Positives of ADHD

LOVE this article about Scott Barry Kaufman about ADHD, “The Innovative and Creative Power of ADHD”.  I’ve heard him speak, and I find his messaging about ADHD to be so wonderful and empowering.

Listen to the audio interview – it adds much more to the article.

Kaufman says that parents need to work with schools to identify learning formats that don’t stifle creative thinking.

He talks too about students needing some autonomy in their education. I don’t see either of these things happening in the large public high school we interact with. It’s driven in large part by rule following, fill-in-the-bubble tests and classes that don’t value creativity. I won’t go on and on now, I’ve done that in the past. I think I’ll just go get Kaufman’s book

I’ve blogged before about Scott Barry Kaufman

Communication vs. Writing

This blog is a great place to story some of my other writing. Here is another response I wrote for the MOOC, “The Art of Teaching History.” The prompt in this case was, “What are the obstacles to teaching writing?”

Communication isn’t just writing

The prompt this week is about obstacles to helping students become better writers. I certainly support helping our students become better writers, but I feel there is a gaping hole in the conversation in the videos. Our old definition of writing is the obstacle. We must think about communication, not just writing.

The videos solely address formal, academic writing. Journals, when assigned, are still an academic writing exercise. As a few threads here have addressed, the world has shifted, and students are exposed to many different types of communication media: Twitter, blogs, videos, Tumblrs, Instagram, etc. The list is endless and ever changing.

I am glad to see a few threads here addressing the issue I see. Some of the threads here are disturbing, because the blame for students not being able to write is being placed on our students and their use of technology/digital information. That is simply not fair to our students, and shows a lack of being able to think forward. We cannot continue to live in the past and expect students to perform in school the way we, as adults, were taught. We — the adults — need to also learn from where the world is going.

I am not saying students shouldn’t learn to analyze and evaluate. They need to learn to communicate their thoughts and knowledge, including this analysis and evaluation. It is our expectations of how they communicate this that must change. Is the standard 5 paragraph essay still necessary? What about a 90 second video? A powerpoint/prezi or some other presentation? It takes more skills to communicate visually. They must still get their ideas out in an orderly manner. They must make a thesis and support these ideas. Using visuals, doing a presentation, or some other mode of communication is JUST as valuable — and perhaps in our increasingly visual world — MORE important than just being able to write.

Teaching other modes of communication also allow us to differentiate the classroom, and perhaps allow students to shine in different ways. We cannot limit our world to text. Students with certain learning disabilities or those who are creative/artisitic may show you a different side of themselves when presented with the opportunity to use other modes of communication. Students who are well versed in writing are done a disservice if they are not encouraged to explore other modes of communication.

Writing is merely the beginning. By limiting ourselves in teaching history to this mode of communication, we limit our students.

“Successful” Students

The following is a response I wrote for a Coursera MOOC I’m taking, “The Art of Teaching History.”

In the video I’m responding to, the instructor talks about what he thinks makes a “successful” history student. I admit I bristled at this a bit. Who defines a “successful” student? I’m sure there are many definitions/thoughts about success. What is “successful” for one student is different than might be for another. I tried to watch the video with an open mind.

Anyway, here is the response I posted on the course forums:

A “Successful” History Student

I struggled with the definitions given for “successful history students.” They were:

  1. Knows history/significant knowledge of history
  2. Reads and writes well
  3. Thinks analytically and historically

I do agree with #3, but the first two give me pause. In my work, I teach and develop content about state history primarily for 6th grade students. Perhaps these definitions of success apply better at an older age — more like undergrad — but I can’t apply them to 6th grade, middle school, or even to high school.

If the knowledge of history was the measure of success, we’d be testing facts. We don’t want to do that. We want to engage students in history, give them a sense of their place in the world and how the past has influenced where we are — where THEY are — today. For 6th graders, we strive to build a base of historical knowledge, of course, but our measure of success is not that they know the date of statehood. We want them to understand the factors that created the state, what were the positives and negatives about how the state was made. Who were the players? How do past events impact them today. We want them to understand the “So What” questions — why does it matter that we study history. We want them to know HOW to find historical detail and information. It is not necessary that a 6th grader memorize minute details, dates and more.

I also feel strongly that teaching history is part of the process of creating readers and writers, but this is a text-centric approach. Students today need to be able go beyond text and into visuals, audio and more. Our culture is moving from only text into communicating strongly through visuals (images, art, video) and sound. Students of today need to be as fluent – if not more so- with these modes of communication. They also need to be able to express their knowledge through these modes. Producing a video requires many skills: organizing information, determining important and non-important information, creating a thesis, writing a script, choosing appropriate visuals and audio and more. This, to me, is far more than writing, and we as educators and parents are responsible to see that students can do all this. Focusing on the academic historical essay is doing a disservice to all students except those planning on graduate work in history — and can be saved for the high school or undergraduate work.

A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

crossons:

This is a fascinating article. It is sobering, and as a parent, makes me incredibly sad. The comments are, as all comments are, mixed. Some make me furious, some are insightful.
To those commenters who blame the students for not learning, I ask you to talk to students. Those students in your class who “don’t care” may actually have serious issues at home, have a learning disability or mental health issues, or a myriad of other issues that interfere with learning. Or, maybe, one too many teachers rolled their eyes at them, and the kids no longer feel valued. I hope my kids never have you for a teacher.
I happen to be a parent of one of these kids. She is intelligent, creative, thoughtful and caring. She started school as an enthusiastic student. She will hopefully graduate this year, but she is a different person after being part of the factory school system that rewarded rote memorization over creative analysis. She has ADHD and works 10 times as hard as other students to maintain interest in topics that are not naturally interesting to her. Do not blame her for not being interested in every subject in school. I bet you weren’t either, and that’s why we – as adults – choose to be attorneys or scientists. We don’t study everything.

To those who support lectures, I hope you realize that the world has changed. While some lecture is still valuable, our entire world has shifted to a far more visual place. We access information differently. We process information differently. And that’s ok. It doesn’t all have to be the same as it was 20, 30, 60 years ago in order to be valuable. How dare you say you can teach if you are unwilling to learn new things?

After watching our daughter hammered down by a school system that does not reward her learning style, we purposefully chose a different school for my son. His class periods are long, but he says he never, ever sits for the whole time. He never goes a class period without interacting (verbally or physically) with the teacher and other students. His school builds in daily opportunities for students to move around the building and engage in learning other than classroom. He is given ample time to complete homework in school, and rarely has more than an hour of work at night. This means he can continue with his outside interests, which includes singing, composing/arranging music, piano, and reptiles. His learning at home is as valuable as his learning at school, and school supports this.

Originally posted on Granted, and...:

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

View original 1,889 more words

Dropouts

Ran across a post about a study that found the most common reason for high school dropouts.

Reasons cited – emphasis mine:

  1. Toxic environment outside of school – student experiencing violence or other issue at home
  2. Relationships with others – failure of a student to connect with an adult at the school
  3. Lack of support – “The salience of school isn’t there because of what’s happening outside the school building, and they aren’t finding the supports they need within school…”

Wow – I sure sense one thing here: Let’s blame everything EXCEPT the school.

Each of these reasons points to an external cause of the student leaving school. Did it ever occur to them that the reason might be school itself?

I see this happening right before my eyes. My daughter was very serious this summer about not returning to school. She is not suffering any violence at home, connects with many adults at school, and I think the salience of school isn’t because of what’s happening outside of school, but rather because of what’s happening inside of school.

One commenter points out the possibility of undiagnosed learning disabilities. In our case, they have been diagnosed, but she’s had little support at school. We’ve done a tremendous amount away from school, but very little has happened at school.

She feels — and I see — very little salience for school in the outside world. What she learns and does in school has no meaning to what she sees outside. It feels irrelevant.

Talk about toxic environment. The vast majority of assessments are bubble tests. She doesn’t happen to be good at taking bubble tests… so every time she turns around she’s getting a failing grade. There are 2000 kids in her school – it’s loud, chaotic, and can be violent. She feels trapped, has no control over her life there.

Fortunately there is one adult who has made it worth her while to be there. Let’s hope it’s enough to ensure she finishes.

Digital Content

Being a digital content developer, I’m always on the lookout for articles about how schools are using/acquiring digital content.

Great article on Mindshift, “For Public Schools, the Long, Bumpy Road to Going Digital” brings up many good issues and possibilities.

7 year cycle: Schools are stuck in the 7 year curriculum cycle. I sat on a district curriculum committee and saw how it hampers any opportunity for teachers to be nimble and take advantage of new content and technology. As a developer, I know that things in the tech world change so fast, it’s impossible to say what will be available in 7 years. If it were my money, I’d never commit to any digital content for more than a year or two.

Expensive! Schools never have enough money to do what they need to do, and buying content/curriculum is no different. Yet, content is expensive to develop. Contrary to what many believe, digital content is actually more expensive to develop, not less. Sure, you don’t have to print a book, but really, printing the book is a miniscule expense compared to the time to develop good content. Things like video, audio and interactives take time and money to develop.

Free resources: There are some tremendous free online resources. Teachers often create excellent resources — but that is also expensive, or done on their own time (which is wrong.) There has to be a move to fund digital content development differently – not on the backs of the schools and teachers.

Flexibility and customization: Digital offers tremendous opportunities to customize content and how you use it. The future lies in the companies that can offer this flexible, customizable content that allows teachers to incorporate material in their curriculum, rather than the company dictating what the teacher does. Add a quiz? Sure. Have students cooperate on a writing assignment? Yup. Enable students to share their work? of course. Search for specific subjects, rather than using the text as the publisher printed it? You bet. These are all things that have to be enabled.