Category Archives: Education

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    Basic Education – DeLorean Style

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    m Basic Education – DeLorean Style

    Basic Education – DeLorean Style


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    Mad and Weird Science

    Category:EducationTags : 
    scott Mad and Weird Science

    The Way Forward Starts Here - What Went Right

    Let's face it, unless you add some type of entertainment into your science lesson, students are going to wane on you. There are a a lot of unique science-related games and sims out there .   You can find more on Edtechteacher .  They have a great list of programs and informative content to keep the busiest of students motivated and engaged.

    Adults too.

    Trying to stay on top of the latest trends in science and mathematics is never-ending.   MIT  has a great listing of courses to help keep the old brain frisky to learn.  There are other free online science courses being offered at a number of different universities across the country.  I was surprised to see my own stomping grounds  Utah State University,  on the list.

    Terminology  - say what?

    I was split-teaching between the high school and the middle school science departments last week.   I am not a science major by no means - but I like science.  So filling in for that department is always fun for me.  Just picking up the books and observing the surroundings is fascinating.  I probably couldn't give you an on the spot review of meiosis vs. mitosis, but I get the concepts.   If you can get your students to understand the concepts, you are halfway there.  By the end of the week, I had the terms down to a science (pun intended).

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAPfAAAAJGI2Y2RkODAxLTA0NzAtNDI4YS1hZWYyLTAyYmM0MGNlZTNlOQ-1-214x300 Mad and Weird ScienceSurprisingly there are still a lot of people who envision Science as some stale environment where everyone is wearing white lab coats, donning four-inch thick-rimmed glasses, while gawking into microscopes and filling Petri-dishes.   Nothing could be farther from the truth.   Believe it or not, learning about the elements can be an adventure all by itself.  Terminology must be taught.  In order to effectively teach science requires a teacher who can get into the hands-on-teaching aspects, and inspire students to pull up their sleeves and get their hands dirty!

    Science 101!  

    The lesson we were involved with at the high school had to deal with agriculture science and the nutrients in domestic animal feed.  Yep, we were learning about all things "Cow". That included elements going into the cow, chewing the cud, and the final excrement process.  I can assure you those students will never forget the lesson on "Cows".  Nor shall I!  Luckily, for this lesson, there was no hands-on contact with any part of the "Cow".  AAEAAQAAAAAAAATDAAAAJDgxNWFhNGMzLTQ4ZjAtNDEzOS1iYWQxLTZjMTVhMTA3YmIwNA-300x225 Mad and Weird Science

    Cleaning the guinea cage and feeding Mom.

    Somewhere between "Cow" intestines, and gut, there were other classroom duties that needed tending to.  In the back of the classroom were three furry little guinea pigs.  Butter who is the fat one, and two others who were not hurting in the fat department.  Sorry, I'm not discriminating due to Butter's size, she was just the most lovable.  There was also an oversized fish tank with one slightly older goldfish named "Mom".  One of my duties for the week was to feed and tend the living quarters of these highly sensitive but not so rare creatures.

    I quickly delegated the task of guinea pig cage cleaner to one particular student.  He promptly re-delegated the guinea pig cage clean up duties to two other students, who expressed their concern with him dealing with the animals.  He was forthright in his duties of feeding Mom.  However, it did require that we strain the excess goldfish flakes from the tank.  He dumped a 1/4 of the bottle into the tank.  We moved on from there.

    When in doubt stick in a movie!

    The Lecture

    While I don't mind ditto sheets for teaching, there is a lot to be said for leaving the answers for one to be able to teach on the topic.  With a 47 question and answer session in front of me, I spent the better part of three hours researching and preparing for a life science lecture to help the students with an introductory chapter.  Mind you, I'm no science major, so they only got what I was able to research (they aced the quiz that week).  There was another science teacher in the room adjacent to me, so I was able to get some of the simpler concepts out of the way, thanks to her help.  I made my classroom about the students and included them in the research.  Kids who had never raised their hands in this class before - started taking the lead.

    Yes, I opted for a movie one day.  But not completely.  I only did a 12 minute movie, and then I took the challenge - I taught science.  Students who didn't have a clue about science, nor were they willing to sit still in class for 10 minutes,  were writing for me!  They were writing and taking notes, they were asking questions.  The kid who over fed Mom, was my main bright and shining star!   His grade just hit a D I am sure (that would be passing).  He was proud to turn in the 47 questionnaire with all the answers. He exclaimed, I know what "CHONS" stands for!

    Together, I took those students  on a science journey - one that gave them a glimpse of what real MAD COW science really looks like.  It was WEIRD.  They liked WEIRD.  But they learnt that science has value, and that their thoughts matter, no matter how MAD or WEIRD those thoughts may be.

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAj6AAAAJGQyNzZjNzA2LTM4ZDMtNGU4My1hZDhjLWEyNmRmNGM1YjEyZQ-300x156 Mad and Weird Science

    If you don't remember  the elements of CHONS from your science years, go look them up.  It's a challenge!  Better yet, create your own puzzle and give it out to your staff  or students to solve.  CHONS has  to do with "Cow", and the nutrients "Cow's" need.

     Middle School

    If you can image 25 to 30 students all between the ages of 12 and 13, each  given a laptop, and told to write about an animal of their choice; hope to God that the choice is not a "Cow".

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAQcAAAAJGVkZWYxMTdlLTJjYmUtNGJjMS04ZDM1LWIxZDdjMTk1YjJlMg-300x195 Mad and Weird ScienceThere are animals I didn't know existed.  But these kids found them.  Just to keep it interesting here is a list of 22 strange animals you probably didn't know existed.  One student chose an animal that was akin to a jack rabbit, because it was her real life name.  For the life of me, I can't remember the students name, so I just call her jack rabbit - and she laughs.   What parent names their child after a rabbit?  Hers!

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAj6AAAAJGMwMDk3NTdlLTAwYWMtNGUwOC05NmM2LTk5MmYwMzNkMTEwNw-300x200 Mad and Weird ScienceComputer technology has come a long way in the halls of education.  These 7th grade students were easily navigating online power point  programming, and linking web addresses for citings and other research materials.  Embedding images in my day weren't taught until I was in college!  Students today are so digitally savvy it is almost bionically creepy.  WEIRD MAD science.

    Where they lack in -  is research. Their peers of the past had more find tuned research abilities.

    Pre-test - whose the real scientists in the group?

    I did give a pretest quiz to the 7th graders.  It was one of those quizzes where you had to look up the answers in the book.  That was a sleeper assignment.  I decided to make it a winner take all event, and hand out treats to those who could answer the questions verbally.  But first they had to do the following:

    1.  Research the topic

    2. They had to spell the word to the class

    3. Read the definition to the class

    Since it was all open book, it allowed those students who weren't hard core academic's to get involved!  They were!   Students after my own heart.

    Science technology has grown over the years.   So have students, in how they learn and acquire science knowledge.  They aren't going to just answer  ditto sheets  and have that  become the building blocks of knowledge.  Who teaches that way anymore?    Actually, I would personally like to burn all ditto sheets as a rebellious protest!  Let them learn "Cow".   Hands on!

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAARuAAAAJGMxZDIxMzJlLTNkOWUtNDk3YS1hMzRjLWUyMDk2ZmJiMTIzYg-300x169 Mad and Weird Science


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    Down the Rabbit Hole

    Category:EducationTags : 
    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAZhAAAAJDI3YjZjOGEwLTcyNjItNDI0Ny1iMDM4LTA4YTQ0MjQxMzcwMA-1 Down the Rabbit Hole

    Down the Rabbit Hole

    As teens, we all needed validation for our actions. Especially those actions  that lead to some form of academic success.  The truth, if fully known, was that as a teenager, that path was often riveted with rabbit holes. Many times in the process of learning, our foot would slip and down we would go.  The best thing we could  hope for was  a caring/forgiving teacher  waiting for us at the end of that hole, to help us get back up on our feet again. We also hoped our parents would be there to support us as we tried again to master the tasks we were being asked to do.

     The real teaching starts at the bottom of the hole.  It begins when you have a student or group of students who have given up.  Given up on education; the system that is supposed to be there for them.  They have given up on attempting to better their place in society.  Some have even given up on their families because the home environment is so toxic.  That is where the real teaching begins.  I want to put this out there:   validation – kids you are worth it.

     Validation – kids you are worth it

    You cannot plan for a student to fail - not unless you are a monster.  There is so much going on in a students  world that helps contribute to the process of failing, flunking out, acting out, and not caring about how their behavior affects others.   Sometimes their behavior is off the charts – but a good teacher will not react.  A good teacher knows that you have to slowly bring your student(s) back up the rabbit hole.  It is okay if you  spend a little extra of your time to help them dig out – those kids need your time.  That is what they are missing “time”.

     That is what they are missing “ time”.

     With time comes consistency.  With consistency comes knowledge.  Each student will have a different perspective when it comes to learning.  As with discovery learning which  utilizes the techniques of a variety of instructional methods.  For example: just using the basic terminology of Problem Based Learning (PBL), Discovery  Learning (DL), and Inquiry Learning (IL) you have to have some type of a knowledge base for your student(s) to  start from.  

     Direct instruction or step-by-step learning is good in many cases, but if the students already have a solid knowledge base, then a constructive learning environment with some scaffolding tools can become an effective learning environment.  You have to meet your students where they are. Some are stuck in a rabbit hole, and they keep digging deeper.  It is your job to help them turn back up the hole. 

     Not all learners will be same.  A good instructor and/or designer should be open to the differences and adjust methods accordingly.  You need a good knowledge base within a constructive learning environment for  your students.  A beginner  student, can and will run into cognitive overload very quickly if  they don't have a good knowledge base. That overload is subject to  increase exponentially when the student has already experienced education in a negative way.  

    re Down the Rabbit Hole

    Students who have experienced  overload, can and will form a pack – a disruptive pack if left to their own devices.  Students  will act out alone and/or together, and you will find your classroom out of control because of it.  

    So what can you do to help  as a teacher,  to stop your student from  running down a rabbit hole?  The first thing is to admit that you might have something to do with the problem.  Once you can admit that - then you can start looking for what went right.  That is  the answer - what went right.  When we start to examine the things that went right, no matter how small, that gives us a starting point. What went right  is your strength. 

    I am not a collaborative learner by nature.  A lot of students I know aren't either.  I prefer to work from my own little sphere; minimal collaboration is best for me. But, at the same time I have learned to work with others and collaborate very well.  It took time, and  I didn’t change overnight,  I wouldn’t expect my students to change overnight either. 

    Cognitive overload is such a real concern for me - but if left alone I discover what needs taken care of - and I do it.  Sometimes we need to give our students time to figure out the problem(s) too.  Time – it’s what it takes.

     The scaffolding techniques that I use are of course - are the computer and the internet.  Everything is online. I need to have access to terminology and quick reference definitions. I have to understand what I'm reading.  Take for instance the three basic constructive learning models.  Problem-Based Learning (PBL), Inquiry Learning and Discovery Learning.  One could take a cursory look at these and assume they are the same, but they are not.   Our  students cannot tell the difference  either,  yet many instructors attempt to make them do so right off the bat.   Our student, are all uniquely  different.  They can fall within any  combination of all the learning models listed above. The can also fall down a rabbit hole. 

     Problem-based learning attempts to provide the learner with self-directedflexible knowledge,  and fundamental incentives.  The outcome of PBL is to have students learn the process and content together.   Whereas, Inquiry Learning, which includes PBL, is often a facilitated approach to the investigation of problems or questions dealing with research or projects.  Discovery learning utilizes the techniques of a variety of instructional methods.    The learner already has a knowledge base from which to pull from, and they use that base in more of an experimental capacity to explore and manipulate data or objects.  

    They use that base in more of an experimental capacity to explore and manipulate data or objects   

    Not all environments need to be highly controlled.   Minimal guidance learning environments can be just as effective, especially if given the right scaffolding tools  with the student learned knowledge base.

    While all the models proclaim to do basically the same thing – some models contain more built-in guidance, than the other.    Direct instruction is not always best over PBL, IL or DL.  Scaffolding can make tasks easier, reduce the learners cognitive load, and helps to point out complexity.  A lot still depends on being able to examine the context and students whom you are working with.  Each will have a different perspective.  

     As we begin to help our student climb back out of the rabbit hole – we need to make sure we are back-filling  that hole with a strong knowledge base.  Sometimes back-filling means we have to try a different approach and give it time, while examining what went right - and keep doing it. 


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    Paying It Forward – Students Helping One Another

    Category:EducationTags : 
    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAbTAAAAJDVmZjBkYjY4LTY4ODctNDdiYy1hZjBkLTgwNDk5N2E3NjNhNw Paying It Forward - Students Helping One Another

    I was sitting at home tonight when I received a call from a student at the local university.  She was frustrated that no one was available to help her with an English 1010 questions. She was doing a research paper using APA formatting and she seemed very upset that no one was around to direct her. She was referred to me.  

    She was referred to me  

    How she came across my number is a mystery. However, over the past couple year's I have become accustomed to receiving calls, Facebook messages and occasional emails.  I do not mind helping students.   Helping someone else succeed does not require that you have a title behind your name. Nor does it require that you affiliate with an educational institution.  It just requires that you care.

    It just requires that you care

    Finding the right online resources to help you in your studies - is always an issue with distance education.  Some colleges have those helpful links more visible than others. Unless you are familiar with your institutional system, it can be burdensome to a new student.  I used to spend a large amount of time each semester helping direct students to proper resources, online and off.  Bottom line, I cared about the students, and I still do.  I learned about APA from another student when I went to college.  He was paying it forward. I was grateful.

    I am no English teacher, but I do not have to be in order to pass along the following web links.  Hopefully, they will be helpful for some. 

    Helping your students take advantage of their writing labs is also something that advisors and campus staff should be aware of.  Teachers should place this information in their syllabuses when appropriate.  

    I wished this student all the luck in the world.  She stated  that she was on the Purdue website and moving forward.   I just paid it forward. 

     


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    Alternate Paradigm of Learning

    Category:EducationTags : 
    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAN-AAAAJGUxNzI4YzE2LTE3ZjUtNDI3ZS1iZmMxLWRjOGU4MTQ3N2FkYQ Alternate Paradigm of Learning

    Alternate Paradigm of Learning

    This article is long, and has some boring points. So if you don't like long and boring, this probably isn't the read for you.  The articles is on an analogy of a moderately stable learning experience versus an alternate paradigm of learning. .____________________________________________________

    As  someone who has studied in the field of education I take a special interest in the logic that people will use to convey messages to me, and to others. There are many ways to say something, but not all ways are beneficial.  We all want to do the best job we can when educating  others. We want others to understand what we are saying and gain from that communication.  

    I did a study a while back in an distance education setting, where  I was able to observe how a particular instructor reacted to certain environmental cues as well as individual   student behaviors, both live  in the classroom and over the interactive video conferencing system.  I wrote about the events that I observed, and then proceeded to write an alternate paradigm.* Those observations and the alternate paradigm are below. 

     Observation

    The classroom is a modern interactive video conference (IVC) classroom .  The instructor sits at the front of the class at her desk.  For convenience she has two monitors on her desk; one that allows her to see all her classes that are located throughout the state, and the other screen has her power points and internet links that she will use to guide the nights discussion.  Behind her on the wall is an 80 inch plasma screen that projects her teaching materials to those who are sitting in the classroom in front of her.  The back wall has a 70 inch plasma screen with four large images showing all the distant education sites she will teach this evening.  You can see the students at these distant sites collaborating with each other, preparing for their presentation, and adjusting their seating.  Most appear to be happy and engaged with each other before the class begins.

    In the back corner of the main instructors classroom sits a site facilitator named Sylvan, who monitors and controls the broadcasting equipment from a desktop touch screen.  He also has dual monitors on his desk that reflect exactly what the instructor sees on her screens as well as what is projected on the wall mounted plasmas.

    89 Alternate Paradigm of LearningThe instructor, Bobbie Evers, is a Professional looking woman with short light brown hair.  She will be teaching  a 3000 level Social Work Policy course this evening.  She is new to IVC, but has been able to adapt to the interactive teaching station with ease. Tonight she has planned a four-way broadcasting event where students will debate and discuss a number of social policy related questions.   She begins by taking roll, and each of the distant sites one–by-one proclaims who is present.  At one site, a gentleman chimes in that he is present and announces for his team that “we have brought our A game”.  

    We have brought our A game

    The topic of debate for this evening is Child Welfare Reform.  Students from the different sites have been split up into teams to represent both the pro  and con sides.   The debate begins and is immediately  lively.   Each participant brings to the debate a number of key points that seem to resonate on both sides.  Some of those issues included: abuse, taking children from the home, permanency, children aging out,  family relationships, providers, school and mental health.  

    The plasma on the back wall showing the four different sites is voice activated.  When someone speaks at a distant site, the broadcast is automatically switch to that location.  However, for some reason this evening the screens all remained the same size.  One of the sites had only one individual at it, and the camera must of only been about 12 inches away from her face.  For a portion of the evening the movement of this individual was so distracting I found myself laughing at her a couple times.  I admire that the instructor and the other students, didn’t seem to mind.  But then again, I am not sure what the distant receive sites were seeing, since each site can adjust their views.   It was hard to miss her drinking her coffee, eating a corn dog,  and fidgeting obsessively.  It wasn’t until she finally cued the microphone, and had something to say that she settled down.  Yet, when she did speak it was with a lot of redundant words, particularly the use of the word “LIKE”; and then she would flay her hands in the air.  

    For most of the debate there were a number of individuals who seemed to be quite confident in their delivery.  Although shaky at first, their voices and delivery became much more stable once the debate was well underway.   In particular, the confidence level of the debaters rose when the issue of whether or not the state and local governments should keep families together.  This topic drew some of the strongest comments, with one student even raising her voice.  Another student also chimed in with the comment that all abusers should be outfitted with “shock collars”.  The students were generally engaged and appeared to be knowledgeable about the topics they discussed.    Most sat still in their seats and watched the debate with interest. The groups who debated against the majority of the issues tended to have won the debate as far as I could tell. They were more prepared, more engaged, and confident in their delivery.

    As the debate wound down, the instructor opened the floor for discussion. Through these discussions I learned that most of the students were employees from a range of different social agencies.  So many already had a background in social welfare.  The students were very open and willing to discuss personal information as well. They expressed their thoughts openly, and were able to elaborate on the processes of knowing and/or understanding the plight of others.   The instructor throughout the debate and the discussion was fully engaged with the distant site students.  She would nod her head in agreement to much of what was being said, and was deliberate in her note taking.  She was able to step in whenever the topic shifted or began to slow.  She brought substance into the debate with strategically noted phases and kept the debate lively.  She was able to speak on relevant current issues, and was patient with student concerns and questioning.  

    Paradigms of Leaning

    The teacher was very much engaged with her students, and leaned more toward a cognitive learning view , which leans toward moral statements that express beliefs and is suitable to measure truth and falsity.   She was able to effectively lead her students into open discussion, and kept it flowing.  She did not attempt to interrupt, but rather was open and objective only when the discussion would slow. She allowed for open expression and creativity. She allowed students to work through any misunderstanding or mistakes as a team and to problem solve in order gain a deeper understanding.  

    PRO: The teams that debated in favor of the status quo did so with a more behaviorist approach. They were not willing to sway from the policy standards already set and maybe accept that not all things are as they seem.  The mantra I heard from them was always “It’s the parents fault”.   

    CON: Those who tended to disagree with the status quo came from more of a cognitivist point of view. Their concern was more about children growing up without a home and permanency, or children aging out of the system with no skills.  They were open to positive input and had a number of very good ideas.    

    During the debate the instructor challenged the group by interjecting  the socioculturalism aspects of social policy.  This paradigm was evident  in the debate, when the  topic turned to Native Americans and ideas of the whole child approach.  As the discussion moved forward, the role of foster care and Native Americans was also  introduced; and it became apparent that there are many dynamics that a community of social workers has to deal with.  In any particular role, the paradigms could easily be interchangeable, especially in social work.  The teacher was able to formulate direct questions that inspired more debate, in all these areas.  It was a very fascinating debate to watch especially for a layperson such as myself.

    Now for the alternate paradigm of learning.

    Alternate Paradigm of Learning

    The teacher was very behavioristic, and would often stop students mid-sentence to correct their ideas and elaborate on what changes the students needed to make. Her mantra was “do not interject personal sentiment into the policy process”.   She was stern with a set of pre-defined objectives, and did not allow for much self-expression or choice.    Students were not actively engaged in the discussion following the debates, and were not prompted by the teacher to do else wise.  Students followed a prescribed course of action the entire evening.  Repetitive information was sited at the beginning of each new topic. Points for discussion were listed by the instructor, and only simple responses were accepted.  Those students who closely followed the pre-defined objectives were rewarded with additional points.

    Alternative Observation

    The classroom is a modern interactive video conference classroom (IVC).  The instructor sits at the front of the class at her desk.  For convenience she has two monitors, one that allows her to see all her classes that are located throughout the state, and the another screen has her power points and internet links that she will use to guide the nights discussion.  This instructor prefers to not use the monitors nor any other digital technology.   Behind her on the wall is an 80 inch plasma screen, that for tonight will remain off, since she feels certain technology is distracting.    The wall in front of the instructor has a 70 inch plasma screen with four  large images of all the distant education sites she will teach tonight.  She allows this screen to remain on.  You can see the students at these distant sites slowly starting to  funnel into the classroom.   In the back corner of the broadcast classroom sits a site facilitator named Sylvan,  who monitors and  controls the broadcasting  equipment from a desktop touch screen.  He also has dual monitors on his desk that reflect exactly what the instructor sees on her screens as well as what is projected on the wall mounted plasmas.

    AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIHAAAAJDRmZGQ3NmJkLTgwMzgtNGVhZS1hYWYwLTZhMzZmNTU1ZjI4NQ Alternate Paradigm of LearningThe instructor, a dark haired woman in her early 40’s, Bobbie Nevers, teaches a 3000 level  Social Work Policy course.  She is new to IVC, and has not been able to adapt to the interactive teaching station very well.  Tonight she has planned a four way event where students will debate and discuss a number of social policy related questions.   She begins by taking roll, and each of the distant sites one–by-one declares who is present.   Before the debate she instructs the class on a set of pre-designed formats that they should follow.   The debate is to be very formal and the subject matter will be condensed to allow for repetitive justification of each opening and closing statement.

    The topic of debate for this evening is Child Welfare Reform.  Students from the different sites have been split up into teams to represent both the pro’s and con’s of the matter.     Social issues that will be addressed include: abuse, taking children from the home, permanency, family relationships, providers, school and mental health.  Students are asked to reframe from interjecting personal sentiment into the debate.

    The plasma on the back wall showing the four different sites, is voice activated.  When someone speaks at a distant site, the broadcast is automatically switched to that location.  However, for some reason this evening the screens all remained the same size.  One site had only one individual in it, and the camera that was on this individual must have only been about 12 inches away from her face.  For most of the evening the movement of this one individual is none existent, she is almost like a statue. I was amazed when she finally moved and asked a question.  The other students were also very unresponsive in their demeanor.

    For most of the debate students took turns reading from paper, their responses.  There were no highs and no lows within the two groups. It was very formal. The issue of whether or not the state and local governments should keep families together drew only one comment from the teacher, who reminded the student that without laws there would be no social workers.   The students were not generally engaged and appeared to be only semi knowledgeable about the topics they discussed.   Most of the debate was read from paper, and many items were redundantly recurrent.   During the debate, most of the students seemed to be reading other materials at their desks, and generally disinterested.

    CON: The groups who debated against the majority of the issues tended to have lost the debate as far as I could tell. They were more prepared, more engaged, and confident in their delivery, but did not follow the exact protocol the teacher wanted them to.  She felt the students were not properly conditioned and make way too many mistakes.

    PRO: The teams that debated in favor of the status quo did so with a more behaviorist approach. They were not willing to sway from the policy standards already set and maybe accept that not all things are as they seem.  The mantra I heard from them was always “It’s the parents fault”.   

    CON: Those who tended to disagree with the status quo came from more of a cognitivist point of view. Their concern was more about children growing up without a home and permanency, or children aging out of the system with no skills.  They were open to positive input and had a number of very good ideas.    

    During the debate the instructor challenged the group by interjecting  the socioculturalism aspects of social policy.  This paradigm was evident  in the debate, when the  topic turned to Native Americans and ideas of the whole child approach.  As the discussion moved forward, the role of foster care and Native Americans was also  introduced; and it became apparent that there are many dynamics that a community of social workers has to deal with.  In any particular role, the paradigms could easily be interchangeable, especially in social work.  The teacher was able to formulate direct questions that inspired more debate, in all these areas.  It was a very fascinating debate to watch especially for a layperson such as myself.

    Now for the alternate paradigm of learning.

    Alternate Paradigm of Learning

    The teacher was very behavioristic, and would often stop students mid-sentence to correct their ideas and elaborate on what changes the students needed to make. Her mantra was “do not interject personal sentiment into the policy process”.   She was stern with a set of pre-defined objectives, and did not allow for much self-expression or choice.    Students were not actively engaged in the discussion following the debates, and were not prompted by the teacher to do else wise.  Students followed a prescribed course of action the entire evening.  Repetitive information was sited at the beginning of each new topic. Points for discussion were listed by the instructor, and only simple responses were accepted.  Those students who closely followed the pre-defined objectives were rewarded with additional points.

    Alternative Observation

    The classroom is a modern interactive video conference classroom (IVC).  The instructor sits at the front of the class at her desk.  For convenience she has two monitors, one that allows her to see all her classes that are located throughout the state, and the another screen has her power points and internet links that she will use to guide the nights discussion.  This instructor prefers to not use the monitors nor any other digital technology.   Behind her on the wall is an 80 inch plasma screen, that for tonight will remain off, since she feels certain technology is distracting.    The wall in front of the instructor has a 70 inch plasma screen with four  large images of all the distant education sites she will teach tonight.  She allows this screen to remain on.  You can see the students at these distant sites slowly starting to  funnel into the classroom.   In the back corner of the broadcast classroom sits a site facilitator named Sylvan,  who monitors and  controls the broadcasting  equipment from a desktop touch screen.  He also has dual monitors on his desk that reflect exactly what the instructor sees on her screens as well as what is projected on the wall mounted plasmas.

    The instructor, a dark haired woman in her early 40’s, Bobbie Nevers, teaches a 3000 level  Social Work Policy course.  She is new to IVC, and has not been AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIHAAAAJDRmZGQ3NmJkLTgwMzgtNGVhZS1hYWYwLTZhMzZmNTU1ZjI4NQ Alternate Paradigm of Learningable to adapt to the interactive teaching station very well.  Tonight she has planned a four way event where students will debate and discuss a number of social policy related questions.   She begins by taking roll, and each of the distant sites one–by-one declares who is present.   Before the debate she instructs the class on a set of pre-designed formats that they should follow.   The debate is to be very formal and the subject matter will be condensed to allow for repetitive justification of each opening and closing statement.

    The topic of debate for this evening is Child Welfare Reform.  Students from the different sites have been split up into teams to represent both the pro’s and con’s of the matter.     Social issues that will be addressed include: abuse, taking children from the home, permanency, family relationships, providers, school and mental health.  Students are asked to reframe from interjecting personal sentiment into the debate.

    The plasma on the back wall showing the four different sites, is voice activated.  When someone speaks at a distant site, the broadcast is automatically switched to that location.  However, for some reason this evening the screens all remained the same size.  One site had only one individual in it, and the camera that was on this individual must have only been about 12 inches away from her face.  For most of the evening the movement of this one individual is none existent, she is almost like a statue. I was amazed when she finally moved and asked a question.  The other students were also very unresponsive in their demeanor.

    For most of the debate students took turns reading from paper, their responses.  There were no highs and no lows within the two groups. It was very formal. The issue of whether or not the state and local governments should keep families together drew only one comment from the teacher, who reminded the student that without laws there would be no social workers.   The students were not generally engaged and appeared to be only semi-knowledgeable about the topics they discussed.   Most of the debate was read from paper, and many items were redundantly recurrent.   During the debate, most of the students seemed to be reading other materials at their desks, and generally disinterested.

    CON: The groups who debated against the majority of the issues tended to have lost the debate as far as I could tell. They were more prepared, more engaged, and confident in their delivery, but did not follow the exact protocol the teacher wanted them to.  She felt the students were not properly conditioned and make way too many mistakes.

    PRO:  Those debating in favor of the social policy issue didn’t necessarily win, they did however stick to the pre-described debate platform that the instructor laid out at the beginning of the class.

    The instructor was not fully engaged with the distant sites; rather she spent more time addressing those students who were live in front of her.  She would nod her head in disagreement to much of what was being debated.  She informed the  class  that they would need to go over certain materials again to make sure they properly understood it.  She noted a significant amount of errors in the debates.  Whenever the topic shifted away from the pre-defined format, she was quick to stifle any response. As the debate wound up, the instructor asked if there were any questions.  There were none.

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    When you look at your own educational styling and training methods, alternate paradigms can help you to visualize what your students are actually seeing and hearing.  Something to think about before planning your next lesson plan.

     

    *Note:  The instructor in my study was a model instructor.