Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Good Questions Increase Rigor

This spring and summer I have read about educating students in the 21st century.  In my next few blog posts, I plan to review the books I've read and share important insights I've gleaned from each book.

Teaching Digital Natives:  Partnering for Real Learning by Marc Prensky is a book from which I have learned that asking good questions is one of the most important things a teacher can do.  Prensky asserts the verbs important for learning do not change (or change very little) over time.(46)  Verbs are the skills students should know. Nouns are the tools we use to learn, practice, and use the skills. (6) First, as teachers, we need to determine what (the verbs) we want our students to know and be able to do.  Then, we can select the appropriate web 2.0 tool (the nouns) that students can use to meet the desired learning goal.  Or, better yet, as Prensky vehemently states, let students select the appropriate web 2.0 tool to use. 

Increasing student motivation is also an important duty for teachers.  Scholars and writers have research that suggests it takes 10,000 hours (or 10 years according to some researchers) to become an expert at anything.  One way a teacher can increase student motivation to do quality work is to tap into each student's passion.  Students today demand choice, differentiation, personalization, and individualization.  Prensky says,"That better way [to increase motivation] is to motivate each student to learn through his or her passions.  Passion drives people to learn (and perform) far beyond their, and our, expectations.  And whatever is learned through the motivation of passion is rarely if ever forgotten." (4)

Finally, Prensky suggests that teachers should partner with students for real learning to occur.  A couple chapters of the book are on the roles teachers and students must fill in this partnering arrangement.  The biggest lesson I've learned from these suggestions is that the teacher must avoid doing things for the student that the student can do for him or herself, especially with the use of technology.

As I work to develop my blended courses this year, Prensky's words will continue to guide me.  I have been working really hard on writing good questions based on Bloom's taxonomy (the updated version) these past two weeks.  In this effort, I am finding that I better understand what I want my students to learn.  In many ways, I feel like I am a first-year teacher all over again because the composition of the questions has forced me to re-think and re-vision my curriculum.  One of my classmates in my Online Course Design class (ollie2) mentioned that when her school's staff focused on writing SMART goals for learning objectives, student engagement greatly increased.  Students better understood what teachers wanted them to do and they did it. 

My hope is that better questions, partnering with my students, and tapping into students' passions will increase my students' engagement as well.