Friday, August 5, 2011

Authentic Learning - Does this have a hope of working?

Over at Practical Theory the other day I read Chris's entry about "A School I'd love to see". You should read his full entry, but the gist of it is in this quote ... 
"Imagine this high school:

Every morning, the first thing everyone did was read the New York Times for an hour. Now, imagine that they are using some kind of Kindle-style software so that they can annotate with ideas, questions, etc... such that at the end of the hour, the school community could see who had similar questions from the day’s paper.

And now, imagine what it would look like if the kids spent the better part of the day researching those questions and seeing where that took them, with the end of every day being a "share out" where kids shared what they learned across a variety of media..."

OK - so, having thought about this and identified with Chris all of the reasons NOT to do something ... late that night I broke open my iPad NZ Herald App and had a 3 minute look on the articles granny Herald deemed worthy of their iPad version for the day wondering if there was story content that might appease the scientists, the mathematicians, the english/literacy teachers ...

Here are some of the stories that took not much time at all to find ... I'll start with one of the lead stories ...

This is a little ripper to start with ... as a primary producer, NZ has much to be thankful for on the world stage - we produce a lot of dairy and is our biggest export earner by far. And we have a monopoly company in charge. So, with this one story alone I can see history, geography, economics, accounting, mathematics, statistics ... from the standard curriculum ... and then what a dream to use some of the content coming out of the research being presented digitally via some form of infographic.

So - after no more than a few seconds I have one story that I can swing a whole series of "lessons" out of.

But lets not forget the Arts - they had better fit too ... well, off to the entertainment section ... didn't actually read any of the articles - but I see there is something covering the tragedy of Amy Winehouse, there are stories of dance groups and other musos, there is a tattoo story (why do so many people have tats these days?) - so I reckon I can find something here without too much trouble.

Next maybe there is a story around the JK Rowling headline? As someone who has never looked at a Harry Potter book (and don't intend to) ... I suspect that most of my students have and so they could probably lead this one for me ... I'll just act as the guide where I can.

I'm sure that I can find plenty on the sports pages to spark discussions and activities around health and physical education - probably on the health pages too.

Poor Christchurch's bad run continued over the holidays with snow adding to their earthquake woes. Again, scientists, mathematicians and geographers can delight in the data and the stories around this.

And to finish for today - what about an ethical discussion about the perceived rights and wrongs of copyright and privacy laws in the information age. Maybe we might even learn a little about politics and leadership too ...

And my current thoughts ... I have spent 3 minutes reading Chris's original post - and another 3 minutes browsing for possible content on the Herald iPad version for the day. I have spend probably another 10 - 15 minutes thinking about what it might mean and 15 minutes putting these thoughts down.

Sure - there needs to be some more thought given to making something like this work ... that is IF there any value in this as a notion ... or should I just shelve it and return to the safety of my classroom and close the door again?

I think is was Einstein who said we'll never fix the ills of the day with the thinking and tools that caused them - something like that anyway ... when are we really going to address authentic learning.

What do you think?

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