Teaching education

My school (Skyline High School, in Oakland, CA) is lucky to have several career academies.  I’m lucky to work in our Education Academy, where I teach Introduction to Education to a group of 24 tenth graders who are thinking about a career in education.

The Purpose of Education

Currently in class, we are talking about the purpose of schooling. We’ve just finished reading an essay by Alfie Kohn called “What does it mean to be well educated?”  In the essay, Kohn describes many of the purposes of public education.  Kohn argues that measures like seat-time and test scores are mis-definitions of the purpose of school.  Instead, he argues that we educate our children to prepare them for jobs, pass on our culture, equip them to participate in a democracy, and mold them into caring adults.  My kids jigsawed this essay and created posters about what they think the purpose of education is.  Not surprisingly, they tended to agree with Kohn, thinking that a good education is much more than just the “bunch-o-facts” that are measured on high-stakes tests.



Homework online

We’re experimenting with making our class a blended learning environment. We use Collaborize Classroom for our homework.  Collaborize Classroom is a virtual, online space where I can post reading assignments, videos, questions, and other work. I can ask students to answer true/false or A,B,C,D polls, or they can write open-ended responses (my personal favorite).

Last weekend, we did our first homework assignment.  We looked at the following video, a talk by Sir Ken Robinson animated by RSAnimate:




Then, my students wrote about what they thought Mr. Robinson’s main points were and whether or not they agreed with him. Here are some of their responses:

One of my students thinks that “children don’t learn by listening to lectures and taking notes.  I don’t think we, as lots of teachers tell me.. ‘memorize things when we write them down.’ We learn by working in groups and sharing out ideas with others, and getting new ideas from them.”

Another student thought that the biggest road block in her education is the racial bias she confronts in school, especially with high-stakes test scores.  “I don’t think we should let other people label our education.  I feel as though kids learn better in a group setting so that we can share ideas and learn from each other. Basing kids off of their scores in standardized testing is not always the best…”  She feels that skin color is often used to stereotype people and “what kind of education and how far you will make it in life.”

Finally, one of my students agrees with Mr. Robinson that “the purpose of education now should be to let us (students) be creative and let us speak more and ask more questions, and do more projects/activities in groups.”

How would you respond to this assignment?  Do you agree with Kohn and Robinson?