"There is a great danger in the present day lest science - teaching should degenerate into the accumulation of disconnected facts and unexplained formulae, which burden the memory without cultivating the understanding."
This week I was fortunate enough to present to and alongside some fellow Ontario teachers at a professional learning seminar in Markham ON put on by the Ontario Teacher's Federation (OTF). J.D. Everett's quote made up the last slide of my session on critical thinking and technological integration. It was meant to be witty. It was meant to be a little snarky. People liked it, but the more my day progressed, the less I did.
On day 2 I gave a workshop on coding and robotics as a context for critical thinking. Teachers came, asked questions, and learned from me and from each other. There is, in fact, a great danger of burdening the memory with facts and formula without cultivating the understanding, but these last couple of days at the Pedagogy Before Technology conference (#PB4T) convinced me that teachers are most definitely not the culprits of such a threat.
I saw teachers give up time from their well earned summer vacations to come together and share innovative practice that are anchored in research and capitalize on emerging technologies. Maybe what changed my cynicism to a renewed sense of hope was seeing something students seldom get the opportunity to see: A chance to see their teachers learn.
Teachers were unapologetically struggling. Working hard on Arduino projects, Makey Makey controls, green screen integration, digital citizenship plans and more. This reminds me of something I said in my workshop that rung true the whole conference: Learning requires a bit of suffering. Angela Myers (@AngelaMaiers) explained passion as the work we "must" do. The work we are willing to suffer for. I think learning requires passion; ergo, real learning experiences require a bit of suffering. Just ask Mr. Kim (@MrKimSHHS) who bellowed out "WOOHOO!" when he finally got his Arduino lights to work on his maker project at 4h35pm when all the kiosks were tearing down, but he just had to stick around to finish the project. I guess it's worth noting that Ray Mercer, the booth facilitator and fellow teacher was right there by his side to answer his questions and lend a hand when needed. This is the work of a teacher. Yes, time is a precious commodity, but I have yet to meet a passionate teacher who won't make time and give back when someone wants to learn.
If the goal really is to transform the learning experience for all of our students, we need more conferences like Pedagogy Before Technology (#pb4t). Conferences that are for educators by educators. We need more leaders like Brenda Sherry (@brendasherry) and Peter Skillen (@peterskillen) who believe that effective teaching transcends political, cultural and linguistic barriers. We need more educators to believe that effective pedagogy doesn't comme in the form of a new computer or robot with a bloated price tag.
So thank you to all of my colleagues for their humility, their eagerness to learn, but most of all their passion. There is a danger in education of burdening the memory with disconnected facts and formula, but teachers aren't, and will never be the culprits. Call it honour amongst thieves, call it Corvus Oculum Corvi Non Eruit, call it what you will. The future of education in Ontario is in great hands.