Monday, July 20, 2009

Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009 - Show and Tell Is Not Just for Kindergarten

If I told you that as a teacher you would have to plan and execute a one-week circus camp and at the end of the week your students would have to understand the science content and perform in their own one-hour circus you would think..., BUT...

...If I showed you the letters w
ritten in the style of “camper to family” explaining the science content and you viewed a video of the amazing circus performance that had been prepared in five days, then you would think??

If I told y
ou to use an annual Alaskan dog sled race (Iditarod) to teach probability instead of the usual math p. 103, you would think..., BUT...

...If I showed you my notes with the dialogue of the children’s discussions about who is most likely to win the race with their detailed theories why and then also showed you the links to social studies (including geography, current events, history, economics), science, art, music, graphing, languages arts, etc., then you would think??

Out of Constructing Modern Knowledge I came away with a number of things to think about. Two of them - good PR and documenting learning, to me, seem to go together.

Have you ever been to the Apple Store? It’s a great place to play. It’s a great place to watch good marketing too. There’s lots of good showin’ and tellin’ (and buyin’) taking place! And the showing part is a very important part of the process.

Sylvia Martinez of GenYES shared a clip of a student teaching others in his school how to use GarageBand to create podcasts. He was actually inspired by his trip to the Apple Store in New York. He wanted to be like those he saw in the store showing others how to use the tools, how to get excited about learning and digital media!

Schools can do that too! Many of the schools already have the equipment: the cameras, video recorders, computers, software, web 2.0 tools, the know-how (and if you don't, ask your students!!) We need two more things. We need to know that it really is OK to show off the great things that are happening in our schools - the great things that the staff is doing and the great things the students are doing. And we need to make that part of our job description and the culture of our communities.

Deborah Meier expressed it well when she said that schools do a terrible job of marketing ourselves as we compete with the toy markets, electronic markets, sports market, food market, for the attention of our children. We need to do a better job of "Show and Tell." And by the way, didn't we invent the game in the first place!!

We need to counter the bad press that drags down morale. Do you want your own children to go to an ordinary or worse school or an award-winning (perhaps), unbelievably exciting and engaging special learning environment? Here is where the craft of documenting comes in. Of course, we don't want to engage in deceptive advertising or seem like we are enticing children or families to "buy" a poor product. We don't want to hand children a script and tell them to say what we want others to hear either. We want to tell the truth - so make it the truth! We want children to do what they are going to do anyway and say what they are going to say, just make sure we, or they, document it. When it REALLY isn't good, that's when we have a problem.

Lella Gandini spoke of the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia and how their approach to teaching has influenced education across the world, including in the United States. One of the important practices of educators in Reggio Emilia schools is to document learning, for example, with writings and photographs and with the children's own work. She commented that one of the reasons that the Reggio Emilia approach to education has been successful is because the schools have been so dedicated to the process of documenting the learning that takes place in their schools. The documentation tells the stories of the successes and stands as proof of learning. Their documentation is certainly different than a list of test scores, I would say. The documentation is not taken for the purpose of "good PR" but does the job nevertheless. Learning to observe and collect quality documentation is a skill that is crucial to the learning process but that can also serve to "show off" our schools.

So, upon reflection, Constructing Modern Knowledge was about many things. But, I have to say there was a lot of "Show and Tell" taking place throughout the week. Lots of great educators showing us how to do things, lots of participants showing what we learned. Lots of great educators telling us some amazing, engaging, thought-provoking stories and asking some questions that don't necessarily have answers but will require us to continue the " showing and telling" with our colleagues back home.

Pass it on...We're doing Show and Tell next year...all grades, all ages...


  1. "Pass it on...We're doing Show and Tell next year...all grades, all ages..."

    I love this! Have a day where they can all be viewed by the whole school with a projector. What a great end-of-school activity to look forward to.

  2. We have so much to learn from eachother! I'm hoping Web 2.0 will increase communication among teachers as well as between teachers and students!