Monday, 21 July 2008

Working with adults

Working with adults is challenging. I was thinking about this recently when someone asked me about my thoughts on coaching teachers and I remembered a list of statements, about working with adults, produced by Robin Fogarty and Brian Pete.

Here they are. See if you agree or disagree:

1 Adults seek learning experiences to cope with life-changing events.
2 For adults, learning is its own reward.
3 Adults prefer survey courses to single concept classes.
4 Adults want to use new materials.
5 Adults are quick to re-evaluate old material.
6 Adults prefer to learn alone.
7 Adults prefer to sit and be taught.
8 Adults prefer 'how to' trainings.
9 An eclectic approach works best with adults.
10 Non-human learning (books, TV,) is popular in adult learning.
11 Adults don't like problem-centred learning.
12 Adults carry reservoirs of personal experiences.
13 'Real world' exercises are preferred.
14 Adults let their schoolwork take second place to jobs and family.
15 Adults transfer ideas and skills easily into their work setting.
16 Adults are self directed learners.
17 Facilitation of groups works better than lecture formats with adults.
18 Adults expect their class time to be well-spent.
19 Adult learners are voluntary, self-directed learners.
20 Adults are pragmatic learners.

Sources: (Knowles 1973, Zemke, 1995)

Point 10 might be different these days as the internet is not included. Malcolm Knowles focused his attention on the learner is his seminal peiece The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. his contention is that adult learners are an entity unto themselves.

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Writing a six word story

During our end of term 2 holidays I heard an interview with Amy Hempel on Radio National she talked about short stories and quoted Gertrude Stein who once wrote a 4 word short story titled Longer: "She stayed away longer." Jill Wilson referred to the interview on her blog Chopping block. As a result of this I remembered the six word short story that Ernest Hemingway wrote: ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn.") and is said to have called it his best work. Is the story apocryphal? In Author! Screenwriter!: How to Succeed as a Writer in New York and Hollywood by Peter Miller on page 166:

More than thirty years ago at the beginning of my career, I had lunch with a well-established newspaper syndicator who told me the following story: Ernest Hemingway was lunching at the Algonquin, sitting at the famous “round table” with several writers, claiming he could write a six-word-long short story. The other writers balked. Hemingway told them to ante up ten dollars each. If he was wrong, he would match it; if he was right, he would keep the pot. He quickly wrote six words on a napkin and passed it around. The words were: “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.” Papa won the bet: His short story was complete. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end!

Wired magazine asked sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers from the realms of books, TV, movies, and games to take a shot themselves. You can see the full list here: Wired six word short stories.

Here are some of my favourites:

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.- Margaret Atwood

The baby's blood type? Human, mostly. - Orson Scott Card

Bush told the truth. Hell froze.- William Gibson

Don't marry her. Buy a house. - Stephen R. Donaldson

Easy. Just touch the match to - Ursula K. Le Guin

Teacher Magazine decided to run a competition of their own after getting the idea from Smith magazine:

The six-word memoirs published by Smith include one from TV chef Mario Batali ("Brought it to a boil, often"); another from an anonymous student ("Deferred all math homework to Dad"), and this from a long-suffering English teacher: "Grading AP essays, I crave Tolstoy."

Here’s the specific question Teacher magazine used:

If you were writing a mini-memoir of your teaching life, what would your six words be? Your memoir might be funny, inspirational, profound, mundane, deeply true. Want to play? Mull it over, doodle with pen and napkin or your favorite digital tool, and post your memoir for all of us to read.

A few results:

They asked. I listened. We learned. (Majorie)

Life on the bell curve's edge. (Amy B)

Every day is a new adventure. (Amy E)

Reading creates new worlds—let's go! (David)

Exercised the muscle of the mind. (Nancy D)

Please, don't ask me for more! (Kim after a hard year)

No growth, no life. Struggling, soaring. (George)

This sure gets away from edubabble we often have to read and listen to as part of our working lives.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Is google making us learn differently?

Last week at a conference keynote presenter Tom March talked about the iPhone and showed clips of the things google can do. One idea I took from this was that he thinks that we need to change our thinking about how we organise schools and teaching.

Serendipitously on the way home I picked up the latest Atlantic Monthly and there emblazoned on the cover was 'Is google making us stupid?' This is an interesting article about the effects of the Internet on the brain; the contention is that the Internet has changed our thinking. The author Nicolas Carr says:

For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price. As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

On the other hand this seems like another world from the world many kids, that I see in schools, experience. On the one hand we have the amazing technology but on the other hand there are lots of kids struggling with basic reading and writing. I find that I'm often skimming and scanning through articles but I still take time to read BOOKS. As Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain says, deep reading is deep thinking.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Negotiating the curriculum nothing's really new

"Nothing's really new Sam." This was a statement made to me when I mentioned that I remember attempting to negotiate the curriculum in the 1980's after Garth Boomer's book 'Negotiating the Curriculum' was published.

Boomer's approach was essentially inquiry learning - issue or problem, question, hypothesis, test, and conclusion. Negotiating the curriculum adopted four questions:

1 What do we know already?

2 What do we want and need to find out

3 How will we go about finding out?

4 How will we know, and show, that we've found out when we have finished?

Pretty straight forward really and it stands the test of time.