Thursday, December 4, 2014

Promising Practices

Walking into Donovan Dining Center, I really did not know what the Promising Practices Conference had in store for me. Truthfully, I was almost intimidated to go to the workshops because I was not exactly experienced in STEM education. After going to both workshops and listening to the keynote, I was immediately put at ease and was well informed about STEM education.
Bethune Elementary/Middle School

The first workshop I attended was “Finding the STEM in the Urban Core”. The two women who led the workshop are educators at Bethune Elementary/Middle School in Detroit, Michigan. Antoinette Pearson, the principle of Bethune School, was extremely enthusiastic to discuss her school’s contribution in an educational revolution.  Mariama Kurbally, a graduate from RIC and second grade teacher, assisted Antoinette in the workshop.  The two women discussed how the school has altered their curriculum to revolve around STEM education. Bethune School has recently added a SMART lab in their school in which students are able have a hands on learning experience. In the SMART lab, the students are truly responsible for how they learn. They discussed that STEM really focuses on the “how”- how to think, how to learn, and how to teach. It provides the students, as well as the teachers, a different insight into learning.  A STEM education keeps the students engaged in activities because it's more than just learning. It encourages students to become active learners because they are not just sat at a desk with a teacher dictating information. Antoinette and Mariama explained that the SMART lab is extremely effective because students are able to learn, practice, and apply what they are taught.  They also emphasized the how significant it has been to incorporate STEM education in their school because urban schools typically neglect offering students an opportunity like this. They truly believed that STEM education is essential in providing urban school students’ skill sets that allow them to be successful in their education and later on in life.

The second workshop I attended at the Promising Practices event was “Teach Like a Designer! Design Thinking for Educators”. Adrienne Gagnon, the executive director and founder of DownCity Design, led the workshop. In this workshop, she discussed how a design thinking process in the classroom can truly revolutionize the way education runs.  She explained that incorporating design thinking into the classroom would engage students in their work.  Students would be more motivated if they could use creativity as a method of learning rather than traditional methods. She explained that design thinking allows there to be communication, collaboration, and persistence in the classroom.  The students can openly discuss the topic they are learning and provide their own insight to get a better understanding of it. She revealed that it will be an adjustment for teachers because they have to give up some freedom into the class because it is student led but it will be extremely beneficial in the end.  Later on in the workshop, she introduced ways that educators can incorporate the design thinking process into the classroom. I found one of the method, called “Brain Dash”, to be really interesting. In this exercise, students are put into teams and almost perform a sort of academic relay race.  They run up to a piece of paper and quickly put down their ideas. She explained that it’s an innovative way for students to voice their opinion because they do not have a chance to second guess themselves. Students feel freer and comfortable to put down their ideas. I found that this idea would be really useful in a classroom and I would even enjoy doing it. After thinking about a lot more about the workshop, I realized that the design thinking process she wants us to incorporate into the classroom connected to Ira Shor’s empowered education.  The techniques Adrienne Gagnon discussed would provide a classroom experience that students could become active and critical learners. The design thinking process allows students to shy away from the “one-way transmission of rule, and knowledge from teacher to students” (Shor 12) that is found in traditional schooling.

To finish of the Promising Practice event, Dr. ChristopherEmdin spoke about #HipHopED(ucators) STEMming the Tide of Disinterest in Education. I found that the keynote address was the most interesting part of the entire event and I felt as though I gained a lot from it.  Dr. Emdin is truly a powerful and passionate speaker that I was completely engaged in his presentation.  In his keynote address, Dr. Emdin stressed that educators are solely responsible for the reason students have a disconnect to school subjects, especially math and science. Students often feel that STEM classes are to hard for them because they cannot relate to the structure. Dr. Emdin suggests the only way for students to become comfortable in these areas and want to learn is to move away from traditional teaching styles. Although we have benefitted from traditional education, we need to provide students with alternative models for effective teaching. We need to provide them with something that truly speaks to them. Dr. Emdin discusses his idea of Hip Hop Education and that it can be useful in STEM education because it can help to relate their education to something they are truly passionate about. Hip Hop Education allows students to see that the skills they need to create a rap song are the same skills they need for science or mathematics. 

I decided to look a bit further into Dr. Emdin's work and I found a short video clip that does a good job of summarizing what Hip Hop Education provides for urban students. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Empowering Education- Ira Shor

After reading the excerpt from “Empowering Education” by Ira Shor, I understand why this piece was chosen to discuss on our final blog post. From start to finish, I was able to connections to almost every reading we have done. I found that some of Shor’s main arguments can easily be supported by the arguments that our past authors raised in their own works.

In Shor’s piece, he argues that academic settings need to move away from traditional schooling because it is stifling the chance for students to become active and critical thinkers in their classrooms as well as in the real world.  Traditional classrooms only allow room for “one-way transmission of rule, and knowledge from teacher to students” (Shor 12).  Students are expected to go to school and become an active participant in their society but the education they are provided does not make them equipped to do so.  Classrooms revolve around monotonous lectures and stress the importance of memorizing facts.  These types of classrooms do not teach students to critically think about what their learning and come up with knowledge on their own. Shor suggests that we move to an Empowered Education where “students make meaning and act from reflection” (Shor 12).

Moving to an empowered education would mean that students would learn that it is acceptable to challenge the status quo. Shor believes that the current system almost applauds and supports the status quo which downplays nontraditional student culture and the problem of social inequality” (Shor 32). I found that this closely relates to Finn’s idea that “the status quo is the status quo because people who have the power to make changes are comfortable with the way things are” (Finn 3). The school systems are not providing students with an education that allows them to test what they know because they are not given critical and analytical skills.  They learn that “education is something to put up with” (Shor 26).  In an empowered education, students realize that they have the right to speak up and question the material given to them.  When Finn discussed the differences between the working class and elite schools, it was evident that students from elite schools valued creativity and expression of opinions.  Negotiation was a key component in their classroom and they were not being forced to conform to the rules. An empowered education is what is taught in the more elite schools but is lacking the lower class schools. Finn and Shor acknowledge that there is a deficit in education and skills based of social significance.

I found another connection that related not only to Finn but also to Kozol. “School funding is another political dimension of education, because more money had always been invested in the education of upper-class children and elite collegians than has been spent on students from lower-income homes and in community colleges” (Shor 15).  We give more attention to students that attend upper class schools because they know the skills that will make them successful. They are provided with the rules and codes of power that will help them to question and analyze society. Lower class schools receive less attention because it is believed they only need enough to make them successful for their environment.  Shor is essentially getting at the idea that Kozol proposed- traditional schooling contributes to the culture of power.  The traditional schooling found in poverty stricken school systems does not help to break the cycle of inequality but instead teaches “students to fit into an education and a society not run for them or by them but rather set up for and run by elites” (Shor 20). Empowering education would make it possible for students to have a voice in society and find their way out of poverty.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome

Last week we focused on how segregation is still present in our schools due to social classes. This week we have moved to another way students are segregated in classrooms- disabilities. Students that are not able bodied or fall under categories in S.C.W.A.A.M.P. are pushed out of normal classrooms because people believe they have the same capabilities.  Christopher Kliewer advocates that although a child may have a disability it does not mean they should not have full citizenship in the classroom.  They may not develop or think the same as those with out disabilities; however, it does not mean one should “interpret a child's nonconformity to developmental theory as a manifestation of defect” (77).  The excerpt we read from Kliewer’s “Schooling Children with Down Syndrome” focuses on ways for schools to fully accept students with disabilities. In order to do so we must “erase negative attitudes about people with develop­ mental disabilities, get rid of the stereotypes and break the barriers for people with disabilities.” (71).
"Don't Limit Me!"

I found that this video best put into perspective what Kliewer is trying to explain in his work. Megan Bomgaars discusses in the video all the achievements she has made despite having Down syndrome. She is explaining to educators and to even other students that her disability does not define who she is. She is capable of doing everything that those with out a disability can do.  People often believe “many who are capable of exhibiting significant understanding appear deficient, simply because they cannot readily traffic in the commonly accepted coin of the educational realm” (80). So schools put children with disabilities in segregated classrooms just because they do not high mathematical and linguistic skill levels.  They neglect the fact they have so much more to offer and these children interpret things differently.  Megan tries to explain in her video a lot of the aspects Shayne Robbin’s incorporates in her classroom.  Megan reflects on her school experiences- saying that she really benefitted from learning in “regular classes”.  She says “include me and all your students in your circle of learning”.  Essentially, you should not single out the student with the disability but instead incorporate his or her needs with the needs of every other student.  Shayne Robbins “broadened and strengthened the learning opportunities opened to all her children" (75) by fostering to the needs of every individual.  She built upon things the strengthen skills of her disabled students as well as those who were not. Throughout the entire video, Megan really hits a lot of the topics that are discussed in this weeks reading.  It really helps to understand the information by hearing it from someone who has experienced it.
Tim's Place - Breakfast, Lunch, Hugs
I also wanted to share this video with you because I think it is really inspirational. It shows that if we follow what Kliewer says about breaking down the barriers and letting those with disabilities be an active participant in society that they can offer so much.  We should not limit them.  Tim's story is truly inspirational! Tim said it best -"I do not let my disability crush my dreams. People with disabilities can do anything they set their mind to. They're special. We are a gift to the world"