Thursday, December 6, 2012

Empowering the Learner

Generation M, Generation Y, or the Millennial... whatever you call them, like to be in control.  If you design your lessons so that they have "control" of some part of the content, you are likely to get buy-in, motivation, and completion.  Without buy-in you get--apathy and create a bureaucratic box checker.   What America needs are kids that are motivated to learn.  

The movie Two Million Minutes, divulges the differences between American, Chinese and Indian high schools.   One poignant line in the movie shares that Indian students are motivated by poverty.  Their education is their ticket out of poverty. When I heard that line, I thought how true that is.  In America there are so many social programs that impoverished students still get to eat their potato chips while they play  with their XBox and they feel no pain.  Our students don't value the education they are receiving, even thought most places deliver them a first class experience.    

Well, if you can motivate, repackage content for collaboration, and energize this with information and technology, then you have a winning formula which will empower the learner.   This is not rocket science -- It's just good new pedagogy called Inquiry Based learning (or Problem Based Learning, Or, Challenged Based Learning, or Activity Based Learning....) 
Here are a few steps in the process:
  1. Identify your content - Common Core aligned 
  2. Come up with an Essential Question to make students ponder, care, and get concerned about the content. 
  3. Brainstorm a knowledge product which will wrap up their knowledge (found from information, research and reading) in a presentation tool. 
  4. Craft lessons within the unit that staircase complexity, embed rigorous reading requiring close examination, purposeful reading, and require a task 
  5. Insure that you have embraced the "relevance" to the learner's life.  If they don't care, you've lost the learning battle. 
  6. Spotlight vocabulary wherever and whenever you can - instill a love for words and the value they have to communicate creatively and effectively.
  7. Embed technology wherever you can to engage the learner.  Require the technology to work with information (find information, present information, manipulate and synthesize information...) 
  8. Give them the opportunity to present, contribute, argue, persuade, convince, quote, conclude, and more....all found in the Common Core.  
 Here are a few examples:
  • What advice would you give Lincoln as a member of his cabinet? 
  • If you were living as a slave during the Civil War, would you have tried to escape? What would you have done and where would you go?  
  • Are you for or against genetic engineering?   
  • Does the FDA take a lenient or too aggressive role in regulating pesticides in America? 
  • Why does the sun deserve the golden globe award? 
  • What is more important English or Mathematics? 
  • Why will this content make you wiser, richer, happier or more successful? 
  • How has the Bill of Rights protected you--even when you haven't realized it?  Why don't we offer the Bill of Rights to our Middle Eastern neighbors who have just upset their dictator?  
Heaven help us all, if we don't motivate this generation to achieve, succeed, learn and care.  

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