Posted by: lsinrc | June 6, 2012

Okay, time to start it up again

Sorry I have been absent–my house remodeling projects consumed a lot of my time. While on the surface this would seem to be irrelevant to education or  technology, it is strangely on topic. You see, I have no background or experience in remodel projects. Some of the projects were simple enough, but the final ones were highly complex (for me, anyway). Through the ordeal this last couple years, I have been intrigued by the learning process. Here are the learnings that I think can be helpful for educators:

  1. Let’s start with the obvious and give it a twist: you can find info on just about anything on the internet. The problem is the misconception that typing a couple words in Google can find anything–not true! Much of the info I needed to complete these projects truly taxed my deepest knowledge of digging for information. Our problem in education: teachers and students who believe they are good searchers when they are not. They don’t know that they don’t know–the hardest change of all for professional developers. We have to quit giving students easy search tasks–let’s roll up our sleeves and learn how find the difficult information–that is the skill people truly need.
  2. Don’t dive in the deep end–scaffold your skills. I started with what I could handle–new flooring on a kitchen and bathroom. Next came sheetrock in the basement walls and texture without an air compressor. Next came the two showers: waterproofing materials and techniques, stone tile & wet-saws (including straight cuts and bullnose edging), shower subfloor, drain, pebble rock flooring, and finally a curved glass block wall. If I had started with the latter it would have been a disaster. As educators, the greatest value we have to give students is the guidance of the learning process–but not the mass guidance “all students need to start here then move to here.” Our role should be the most difficult kind–individual guidance that doesn’t fit the cookie cutter progressions or standards. In my remodeling projects, if I had followed a preset home remodel guide on what I need to learn first, second, third, I may have learned something but it would not have relevance to what I needed to get the real work done. As educators, we need to tackle the difficult individualization–the things that the common core’s or the Kahn Academy’s of the world can’t offer.
  3. Developing an expertise from scratch is highly time consuming. People comment to me on how much work the remodeling must be, but it is the pre-work that tested patience. Prior to lifting the first hammer stroke for the bathroom projects, I had to have spent at least 100 hours of reading and researching (one evening at a time). We have lost this in public education. We spend so much time on mile-wide inch-deep standards, we have no depth to our learning processes–there is too much content to cover for “the test.” People complain that students today have no attention span. We are putting the blame in the wrong place–it’s not the kids, it’s our education process! Education needs to get back to deeper, richer learning.
  4. In the previous point (above), not all the research was prior. I was in a constant flow of deciding an action plan, trying it out, then replanning and adjusting based on the results. True learning is a constant action research and formative assessment process. Education needs to provide more of what video gaming provides: an environment where students are constantly setting an action plan (hypothesis) on how the reach the next level, testing that plan, and evolving that plan. We need better feedback loops for students.
  5. Reinforce the skills as they get perfected, and celebrate the results. We had a graduation at our house end of May. Prior to this my wife and I had talked of redoing the walls around the fireplace. Finally mid-April, I asked, “Are we doing this before graduation or not.” The answer was yes, and so I tackled a diagonal tile pattern, which has its own challenges, including precise measuring and using clamps to hold tile as you build up from the floor. I finished in about 3 weeks. I would have never tackled it in that timeline without having the prerequisite experience, which reinforced to me how much I had learned. Education needs to do more to help students recognize their own growth in learning. While we certainly celebrated my daughter’s graduation, I am not sure that I as a parent or my daughter have a good grasp on the scope of her growth. Education’s reporting system needs to better inform students and parents on the type of growth achieved over time.

So now the educational part is out of the way, let’s share the some photos:

 

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