Thursday, October 31, 2013

Philosophy, Style, and 40 Years | October 25, 2013

Jessica Anderson

Learning and teaching are amazing things when done right. But "done right" means a lot of things to a lot of learners and teachers, and it really depends on your philosophy.

As an individual, I am a very visual learner.  When I first started teaching, I assigned a lot of pictorial vocabulary sheets, made students draw pictures to show processes, and had them look at pictures I'd drawn, in books, and on the internet to help them understand concepts. As a science teacher, I also loved to show them demonstrations and small clips on YouTube to help illustrate verbal explanations. As I progress in my field, I'm finding myself delving into all of the learning styles in order to reach all learners/teachers in the classroom.

Through this progression, I've found myself moving more towards an asynchronous classroom every year. I began by cutting back lecture, adding more explorations and inquiry activities, and finally making the full transition to blended-gamified self-paced courses. So where does this all fit in with my philosophy? Well, it's important to realize that I truly believe that science is a non-linear process that requires exploration, failure, and lots of prototyping. Students cannot truly learn science unless they are doing science. Yes, doing science not just reading about it (I am textbook free in my earth science course). This is why my classes are full of labs, hands-on activities, outdoor explorations, demonstrations, inquiry/problem-based projects, activity choice, and, most importantly, are self-paced. I truly believe that my students should be in the driving seat and not just taking the given path. I also include technology-based activities and virtual interactions with students across the country because I believe these are pertinent to our evolving technological world and my students' ability to be successful in whatever workforce they choose.

I believe being a part of the educational system should be fun, rewarding, and worthwhile. All learners should be included in the learning plan, be able to recover from failures, and leave the classroom knowing they've accomplished something everyday. They should also be prepared to apply skills taught to situations they encounter out in the workforce. Learning is not about learning facts, but applying skills and knowledge to present situations. It's my philosophy as a teacher to support learning that can be used 40 years from now and discard all the rest.