My Passion…described.

How can anyone possibly describe their passion about learning? How can they convey that passion to another person?

Can we borrow a “techy” tool from Star Trek and beam passion into another person? To borrow a quote from Spock:

It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.  ~Spock

Can we use “The Force”?

You have to find something that you love enough to be able to take risks, jump over the hurdles and break through the brick walls that are always going to be placed in front of you. If you don’t have that kind of feeling for what it is you’re doing, you’ll stop at the first giant hurdle. ~George Lucas

So if these things are true, how can educators (or parents) convey the passion of learning to their students? Here is a multiple choice question for you…

  1. Grades?
  2. Assignments on top of assignments?
  3. Work, Work, Work? A lot of it being at home?
  4. Should we try to make everything about fun, play, enjoyment, creativity?
  5. None of the above.

I think we need to find a balance in order for students to “want” to as Spock so eloquently states: “obtain that which they actually want.” We need to get students to as George Lucas states: “have passion enough to feel as though what they are doing is important enough that they want to push through the first hurdle.”

This is something I have always been curious about and wanted to seek the balance that allowed students to have freedom to work at their own pace, be able to adjust their learning when they feel the need and give them the tools to know when to make adjustments and the passion to work through the process without feeling like their grade was going to fall if they try and don’t reach their expectation. I am even willing to do this with 7th & 8th grade students. As I type these words, I feel I may be nuts. (Pause for laughter…)

Students in my class use technology tools (in this case, the iPad) to learn a skill, Historical Thinking, that seems specific to Social Studies when they are in class, but is very general as the year goes along. It is critical thinking, and can be used in any part of their life, for the rest of their life.

In class we use United States historical primary source documents to analyze an event that happened in the distant past. Ugh! That is possibly the last thing students in middle school want to do with their time. They have NO PASSION for this. If they run into any problems…DONE!

Students want to be able to mark up, write on, annotate with their thoughts and ideas and questions the actual document. But how? I have found Notability to be a terrific app for this skill work. Students can take a PDF, image, document, painting, etc. of a primary source and “open in…” Notability. This app allows them to write on the document, highlight the document, mark up the document, and ask their questions right on the document. It is a terrific tool that connects the kids to the document. But that is just the beginning. Like any new gadget or tool, the novelty of the app wears off quickly and it becomes a doodle tool if I don’t do something, and fast!

That is where I have taken the “assessment” piece in a different direction. I have asked my students to experience the event and live the event and become people at the time. Their decision-making is during the time period we are studying, not 2014. They are tasked with reading documents from two or more perspectives on the same event. They need to weigh each person’s bias and decide what actually may have happened or been the reason for the decision that was made.

This is where the magic happens!

Students are expected to share their findings with not only the class, but with whomever tunes in to our live (and recorded) stream through the uStream app. Parents, other teachers and students, family members, educators around the country I connect with through Twitter are all possible audience members. Students are now sharing their findings with more than just an audience of one, me!

I have found that this is what makes students go from, what I call “hoop-jumpers” working to just make me happy so they can get a good grade, to active, interested, curious learners. It seems to take the “grade pressure” off and creates more intrinsic motivation. If they can work through the process we have created, work together with their peers, analyze a historical document or two and come to a reasonable “back-up-able” conclusion to a historical question, they get the “A”.

In the end, the best thing that can happen to them will be that they will become better thinkers, listeners, and collaborators. They will be curious about more things and will have the tools to seek out answers to their curiosities.

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Categories: 1 | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “My Passion…described.

  1. Missy Hewitt

    Thanks for thinking of interesting and interactive ways to get these kids to learn and have the desire to learn. And…thanks for sharing this with us, parents. Please continue to keep us informed.

  2. Shelley Peets

    Very well said Eric! Thanks for sharing your thoughts so willingly and inspiring our children to push themselves in their own learning.

  3. This is so impressive. Bravo to you on thinking about work differently, on putting focus on engagement. You all improve by doing that! Keep it up! DT

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