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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Teacher, An Apple and the Future

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
Greek proverb

The school I work at is non-traditional in every imaginable way.  Yet, despite its philosophically unconventional nature, the commitment to each student's advancement is proving itself successful - not only in creating but maintaining a sense of relevancy for what is being taught, and how it is retained by the students.

Rounding out it's first year, the school is comprised of two groups; day classes consisting solely of freshmen and evening classes, the non-traditional students whom I am employed to teach Math and Science.   

ACE Leadership High School's  primary academic trajectory is centered on the disciplines of Architecture, Construction and Engineering by way of a teaching approach known as, 'Project-Based Learning.'  Our day students have a highly regimented schedule which makes sense.  Developmentally, they share certain commonalities.  Their issues tend to be age-related which lend themselves naturally to learning en masse, and can be taught as a collective.  In contrast, the Evening Re-engagement Program's  students come from all walks of life and vary in age from 16 to 24 years old.

Like the Day Program, our approach in with Evening Program students is to provide them with various projects inclusive of Learning Outcomes aimed at meeting specific, state-mandated competencies.  In lieu of learning regimens which follow traditional didactic models for English, Math and Science - students receive exposure to each subject through guided learning experiences designed to integrate the three disciplines.  Cross-curricular teaching is commonplace and provides for a deeper integration of knowledge because students are afforded the opportunity to appreciate their topic of study from different vantage points.  Moreover, such an approach assures a personalized learning experience that lends itself to a core principle of differentiated instruction; we are more capable of meeting the students wherever they may be in their academic progression.

Each particular project does not only involve demonstrations of proficiency in order to meet state requirements.  Learning-by-doing takes on a greater sense of relevance because it is practical and applied rather than presented, exercised and memorized which is how the "Three R's"have been traditionally taught since the inception of the industrial revolution when such teaching methods were invoked for practical reasons.  Addition of the fourth "r" - relevance makes all the difference.

In the past few decades, the world has transitioned from hands-on work - where manual skills were requisites for the majority of the work force - to a more information-driven economy where the future work force is required to assimilate and process information far more critically than merely to rely on a specific skills set for job security.  This is why preparing the students to think on their feet, adapt, quickly access information and be able to assimilate it is the final component of our teaching milieu; we call it developing Twenty-First Century skills.

At the unveiling of the second generation I-Pad, Apple's founder, Steve Jobs identified his company's phenomenal success as being due to its enduring commitment, "to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts." In doing so he also emphasized high reliance on intuition as a cornerstone of Apple Corporation's means of staying ahead of the competition.

Here is what we are teaching at ACE Leadership High School;

  • learning how learn, how to process information,
  • knowing how to formulate driving questions,
  • how to develop global perspectives without forgetting the details along the way,
  • how to problem-solve collaboratively and,
  • how to hone intuitive skills that anticipate future projects, pitfalls, and client needs.
Developing such competencies fosters resiliency which not only makes for better students, future leaders and problem solvers, it creates well-informed, responsible citizens who can confidently face the complexities of an ever changing world.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Made to Stick - by Chip & Dan Heath - My review

Made to Stick provides insight regarding why some ideas take hold while others do not.  The authors Chip and Dan Heath use entertaining stories to demonstrate  that effective communication changes people.  The Heath brothers accomplish this by explaining how people think, how the reasons behind decisions are not always immediately evident and even counter intuitive.

Borrowing from successful advertising campaigns and teaching regimens, the Heaths cover some ingenious methods used by those who not only want to get their message across but, to make it stick. 

It may be a stretch to classify this book in the category of meta-cognition.  However, it does heavily deal with how people think and how yet others have capitalized on that knowledge to develop effective advertizing campaigns and successful educational endeavors.  The worthiness of a book such as this has to do with the sway these techniques hold in recruiting change of thinking and more importantly, how easily they can be applied in other situations where change is the goal.

Don't let the length of this cursory review dissuade you from reading Made to Stick.  It is a great book with many useful, practical insights.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Piano Guys - a creative undertaking

Friday, June 03, 2011

If You Can Read This - The philosophy of Bumper Stickers - My Review

While on my way to my favorite brick and mortar book store, I heard Jack Bowen's interview - on NPR last week - about his book, "If You Can Read This".

Bowen's commentary plays well with the subject matter of various bumper stickers and how thought provoking they can be.  His delivery of background information, the logic behind the one-liner witticisms and how packed they are yield insight as to how their wording often jolts the reader stop and think.  His methodical analysis offers a fascinating insight about what makes an interesting, compelling and effective message. 

Bowen's relaxed delivery works well with the subject matter because so much of bumper-sticker logic can be emotionally loaded.  I do wish however, that he would have written more than a few lines on the topic of gun control.  It almost seemed as though he deliberately chose to avoid any commentary on the topic altogether.

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