Thinking is Dangerous

May 18, 2009

LightFellow educators,

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel that all hope is lost?  One of those days where you start to wonder if anything matters besides AP/IB scores?  One of those days where you wonder what happened to thinking?  Well, I have lots of those – probably too many for my own good.  But the other day I was shaken from my gloom by a shining beacon of student thinking.  As you may have read in previous posts, I am working with students on a social bookmarking site to hold meaningful (digital) conversations on current events in the context of learning history.  Recently, a couple of students started a conversation that was downright dangerous (in a manner of speaking) – they challenged the current systems of political and economic order – and they did it all by themselves.  If you are interested, please read on after the jump to see the conversation these students engaged in.  Remember, this was independent of me as a teacher, and these kids came up with this all on their own.  Also, these are international students – a mix of nationalities, etc.  For privacy, I have excluded the actual names of the students.  Read on at your own peril.  If you’re not careful, you too may get sucked into doing some thinking.  (Also, the conversation is rather long).

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Of Arm-Twisting and Educating

May 4, 2009

When I was in high school, I sometimes imagined that teachers spent their free time sitting around dreaming up new and creative ways to inflict pedagogical pain upon pupils.  Specifically, I recall English teachers who required us to annotate anything we read – History teachers who gave a reading quiz every Friday – and Math teachers who gave daily practice problems.  I hated these things.  But now I see the value to some (not all) of these practices.  For instance, annotating English texts taught me to be a critical reader.  History quizzes taught me to look for main ideas and hidden assumptions in the text.  And Math homework taught me that, even if you’re really bad at something, you can’t just give up on it without putting forth an effort.  The “arm-twisting” of my teachers helped make me a more intelligent human being.

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Creating A Monster

April 6, 2009

    No one knows better than Victor Frankenstein the potential for danger in creating new things.  After all, he harnessed the very power of life, only to be frightened and disillusioned when he could not control it.  Frankenstein’s message is especially pertinent in our age of technological proliferation.  Perhaps we are not to the point of creating the very substance of life, but as educators we face the possibility of watching a seemingly great creation run wild in ways that could be destructive.  So I wonder, where do we draw the line? Read the rest of this entry »

Letting “The Man” Get You Down?

March 10, 2009

This post is about the idea of teaching digital rights management and copyright to students as a part of integrating IT into the curriculum. Wow, could I make this topic sound any more boring? Actually, this topic is anything but boring.   Unfortunately, I have a hopelessly philosophical approach to this question, which will likely make me sound like a pretentious d-bag.  So read on at your own peril (or interest).

There is so much content available about the issues surrounding digital copyright, that one might wonder why the subject even warrants a blog post from a third-rate blogger.  And to that, I respond that I am hoping to take a different approach to this idea of digital copyright.  Much has been made of the economic arguments, the artistic issues, the enforcement difficulties, etc.  But I wonder if this argument about digital copyright is the beginning of a new debate over Marxism, Anarchism, and the very political structures under which we live?  It seems that some of the fundamental issues underlying digital copyright are issues of private property (which Marx finds inherently evil).  And this brings me to the question of how to teach students about the laws and digital copyright.

   Marx i Engels II by Jose Téllez. Read the rest of this entry »


March 3, 2009

Recent conversations with colleagues have revolved around the question of ever-elusive student motivation.  What gets kids motivated in the classroom?  And how can technology be used as a way to get students interested in learning?  Armed with these questions on educational philosophy, I set out to investigate the topic of student motivation.  What I found was an acronym – frick!  (Frick is not the acronym, but a little “classroom swearing”).  I hate acronyms.  Acronyms are created by people who are either too lazy to pronounce a few extra syllables, or by people who think acronyms are “cute”.  The latter are the far more egregious language offenders.  They are typically the same people who like the messages on motivational posters, send “singing” greeting cards, or are obsessed with kittens (okay!  they’re cute!  we get the picture, now leave the poor feline alone).  But I digress. . .

    The acronym from the study I found is SCORE – and yet I find it no more memorable as an acronym.  You can read all about SCORE here, or you can wait for me to give you the highlights. Read the rest of this entry »

But What Makes Me Want To Read It?

February 25, 2009

Inspired by some of my recent fascination (misguided infatuation?) with creative uses of IT in the classroom, some of my IB history students have decided to create a wiki that deals with the question, “To what extent can World War Two be considered a total war from the varying perspectives of social, economic, and political history?” I’m sure you are thinking, “with such a riveting and undeniably compelling question, it’s a wonder Kopp even needs to put forth any effort at all to get his students interested in this topic.” But, alas, social history and economic history are just not as sexy as “Valkyrie”, “Pearl Harbor”, “Saving Private Ryan” (from the Internet movie database), or any of the other number of Hollywood adaptations of WWII – hefty on star power, light on historical significance. Read the rest of this entry »

This is How We Do

February 20, 2009

Curriculum coverage:  a sacred idol of the teaching profession that is worshipped (willingly or reluctantly) particularly by teachers of classes with “external examinations”; typically identified as a necessary evil; content without understanding; teaching without learning.gamehowwedo200532781_f

50 Cent wrote “How We Do” to portray the life, sometimes glamorous, sometimes brutal, of the modern-day gangsta [sic].  Perhaps a similar lyrical piece ought to be made about the life of a teacher:  “This is how we do, when we’re all up in the classroom / throwing down words like it ain’t no thing / Dropping all this data as if it’s understood / so we can ease an exam-stained conscience.”  And, in a way, it’s all a game – not life on the street, but life in the classroom.  We teach kids to “play the game” of school.  Those who can’t compete are labeled as difficult, behavior problems, or simply “not college material” (or art students . . . ).  But what do we accomplish through this game?  What do we actually teach kids?  Or, more significantly, what do they actually learn?

    These questions come on the heels of discussions about the use of technology in providing students with more learning opportunities and great differentiation of instruction.  But I’m noticing a pit-fall in that even the “coolest” technology can be made irrelevant by a well-meaning teacher.  If these technological models (blogging, networking, wikis, videos) are turned into another aspect of “the game”, then we simply teach kids that even the most interesting things can be made boring or irrelevant.  So, how do I use IT without letting it become just a part of “the game”?  Thoughts?