I teach in an inquiry, project-based, technology embedded classroom. What does that mean? I lecture less, and my students explore more. I create a classroom where students encounter concepts, via labs and other methods, before they necessarily understand all the specifics of what is happening. It’s a place where my students spend time piecing together what they have learned, critically evaluating its larger purpose, and reflecting on their own learning. Technology is embedded into the structure of all we do. It’s part of how we research, how we capture information, and how we display our learning. It’s never an accessory tacked on at the end.
My English class is currently in the midst of learning about modern-day slavery. This past week I learned how crucial the role of the teacher is in the inquiry classroom. In fact, during the course of the week, I came to see that an inquiry teacher has at least five roles to play in this exciting, sometimes frustrating, and always unpredictable process.
I have never had students work so hard to solve a problem and fail so badly. And that’s not unusual in science. For the first time in my teaching, I had meaningful conversations with my students about the high failure rate of real scientific experiments and the tenacity it takes to do scientific research. Failing isn’t a bad thing. It’s one experiment closer to finding the answer.
I wonder what effect our societies’ low expectations of adolescents has on their development? What does it do to one’s identity when often we give our teenagers so very few meaningful roles or real work to do? That the five hours they spend in classes a day often results in rote learning that is frequently memorized the night before an exam and then forgotten. What if instead, high school students spent five hours a day constructing an identity while responding creatively to their moment in history? What if they were told they can change the world now?
I recently had the privilege of convening for three days with 37 educators who are passionate about education. We forfeited technology for the company of fellow teachers, consultants, administrators, university professors and school trustees. No cell phone reception. No Internet connection. Unplug’d. We were wholly engaged and attentive to the discussions at hand, as we considered what matters and why. This is my contribution.