Friday, December 7, 2007

Learning how to think

Using the ultimate tool available to us is becoming a lost art in our schools. As I go about teaching every day, I am confronted with this epidemic. The majority of the students that I have contact with have lost the ability to think for themselves. Creativity, uniqueness and independence have some how disappeared as fast as the car phone. I don't know if these characteristics and abilities were ever present.

I witness many trends that may cause this in our education system.

1. Teachers spend entirely too much time preparing for lessons with the wrong approach. Instead of spending time thinking of ways in which they can help the students discover ideas on their own, time is spent cutting shapes, copying worksheets and preparing most of the work for the students. The students just need to fill in the blanks.

2. Our school system is still teacher directed, with every move (even what to say) mapped out for every lesson. Some teachers do not fall prey to this monotony, but the majority do out of fear of reprisal from the administration.

3. In the average school day, too much time is spent on wasteful activities... bathroom breaks, discussing rules, needless assemblies, and parties for behavior that should be expected.

4. The use of outdated textbooks and what "they" call LEVELED READERS has become the norm. These books couldn't be more boring. They are all the same size. They all look the same. They have the same ridiculous questions at the end of the story. The students are not interested in any of the topics. How can we expect the students to enjoy reading?

5. The majority of educators still do not use web 2.0 tools in their teaching. The power of Wikipedia alone is overlooked and thought of as not accurate enough to use with our students.

Our students do not have the chance to think. I use the analogy of playing a sport. To be a successful athlete, a person must practice the sport in which they are interested. The practice time put into the sport should, over time, improve the persons ability to play this sport. This is analogous with the sport of thinking. If students do not practice the process of critical thought, how can we expect them to improve their thinking ability?

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