Friday, January 9, 2009

Lowly Worm goes to science class

This past week I asked my sophomores which has been evolving longer, humans or earthworms.
Humans--we're more advanced.

I then pick on Larry, and ask him what would happen if I dug a trench, tossed him in it, and required him to get his food munching through the soil.
I'd die.

My sophomores have been students for well over half their lifetimes, and know just enough to get into trouble. They tell me what they think I want to hear.
Oh, earthworms are more advanced.


I paint a silly story about an earthworm enrolling in class, then ask what would happen if the earthworm "sat" at Larry's now vacated desk ands studied CP biology?
Well, it would die!

So who's better adapted for sitting in a classroom in high school?
Larry! Larry's more advanced!

We eventually get to a discussion about adaptations and environment, and at some point the light bulb goes off and a few students realize that if you go back far enough, Larry and the earthworm shared an ancestor, and that both have been evolving as long as the other; neither would fare well in the other's habitat.

While describing the earthworm (blame Richard Scarry for the image), I started to think about just how well adapted a mammal, any mammal, might be to sit in a classroom as it's designed today.

We expect our children to do this. We expect them to listen. We expect them to put away their electronic universes that fit in a palm, devices trained to feed the desires of its master.

I've had several variations of the following chat:
But Dr. D, look!
They wave tiny screens holding an abundance of unfettered images....

But Dr. D, look, it's science!
Amazing images trolled by thumbs, and incredible creatures we rarely discuss dan
ce on the screens.....

But Dr. D, look, it's science, see? It's a....
And it often is--some picture or sound or website describing in detail some aspect of what we've just touched in class.

And I tell them to put it away.

Patrick Higgins was one of the featured speakers today at our Classroom 2.0 workshop. He pointed out we need to start using differentiated technology just as we now use differentiated instruction.

And he's right.

Just maybe next a child shows me something worthwhile on her forbidden hardware, I will ask her to email it, and I will share it next time I toss out pictures of the taiga . (Your grandparents likely saw similar images on a filmstrip, the Powerpoint of the 1950s--we've juiced up the projector, but the images are still the same.)

Better yet, maybe I'll have the courage to let go and let the kids create their own wikis detailing biomes, which they'll share with each other.

Or maybe I'll be insanely brave and spend more time in the classroom encouraging skepticism and developing critical thinking, and trust that a child's ability to find more information in the palm of her hand than I carry on my flash drive (or cortex) matters more than her ability to memorize an old Mongolian word that simply means "forest."


Patrick Higgins said...

You stated:

"Better yet, maybe I'll have the courage to let go and let the kids create their own wikis detailing biomes, which they'll share with each other."

Free up the students to create their own meaning around what you are teaching them, but beware of their resistance. One of the oddest things occurs when you allow students to create content in the Web 2.0 format--they don't think it is school. Our students have become very good at "doing school," and when you introduce new method and push them out of their comfort zone, sometimes you will see them chafe a little. Why? They are comfortable with the way they've been schooled, as comfortable as we are in schooling them in that manner.

Somehow, I trust that when you move towards this your students will move with you. Passion begets passion.

doyle said...

I'll let you know how it goes--I get so bogged down in the details sometimes I lose my vision.

Your chat was a nice kick in the butt.