement captures the essence of what authentic project learning is all about because it places the responsibility on students themselves to get to the heart of the matter.

This will have an impact on me as a teacher and my current practice because my role as a teacher needs to shift in order to accommodate for these new practices and frames of mind. Allowing students to take more authority and ownership over their learning will give me practice in being more flexible. As a teacher who feels most secure in knowing there is some semblance of “control” during class activities, flexibility will change my teaching because it will challenge me to let go. It will also challenge me to trust myself that I have guided my students to the right places where they can now take over and take ownership in their own learning.

Consequently, in also showing my students I have faith in what they’re doing and in their actions, they are more apt to feel a sense of trust within themselves. This trust will ultimately lead to a sense that exploration and curiosity is not only accepted in my classroom, but encouraged. This will also reinforce the goal of getting students to become independent thinkers and musicians.

Another key point Boss and Krauss make is the idea of allowing students to track their own progress and assess themselves. This can be done through a number of mediums, but Boss and Krauss emphasize the use of technology as a means of effectively getting students to track their feelings, ideas, thoughts, successes and points of improvement. In chapter 6, the authors suggest that the use of technology tools such as blogs, surveys, “tweets,” and profiles encourage students to reflect and evaluate the above areas (p. 96).

Journaling has shown to be an effective means by which students evaluate, probe, wonder, and assess their own abilities and actions. By using this same technique through a new technological medium such as blogs, students are able to track and assess the very same things they would using a journal. However, by putting their journal entries online, they now become available to the teacher, the class, and other students around the country or even around the world.

By using the internet and allowing students to become proficient “bloggers” as part of a project this also allows students to gain 21st-century skills that they will be able to build upon and use in the real world. The use of blogs, online journals, “tweets,” or other online journaling resource has influenced my thinking for a number of reasons. I am curious to know what my students have to say as a result of the activities and projects we do. I want to know how my students would assess themselves and what motivates and frustrates them. By having this kind of look into the minds of my students I would be better able to make decisions about where our project has the possibility to go, what questions I need to ask to get them thinking critically, what I can do to challenge them. The information that could be recorded in these journals would be very valuable to both me as a teacher and a guide, and also to the benefit of my students.

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