Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Light bulb went off at McDonalds

My grade 6 and 7 Computer Class students are doing research about fast food by using the nutrition calculator on the McDonalds website. We are learning about calories, fat, protien, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. But this is only the activity that keeps them interested. What I have been trying to get them to do is to be able to read charts, and find information. Of the 10 questions I have asked the student, it has been about reading and recording information from the Nutrition Calculator.

But the last 2 questions are what really interest me. I have asked very broad questions for them to tell me "what have you learned from playing with your food?" Then I asked the kids to compare two fast food chains with similar items, and to draw conclusions based on data.

I asked them do you know who looks at information and then makes sense of it in words? Scientists! Engineers! Financial Analysts!

This sounded good to them. I pointed out that while memorizing that the capital of Alberta is Edmonton is somewhat useful, this is something they could just google. Their education should focus on being able to demonstrate the thinking they can do with the facts that they learn.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Words to My Students on the First Day

Good morning and welcome. No one is going to care about the letter grade you get in this course. I assign letter grades as a way to tell you how you did overall, at the end of the course. My bosses insist. This kind of makes sense - you would like to know how you did at the end of it all, wouldn't you?

But what will matter most when you leave my doors? By the time you are an adult, none of the programs we are using will be there anymore, or will likely not look the same. The information will have changed because you and people like you around the world keep making it change. You might not remember any of the facts you learn in my class when you are an adult, or only remember some of the facts. This is normal.

After informally interviewing people with all kinds of different jobs this is what I have summarized:

You must learn to be hard working - grades don't always help you there, nor does criteria. They tell you "go this far and stop."

Creativity - Dan Pink in his talk on motivation says "if this...then that" rewards systems only motivate people to do simple tasks. Learning is NOT a simple task.

Communication - Can you explain what you mean with your writing, spoken word, a piece of music, a drawing or painting, or a math equation? I can - and I want you to be able to do this too.

Collaboration - this means working together. I will help you learn how to work together, but if you can't work and play well with others, and need a "ref" after you graduate, no one will want to work with you. No one will want you.

Critical thinking - don't believe everything you read on the Internet - or anywhere else. You are allowed to disagree with me, and are obligated to come and tell me you disagree with me. Just have a reason you disagree that is defensible, and better yet, offer me a better idea!

So, the adventure begins. See you in class.