Ivette Ruvalcaba

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How can SOLEs be implemented without causing students to shun necessary but "boring" skills?

I remember when I was in 8th grade and a classmate asked me point-black what was the purpose of geography. Let me tell you, my answer of "so you know the climate of the country you are visiting or where is it" was utter rubish - both to my classmate and to me, but that was the only thing I could think of that she could actually relate to (two months later, she move to New Zealand).
In school, we are taught many things that we may not WANT to know, but that we NEED to know. Examples: grammar, composition, history, geography, mental maths, etc. Also, there are also many subjects for which we know the bare minimum (learnt at school) because we never give ourselves the time to learn about even if we know they are important (not many people actually read their country's constitution) or interesting (ethics, philosophy, art, etc.)

So... how ca SOLEs include these subjects without going against their principle (learning through self-motivation, not through imposition)

  • Mar 23 2013: I can't tell you the difference between a noun and a pronoun but that didn't stop me from writing. Through reading I learned what a "good" sentence should look like. Many stories are set in other parts of the world, in different periods. Think of Aladdin, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Secret Garden, Rikki Tikki Tavi... the list goes on. I believe the part you are missing is that all subjects interconnect. Humans do not learn one thing at a time. We exist on an ever sliding scale of knowledge. The most important skill any of us will ever have is knowing how to look for what we don't know without shame.
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    Mar 11 2013: Patricia Ruvalcaba, that is the meaning of SOLE.
    Let them go online and look the why people have learned geography.
    And get yourself out of the way.
    • Mar 12 2013: Patricia asked a good question and you tell her to get out of the way....instead of being rude think about a good answer.
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        Mar 12 2013: Are you kidding me? You know how rude it is not to thank me about my comments first before trying to do something as social controle.

        Now ontopic, have you been studying sugata mitra? it looks like not. He puts computer in noway and then get out of the way of learning as fast as possible.

        Thank you paul lightfoot for wasting my time to post 5 sentence superficial.
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    Mar 13 2013: Patricia, There are many subjects that lend to traditional learning and some that do not. My experience is that boys are harder to engage than girls. Make a rule or a lesson plan and the girls get with the program ... so ... geography: How about the challenge of the day is to backpack through the Andes from XXX to YYYY the first month of ZZZ. You will be delivering medical supplies that weigh 100 pounds. Plan the trip. Work in groups of four. Each group will present their plan tomarrow. They must look up the Andes, the two cities, the terrain, the weather for that month, method of transport, food and suppies, etc ... The studies of the Andes will be taken care of Not by you .. by them and they will remember it forever.

    Math: Using different shape containers use math formula to tell how much water it will hold and then do it for the proof set. Using shadows tell the height of the flag pole. In short apply the math.

    In English: Allow them to act out their favorite scene .... they will recall all of the mini plays and thus learn more .. and this will inspire them to read other sections and hopefully read other associated stories. There is nothing wrong with going outside to do the "act outs" so they can cheer, laugh, and interact.

    Running out of space. Self organized learning environments can only occur when the instructor allows and encourages it. If you watch the younger kids at recess they will tell you their interests ... use that and build on it.

    Johnny you run like Jim Thorpe and walk off. Amy you have the poise of Grace Kelly. Tommy you are as strong as Hercules. Kathy you settled that argument with the talents of a Congelesa Rice.

    I bet that some of them will go home and look up the person you compared them to. You plant the seeds, allow them to water, and nurture it.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Mar 13 2013: It has been my experience (and Mr. Mitra's) that children compelled through curiosity, will find a way to learn. In fact, they'll probably learn more meaningfully and deeply. I believe we underestimate children's ability to learn. Therefore, we cram boring fact-based learning into their heads and endlessly quiz them. Ultimately, we judge their intelligence based on their success with regurgitating facts.

    So, I say trust that they will learn. Take a look at William Kamkwamba's TED talks (http://www.ted.com/talks/william_kamkwamba_on_building_a_windmill.html) -he taught himself physics and electronic circuitry from a book written in English even though he didn't speak English. That's all the evidence I need to know that children can and will learn everything they need to know if they're interested. Let's not squelch that passion for learning and we won't need to worry about whether or not they're 'learning'.
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    Mar 11 2013: Have you ever looked at an assembly line? Hint..Hint.. ;-)
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    Mar 11 2013: Knowledge is the interconnection of information. Learning is non-linear. Children learn if they are engaged. We only need to encourage learning in children as Mitra says. Children learn in different ways and at different rates. Concepts such as wanting to know and needing to know are supplanted by skills that determine knowing where to find the answers, asking the meaningful questions, and breaking down a problem.

    Conrad Wolfram addresses this by explaining how it applies to the learning of math. "What do we mean when we say we're doing math, or educating people to do math? Well, I think it's about four steps, roughly speaking, starting with posing the right question. What is it that we want to ask? What is it we're trying to find out here? And this is the thing most screwed up in the outside world, beyond virtually any other part of doing math. People ask the wrong question, and surprisingly enough, they get the wrong answer,"

    http://www.ted.com/talks/conrad_wolfram_teaching_kids_real_math_with_computers.html
  • Mar 30 2013: This talk argues that, of the "needs" you've listed, composition, history, geography, mental maths, constitutional law, etc. are completely unnecessary, a relic of the age of empires when we were raising students to be replaceable cogs in a world-wide machine. All of them now can be quickly handled by a computer with a simple web search.

    Grammar (or, more generally, communication) cannot be easily "outsourced" to a computer. But in the examples given by the talk, children taught themselves the necessary language skills in order to interact with the computer. In other words, the computer itself was a big enough reward to make investment in that "boring" skill worth while.

    Also note the perceived "boringness" of an area of study seems to be related to the question asked of the SOLE. The example given from the talk: asking about the abstract tangent of an angle is uninteresting. Asking about the trajectory of an asteroid that may or may not hit earth is interesting.
  • Mar 22 2013: P.p.s. Please do not burn my teddy bear!
    "It is impossible to predict which concrete bits of knowledge will be useful in the future. Those who want to raise standards or "get back to basics" always try to implement their programs in terms of fixed curricula and those curricula inevitably run into problems when they try to get very specific about just what concrete bits they specify students should swallow. The point they miss is that what matters is not how well students can retain knowledge, but how well they can apply it.

    We cannot create meaningful change by promulgating lists of knowledge. We must concern ourselves with how students should learn. How knowledge is acquired matters as much as what is acquired. When knowledge is acquired in service of a goal, it remains forever linked to that goal."
    Source: Engines for Education http://www.engines4ed.org/hyperbook/nodes/NODE-74-pg.html
    Your question was posed and answered near the end of the following video.(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKchzrCepbU)
    Brussels? Who is Brussels?
  • Mar 21 2013: Your question reflects an understandable but unfounded concern of someone stuck in an obsolete paradigm of education. Buckminster Fuller pointed out something similar in the early 1960's when he wrote in "Education Automation" about an adult telling children that they had a puzzle about the earth upside down, as if there was such a thing in the Universe.The adults also knew that the sun does not revolve around the earth but would say "Look at the beautiful sunrise!" According to Dr.Fuller children are born comprehensive geniuses.
    Certainly, one doesn"t want one's children to become like the Eloi in 'The Time Machine' by H.G. Wells that can"t read or write because audiobooks, video and speech recognition computer companions did it for them. I think the ancient Greeks said something similar about education reform but I don't remember. I don"t know the works of Homer or Petronius by heart.Well, I did learn some myth about a mill Hamlet had.
    Dr. Roger Schank often points out how solving quadratic equations is taught to everyone in high school but very few people ever use it after high school. Then there is all the trivia one's personal interests accumulate.
    Dr. Schank also pointed out how children will keep up with the Joneses (should that be a concern?) in various ways including peer pressure, but also through exploring their own interests with just-in-time educational simulations. There are ways to design tthings so that you learn grammar in a new way as part of doing something you like. Both Mr. Fuller and Mr. Schank point out that if you design things properly, you will have a hard time keeping up. Have you ever had a child ask you a question like "Why is the sky bliue?"
    If you want to read "Great Books of the Western World", more power to you. Democracy requires an educated citizenry as one of the editors wrote.
    One educational strategy can be found in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey"
    P.s. Did you finish your brussel sprouts?
  • Mar 17 2013: The skills on your list are only in fact "necessary" or "boring" if learners deem them so. Children will either learn them because they don't find them boring or they find them necessary to accomplish something else they find interesting. The task of a SOLE facilitator is to curate materials that are rich targets for the children's curiosity.

    Consider the case that Mitra presented in which the children learned about microbiology from material written in English. Here was a task that was so hard that the children received little inherent reward from studying it - one of the "boring" skills situations you're concerned about. The solution was to arrange for a teacher (who knew nothing of the subject or computer skills herself) to pay attention to the children and praise them for pursuing such a difficult problem. With such encouragement children will succeed in solving even ridiculously difficult problems.
  • Mar 14 2013: I think with the approach Mitra is using, the students don't learn to encapsulate a body of knowledge into a subject like "geography" until *after* they have already used it to answer questions.

    If you open with a question instead of with presenting a body of knowledge, then a student's curiosity is engaged, and you've pretty much won.

    Also, in my experience of teaching, whether you lead with questions or with knowledge, if students are interested in most of what you give them, then they will trust you enough to take a bit extra on faith.
  • Mar 10 2013: It means there are a lot for us to do in critical thinking in educaiton.I think deny what we are doing in education completely and content with what we are doing all shouldn't be selected.Keep learning it is only thing what we can do.Let's enjoy learning to move on.
  • Mar 10 2013: Why must all students learn all main subject then be thrown into the workforce that is very specialized? I think it is not fair to anyone to be graded on subjects that you have no desire to ever be part of.
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      Mar 10 2013: In fact, that is why I named the subjects I believe everyone should know, even if they have no interest whatsover in them. For example, history and geography are necessary because of geopolitics. If someone doesn't understand geopolitics, they he or she cannot understand what is told in the news, or he or she can cause a faux pas. Grammar is indispensable, no matter the specialization. Mental maths are necessary. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes is way slower to take out the smartphone and do the math, than to do it mentally.
      • Mar 10 2013: What good is geopolitics to a mechanical engineer? Or math to a cosmetologis? And who decides what parts of history are a must know? I agree sometimes its faster to do math on the spot instead of getting the phone out but the option to use a phone is still there
        • Mar 13 2013: Educational research shows that postponed choices deliver better results on the long run. For instance, take the Finnish system for education. There they give every individual the chance of discovering what he's good at instead of allowing them to drop subjects they might be good at. This prevents limited choices at earlier ages, when children or young adults just aren't capable yet of making informed choices for their future.
          You ask what good geopolitics is to mechanical engineers? What if that engineer was going to work in the middle east? What good is math to a cosmetologist? I would't have my hair died by one that doesn't understand proportions.
          You're absolutely right about one thing though: children nowadays grow up with all the information or computing power they would ever need within the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger. Learning how to reach the correct information should indeed also be a big part of what they learn. This undoubtedly is a quite useful skill for anyone on any job.
          Who decides what to teach and to whom? I think the policymakers allover the world will decide about that. The only thing I hope is that their decisions will give enough freedom for the teachers to motivate and coach pupils as Sugata Mitra showed. He proved to me that in powerful learning environments anyone can learn anything.
  • Mar 10 2013: In working with children w/developmental delays, I witnessed years ago the progress these same children made through a process known then as "facilitated communication'. Simply put, parents and mentors were attempting to provide "facilitation of communication" via; pc, pda's, (known as smart-phones today), and any number of tech gadgets which we could put our hands upon & get into the school systems. Oddly enough it seemed then, the "average students" were actually at a disadvantage to certain degrees. many did not have access to the information, the media available, and most importantly free-flowing education which was becoming apparent then (1994-on) to many parents, teachers, mentors and the very children considered Delayed.
    Through the concept of facilitated communication and positive reinforcement, our child self-motivated to varying degrees up through his lower grade ranks with above average results.
    Point, this I believe was an earlier example of SOLE on his behalf via efforts in special education systems in attempts to enhance the cognitive and retentive outcomes for him (testing). Well, it has flourished thankfully.
    The boring skills simply become part and parcel, so long as they are integrated into "facilitation". Of course, mentors are essential...for without the human element it appears, all falls down.
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    Mar 9 2013: As a student, I see many other classmates simply going to school because they have to. They don't enjoy school, they don't enjoy homework, and they don't enjoy tests. The entire culture of our youth has been transformed into one that somehow dislikes knowledge and learning. Recently, a lot of people have started to blame the teachers or the curriculum for the decline in our education relative to the world. I don't believe this is a fair judgment as many teachers are actually very good but their students do not perform well because the students lack interest and motivation to learn more about the given subject.

    Students need to start shouldering more responsibility for their own education and this, in my opinion, can only be obtained if we undergo a cultural revolution where learning and education is embraced and desired. Our society is vain; most people care about looks, other's opinions, material possessions, or any number of things instead of actually learning and bettering themselves. If we can change the way we look at education, we can begin to see amazing results.
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      Mar 9 2013: I think lots of people, if not most people of all ages, love learning. You are right that some subjects are less interesting to some people, and some are typically taught in a way that alienates the student.

      As much as that, though, I think many people dislike being evaluated on their understanding and prefer to study in settings in which they don't have to deal with being assessed on their understanding by others.
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        Mar 9 2013: I'm sure that being assessed deprives students of some joy that comes with learning but a large portion of the fact that students don't excel in some areas is because they simply do not put forth the necessary effort. Why are American students relatively bad at math? Its because in our culture, we have thought of math as a difficult concept and that it is okay to give up on math. We then put less effort forth, fall farther and farther behind each year, and more or less do the minimum to pass.

        I am not saying every student is like this, but a large portion of students are and if overall education standards are going to be improved, everyone needs to improve. And, I believe that this improvement can come from a shift in culture.

        As for the SOLE program, in my opinion, it seems like a great idea. We have a similar program at my school for a few classes that seem to have great results. But, SOLE definitely has limitations on the subjects that could be used with. For instance, last year in math, we had a book that was all about discovering previous theorems and principles by doing activities. Now, this may sound like a great idea, but the majority of my class, including myself, did not like the new style of learning.
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          Mar 9 2013: I appreciate, John, that you bring an inside view, as those who do not live in schools often believe that everything is the fault of the adults in the building or a conspiracy to suppress independent thought and effort.

          I think in a SOLE type program, students are far more likely to take in information in the traditional way, by reading or listening to how other people explain things rather than by the discovery method you did not prefer.

          Could I ask which math text you used? I sat on my district's materials adoption committee for math some years ago and so know quite a few of these books.
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        Mar 10 2013: Last year, in 8th grade, we used the Discovering Geometry An Investigative Approach Fourth Edition by Michael Serra. And what I mean is that some subjects may not be as effective with the SOLE type program and in these cases many students may prefer the traditional method of being walked along with by the teacher.

        Now I am in Honors Algebra II. This text book that we use is very good at helping students study by themselves. We still use the traditional method of teaching (as we do in almost every one of our classes) but the textbook promotes self studying rather than "discovering". By the way, the math book in Hon Alg II that we use is

        College Algebra and Trigonometry (4th Edition)
        By: David I. Schneider (Author), John Hornsby (Author) and Margaret L. Lial (Author)
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          Mar 10 2013: I thought you might have been talking about Serra. Many students do prefer the traditional style of instruction.
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    Mar 9 2013: SOLE is an acronym for what?
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      Mar 9 2013: Self-Organized Learning Environments
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        Mar 9 2013: You have a point. I believe much of the current ignorance is due to a lack of this.

        How many know the definition of a preposition? yet what percentage of text are prepositions? therefore what percentage of ignorance/stupidity of the text?

        How many think Abraham Lincoln was a good guy who freed the slaves? What is the take in the recent movie?
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    Mar 9 2013: The teachers could put forward a selection of enticing questions that happen to require particular vital skills for later problems and subjects.

    The greater challenge, I think, is how kids will figure out whether what they are reading online is actually valid or rather mistake or misrepresentation.
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      Mar 9 2013: Sounds like that skill should be taught?
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        Mar 9 2013: It definitely should be, but the concept of the SOLE, if I understand it, is for nothing to be taught by the teacher at all.
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      Mar 9 2013: You are quite right - critical thinking and critical reading will be THE most important skills students will need, regardless of what they do or learn. I believe debates will help them develop those skills.

      Quoting you, "The teachers could put forward a selection of enticing questions that happen to require particular vital skills for later problems and subjects"
      I still cannot think of an enticing question that will lead to students learning to conjugate.
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        Mar 9 2013: Perhaps being able to speak understandably and read in a second language?

        Another area that can be great fun is sometimes called "natural language". There are puzzlers to be decoded that depend on recognizing language patterns.
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        Gail .

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        Mar 10 2013: You are probably right about there not being an enticing question that will lead today's students to learning how to conjugate. But, that's "today's" students. For one who loves learning, the realization of the need becomes apparent. If I can't put a grammatically sound sentence together, I can't get a high-paying job. If I can't present a life-altering improvement idea to my community, then learning conjugation has a real purpose.

        Just like if I couldn't get a driver's license unless I knew how to read - I would want to learn how to read. Mitra speaks of trusting natural curiosity and natural propensity to learn and allowing education to direct itself in order to serve the student first, the community second, and the nation or fiscal paradigm last. This flies in the face of the current educational paradigm.