Human memory, comfort stories, and contextualization
After reading Gee’s somewhat abstract chapters about human memory and comfort stories, I was relieved to read chapter 5 – Lack of Context. I say this, because as I read I found myself purposefully making connections between what Gee was saying in chapters 3 and 4 and what it means to education, to teaching, and to being a student. I was contextualizing what I was reading, because we are in a class that has to do with education. But Gee wasn’t talking about education, per se, but rather, about how humans work – how the brain learns, how memory works, how we make things matter. It is only because I am reading this book in an education setting that I create connections between what he is saying and how it pertains to the education system most of us have come from as students and have returned to in the facet of teaching.
Our discussions over the past few weeks have circled around the idea of what isn’t working in the American education system – standardized testing, social awareness/activism, subject-based learning, etc. And in the spirit of contextualizing, my questions from each chapter formed around education and these conversations. I found myself coming back to a singular concept across the chapters. What matters? What’s at stake? What reason do our students have to learn and retain what they have learned and use what they’ve learned?
Gee explains that human memory, while flawed, has one very significant factor: the human memory only remembers what it thought was important enough to remember – what mattered. We often find ourselves discussing why students don’t carry forward what they ‘learned’ from one year to the next. How can we expect our students to remember anything we teach them if they don’t have a stake in their learning? Why do they care? How can we provide the structure/context in which they will care? In what ways are we working toward contextualizing the “abstract decontextualized” theories in our classrooms today? How can we effectively use connected learning to help facilitate this contextualization?
I am curious, too, in Gee’s presentation of the narrative facet of the human mind. That we tell ourselves stories “to [give] meaning or significance to events” seems all too true in this world (29). I’ve had many discussions with my husband about the ways in which we (both individually and as a society) tend to play ostrich – burying our heads in the sand so we can pretend everything is okay. If we pretend problems don’t exist, it somehow becomes easier to move forward in situations we feel we cannot control. What kind of comfort stories do we tell ourselves about our current education system? About our students? About our students’ parents? About our own classrooms? What are these stories accomplishing (or preventing) in our education system?
In thinking about these questions, I am left with yet another –
Is the integration of the use of digital technologies in our classroom the best way to create contextualization and a connected learning environment for our students? Or is it just another ‘comfort story’ we are telling ourselves?
I have many thoughts about your questions, starting with this idea of memory and digital technology. In some ways, this touches on discussions I've had inside as well as outside of class about the idea of constructing our identity within the realm of social media. The book club book I am reading touches on this subject and it has equally made me wonder now how this fits into the notion of a 'comfort story' we are not just telling ourselves, but creating about ourselves. In the way social media is shaping the identity of digital natives, so too is the concept of selective memory captured in this digital record that will only reinforce the mechanisms of inaccurate memory Gee talks about. The verdict is still out for me.
To the points first raised, I find that constructing meaning is a central component of the lessons I implement, and hope to continue to implement. Being able to help make associations within the context of interest will certainly help establish a purpose, and deepen overall value, making it meaningful enough to be remembered. I find a technique that helps is inquiry based relevance. I simply ask my students, while unpacking a theme to assess for themselves why it matters; why is this important. In a discussion with my 5th graders we were inquiring into the logic behind investigating technology and innovation in art and they were very clear in their understanding that creativity is necessary for navigating the technology of the future, or perhaps even creating it. This was a conclusion drawn from connection to purpose, which is a fundamental component of any classroom dialogue. In this way, students can remember what is important because it matters to them; what's the point of knowing useless facts?
Lindsey, I think it's great that you do that with your students. It seems like a powerful way to make them take control of their learning and to help make the lessons "stick."
About your other point, I agree that social media and the way we interact with it greatly affects how we shape our identity. Our social media profiles tell a story about who we are--or, at least, who we want to be seen as being. It's a powerful tool for creating and shaping certain narratives bout ourselves because we are in control of what we put out there. But also, there is the agency of the audience...no matter what you do to be perceived as being a certain way, there is always a chance that your audience will come up with a different meaning. I think it is important to teach our students to see multiple perspectives, for a myriad of reasons, but also in order to better understand the multiple ways in which their digital selves' stories might be interpreted.
I agree with James that it is important to get to know our students in order to figure out how to get them to care about their learning. I think there is a lot to be said for incorporating students’ passion into our classrooms and for making sure students understand why what we are teaching them is going to be useful in the “real world.” So often students’ complaints about school are that it isn’t relevant, they’ll never use this later in life, they aren’t planning on having that kind of career, etc. As teachers, I think we should make ourselves and our goals for their learning very transparent. We should be speaking about how and why what we are teaching is important. I feel like students should always know why we are covering something on any given day and if I as the teacher can’t tell them why we are doing something (why it is important), then maybe we shouldn’t be doing it. I think connected learning is an excellent way to bring in students’ interests and to make learning feel more authentic and more vital for students’ lived outside of and after school. Bringing in technology will help students to develop those 21st century skills that the standards talk about. I hope that’s not just a “comfort story” we tell ourselves. I think technology is important and is an integral part of our society. I think about the advances that we’ve made in the past 100 years and even in the last 10 and it blows my mind. Technology is incredibly pervasive in our society and our students not only need to know how to use it and learn with it, but they also need to learn how to adapt to new technologies because the technology they will have when they are adults is going to look vastly different than it does now.
"I feel like students should always know why we are covering something on any given day and if I as the teacher can’t tell them why we are doing something (why it is important), then maybe we shouldn’t be doing it." I like your thinking here, and I agree. We need to be accountable to our students if we are asking them to give their time and energy. And, you're right, technology is pervasive, and using digital media to enhance lessons is relevant to their learning. More than taking a test. As teachers, how can we foster a relationship with not only our students, but their parents? And, how do we do we get to know each of our students, considering most of us will have 100+ total? As English educators I think we are lucky because we are in a unique position to hear our students' voices and perspectives. How do we capitalize on that privilege? It is important to know our students. I wonder, how important is it that we let our students know a little about us? How can making ourselves vulnerable to our students (in a professional way) help us make those arguments about content relevancy?
Hannah--you have all the questions that I constantly ask myself. In my program we are constantly told the realities of the public education classroom: that you will have 180 students; you have restrictions from the administration, the state, the standards, the parents, etc.; there will be standardized testing; that you just don't have enough time in the day for everything you want to do. It's almost enough to scare a person off. And yet...I still want to do it. I know that it will be really difficult to cultivate personal, meaningful relationships with 180 students and their parents and I have no idea how to do it, but I want to try. I think there is a balance between sharing your own life (as a teacher) with your students and maintaining a professional balance. I struggle with that a lot when I taught CO 150. There is something to be said for trusting your gut, though. I knew when it was important to be authentic and share something about my life because it would help one of my students in some way. But I agree with you that the line isn't always clear and it's hard to discover sometimes. Basically, I have no answers, but I have the will to try and figure it out. I think that counts for something--at least, I hope it does.
Well said and I agree. I used to think technology was a waste of time in the classroom, but I think it is essential in every class we step in. Especially today. It's come a long way since I was the winner of Oregon Trail back in middle school in the mid to late 80s. I hated computers and the act I was forced to learn typing, but looking back, it possibly was more beneficial than I ever thought it was going to be. I can only imagine what it will look like 10 to 20 years from now.
Storytelling is something innately human and, for the most part, making stories is a good thing because it gives our lives a necessary meaning. According to Gee, our stories become dangerous when we begin to impose them on each other—when we use our stories to police and oppress others. Educators and schools are often guilty of this. It is important that we, as teachers, reflect on our own "comfort stories" and question how they might be enhancing or limiting our students learning. We should know not only what our beliefs are, but also what situations or subjects might trigger defensiveness or indoctrination. I frequently check in with myself while planning for my college composition class. Some classes, we talk about heavy topics that I feel strongly about. Sometimes my students say things, and I have to bite my tongue because as the teacher the power is in my court. If I intervene at an inappropriate moment to push my agenda, then the class becomes my class. More often than not, students will shape their contributions based on what it seems the teacher wants. This is something we need to be aware of. As a human, it feels good when others agree with our beliefs. Having our students think the way we do feels good, but we are in dangerous territory when we use the classroom as a means to validate and replicate personal beliefs.
Is it our job as educators to challenge our students’ beliefs? I believe it is our jobs, but I do not think we do that by stripping their core meaning-making beliefs. I think we can validate and challenge. We do this by exposing our students to the multiple ways of thinking about any topic. We need to create opportunities in the classroom that facilitate awareness of the ways humans make meaning. We need to teach student to respect others’ beliefs, so they don’t feel entitled to impose and police. This is how we can teach our students empathy.
Our education system definitely lives by a handful of comfy story. We talked about a few of these in class last week. If I remember correctly, after our discussion, Cindy noted that we were arguing for the extremes of each argument, rather than searching for a middle ground, accepting that each side has a necessary place in the education system. The two major topics were: should we streamline students to college or not? Should we require core classes or not? It is very difficult to think outside of the beliefs by which we were raised, but we need to question these “educational truths” that we are potentially imposing on our students. In order to change our broken education system we need to avoid binaries, and we must ask what we expect of our students and why? What do our students need and expect from their education will dependent on their beliefs or "comfort stories." For our education system to employ this, we will have to sacrifice uniformity and standardization. This is why connected learning is so fantastic. Connected learning has components that respect students' core, guiding belief systems in addition to bringing awareness to their peers’ and their community’s beliefs.
As I was reading your post, I imagined myself in the classroom and how I've had to do similar things- bite my tongue. It's so easy when talking about 'hot' topics to intervene and jump in and say "No! This is why this isn't right because of x, y and z." Although you may be presenting valid evidence to back up your point, there are other ways of doing so, as you mentioned. It's important as teachers to be able to be a referee of sorts, running along side the field, intervening when it gets out of hand but allow students to collaborate with one another in order to see differences. If they aren't, then that's when we step in to show a different perspective.
Teachable moments. When students' comments are out of hand or egregious, absolutely we have to respond. It would be negligent to let racist or sexist or homophobic comments slide without discussing and unpacking. In those moments, the key is not to bite your tongue but to not get angry or shutdown. I think some really great discussion can come out of the most taboo moments. The key is to meet students where they are at and build from there. Help them see how their comments fit in a greater cultural context and discuss the consequences. Tuesday in my CO150, we will be discussing sexual assault on college campuses, and I am nervous to see where they are at. It's a hard topic, but it's so relevant to their lives. I'm trying to think ahead and prepare myself for those misinformed or offensive comments, but I don't think there's any real way to prepare. Fingers crossed I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Reading over the prompt, something stuck out to me so blatantly when Sarah said, “...burying our heads in the sand so we can pretend everything is okay.” When you were using this phrase, you were referencing a person’s ability to deal with something unbearable. However, I feel as though that quote could also be used in a different, yet similar manner. (Apparently I’m using Gee’s story-association quite literally here.)
This stuck out to me because I had a conservation with an international student when I was volunteering at INTO CSU as a conservation partner. When I was talking with him, he mentioned how he noticed that most Americans typically go to work-go home- relax - eat- sleep and repeat. Although this student could be making associations with a couple examples he’s heard about or with TV and movies, I could not help but to question this.
In order to contextualize this question, I analyzed it in regards to the topic of education and the general public: does the general population of the US think there is anything wrong with our education system? My best guess would be ‘no,’ although I don’t want to speak for such a large population. However, I believe this due to Gee’s notion of taking comfort in the stories in which you’re familiar with. The comfort story that we’re dealing with now is ‘I went to a school like this, I turned out okay, so my children will too.’ That’s not to say American children won’t turn out ‘okay’ but that doesn’t mean that our system is preparing students for what they actually need.
I always find it interesting when education becomes a hot topic during election years, but other than when teacher strikes pop up, it isn't top national news.
For a nation who, during election years at least, laments being at the bottom of the rankings in education, I sometimes wonder if education becomes a scapegoat for the failings of our country to be that number one superpower anymore. I'm not intending to bring up politics, per se, but I sometimes question the workings of our government in what they say vs. what they do...and I wonder how often we look the other way because its easier then dealing with turmoil
I have wondered this myself. I wonder if it is because of the idea that it worked for me it will work for my kids is the social/cultural belief that keeps the system running as it is, or at least reenforces it. It seems that the political influences are not going to change the heavy testing mentality anytime soon, and the corporations that have billions of dollars invested in the education system are definitely not going to change the system, so perhaps the first domino to fall should be the mentality that the parents carry with them (assuming that this is the majority of parents' thinking). There maybe those parents that understand that things must change, and there are those who do not/ cannot understand the education system as it is and therefore assume that school is suppose to be this way. But if this is the majority's "story that they are telling themselves," then how should we/can we begin to help them see a different story: a story of why the education system might not have been good for them (despite their "good" outcome) and that there needs to be a better system for their kids? This may be difficult at times, and it will be a very long road, but I will stay optimistic in thinking that the story is not finished and that there is room for a rewrite.
It's great that you are optimistic! I feel myself kind of stuck in the middle on this one. It's difficult to enlighten a nation (or at least the majority of one) on a topic that most perceive to not be a debatable topic. However, when we compare students from the US from other countries- our students don't match up. That's not to say students from other countries are smarter nor do I believe that their education system is better (in fact- I believe it to be worse in some ways [having a specific example of a country in mind here]) but there are substantial differences. That being said, are the standards of comparison even reputable? Are they based off of standardized tests? I truly am ignorant of this fact but my best guess would be 'yes.' So apparently, I was able to take a national issue more global. However, my main point is: is there something to be learned from other nations? If yes, then why aren't we doing something about it? Maybe we are, and yet again I could be sticking my foot in my mouth, I just like to throw out all possibilities (despite my lack of evidence- something Gee might surely frown upon).
Wow, these are all such amazing questions, Sarah, but I was especially taken by these:
How can we expect our students to remember anything we teach them if they don’t have a stake in their learning? Why do they care? How can we provide the structure/context in which they will care? In what ways are we working toward contextualizing the “abstract decontextualized” theories in our classrooms today? How can we effectively use connected learning to help facilitate this contextualization?
I'm teaching E322 English Language for Teachers right now, and it's a course that has traditionally included two multiple-choice exams (one mid-term, one final). I'm continuing with that tradition, pretty reluctantly, but I'm doing so because the previous instructor is pretty darn smart, and I want to follow her lead. (Plus, students initially requested it to give them practice for the PRAXIS.)
I haven't written a multiple-choice test since my very first few years of teaching because that sort of assessment feels reductive to me. I aspire to be constructivist in my teaching, but this kind of assessment aligns with a the banking model of education Freire critiques and that I've steadfastly avoided.
What's at stake for a student taking a m-c exam besides not tanking her/his grade? How does this assessment extend understanding beyond the moment of the exam? How does it provide structure and context for learning?
I know that our culture values decontextualized thinking because it can easily be reduced to a number. The Gee reading and your questions, however, remind me that there's a wizard behind the curtain, and that wizard is me, and that regardless of the seeming objectivity of a m-c exam, only one "story" of our learning so far in the course is getting shaped by this test, and I'm the one who's shaping it.
(and now I'm really depressed)
I agree...most of the time it seems like it is the number or grade that counts the most (and what are we really measuring anyway?). Last semester I had the opportunity to be part of a lecture given by a teacher who has implemented standards based grading in his classroom. I think this idea of grading is one way to think about changing the expectations. In this grading you don't ace it or fail it (or something inbetween) but rather see in which ways a student can grow in their knowledge. My son's school is doing this type of "grading" now, and because I am familiar with it isn't something I balk at seeing. I know other parents are wary, because the only way they understand that their student is succeeding is by seeing that letter grade. It's different so it feels wrong - I think parent comfort plays a huge role in the ways teachers develop assessment styles - too much pushback could derail the idea - or maybe not?
Getting the students to have a vested interested in their learning is a pivotal first step to getting them to care about their own learning, and this seems to me where the interested driven and shared purpose comes into play from connected learning. By allowing the students to have the ability to learn through a context that they feel is important to them will allow for the deeper connection to their learning to occur. This could be getting them active in looking at a local problem in the community and determining what solutions they could come up with to help solve the problems. This would not be the skill and drill teaching for standardized testing that is occurring in the classroom. Instead it the students are being placed in a “real-world” situation (context if you will) and they are being asked to take what they have been learning in school and apply it to practice. They would be taking the theories that they learn and then put that theory into action. How great of an assessment is that. You could ask the students (and see it for yourself most of the time) did it work? And they could say yes or no, and give more of an explanation as to why. They didn’t have to fill in bubbles for a machine to grade; they actually did something that required movement, critical thinking, and collaboration to accomplish a shared goal for something they give a damn about.
I think technology helps tremendously to accomplish this as a lot of technology that is used today serves at least some small function in helping us throughout our daily lives. I think sometimes we might get short-sighted when we think of technology as always being some great, expensive gadget that Apple or Google puts out (which it can be in some cases), but if we think about all the other things that are still constituted as technology we can still incorporate technology in some form in our classroom to help cultivate connected learning. Perhaps it might be the teacher that has the only piece of technology in the classroom at the moment, but at least it is a form of technology that is at the disposal of the class (teacher willing) that can be used to achieve the sharped goal that the class is striving towards.
Lastly, I love this question posed by Sarah in regards to the “stories” we tell ourselves to find comfort in things that may not be so hot right now in education. I believe that story telling does hinder us sometimes from noticing reality. I’m a prime example of this last week as I told the story of an ideal school that I think about when I’m frustrated. Though it’s a quick escape, it does take away my focus on how I might work better within the system I don’t care for, or how I can make small changes in the system that might lead to bigger ones. As to the stories we might tell ourselves about technology in the classroom to achieve connected learning and contextualization might be more of a happy story that has a greater potential to come true. Technology is unavoidable for the most part these days, and it will probably become less and less unavoidable as time marches on. To at least not attempt to incorporate some technology in the classroom could have some degree of determent on the students and society as a whole. By teaching students how to properly interact and participate with technology might help to grow future generations that are more consciously aware of the power of technology and what kind of impact one person with tech can have on the world. Perhaps this is a story that shows the change in the way that we create, interact, communicate, and engage with each other through technology in a more global minded way, and hopefully for the better.
I agree and technology is becoming more apparent in most schools. Teaching with technology isn’t just about staying current on what is out there, but it’s about knowing how to successfully incorporate the best tools into our teaching that best fits our types of students. As we’ve learned, there are benefits of using technology, as well as probable barriers.
As an Educator and teacher, I have to apply knowledge of knowing my students because they are not given opportunities at home in some cases. Creating genuine opportunities is what I’ve tried to apply since I began my career in teaching. From group discussions in class, it also sounds that others are aware of this as well and each of us have various types of experience and knowledge. It’s excellent to hear from classmates that have been with a variety of grade levels that I might not have worked with yet, and I find it even more intriguing to hear different point of views on Education and the state we are in. From our class room conversations and discussions to the postings, I find these discussions to be very engaging and love to hear from each of my classmates. There are many components that have to be used by us for our student’s success, and it sounds as though we are at least open minded about these issues. Many of us have talked about ways to appraise, motivate, and keep track of our student’s progress, but are we asking them if they know what they want and what it takes to get there? Are we explaining to them why we are teaching them, and why we want them to succeed? Often, I feel that teachers don’t know why they are teaching curriculum, and our kids don’t know why they have to read, write, or see there is any incentive in learning. This whole digital technology has even taken be by surprise, and I find I am starting to love looking online for multiple sites and resources we can use with varieties of students. I believe that providing materials that are genuine are imperative, and in some way, we have to model, practice, and show kids at an early age how to obtain knowledge of aspects in literacy and how Connect can be beneficial for all students. As a teacher, learner, and listener, I’ve found our discussions, semi-debates, and resources have helped me acquire new insights and suggestion to contemplate in my potential teaching. The way our class has offered insight is amazing. Each of us has diverse estimations and views on education and practice, but I think each of us is taking something positive away from these kinds of discussions. I feel as though sometimes I am the kids who does not know all the positivity that technology has to offer, but learning by watching and playing around has made my point of view and outlook on technology very positive. Like any program, I think Connected Learning has the ability to work with a lot of students and teachers, but implementing it the right way is important. One size does not fit all, and we have to keep an open mind when we get students to engage with this idea.
I may be one of the few people in this class who is not a teacher, so I'm missing out on seeing how students engage with technology in the classroom. As a student who used to have an IEP I can't help but wonder how different my education process would have been if technology was as developed in the late nineties/early two thousands as it is now. It seems that there would have been more options for students like me who had more difficulties learning and focusing than others, and I'm glad to see there are teachers who are well aware of this and strive to be inclusive rather than annoyed at having to go an extra mile for a handful of students.
Regarding the human memory only remembering what's important, one way technology can help combat this is to record class lectures for later use. I used to do this in middle school when certain neurological disorders made it extremely difficult to pay attention. This topic also brings to mind the issue of cumulative testing, which has been popular among my teachers from high school all through college. If we want students to remember what they are taught, testing them on the same material more than once might be a way to do that, but as Kelsey mentioned (and as discussed in last week's class), what good is this for students who weren't interested in the material in the first place? And how fair is it to test students on material that might have been difficult to learn in the first place?
I struggle with effective note-taking. I can't concentrate on writing down something that seems important while the professor continues talking, thus causing me to lose my train of thought. Perhaps the students who struggle most with selective memory would benefit from learning to write/type bullet lists of what they need to remember? It might also help to have students compare notes in groups.
I appreciated you sharing some personal thoughts and experiences regarding your relationship with classroom learning.
I like the idea of sharing notes together, but I think it would be great if they could use a digital tool that collected bits and pieces from everyone's notes or main ideas that the students had. Maybe google docs or a website that allows students to text in replies.
A question I have for you is how comfortable would you be with letting students have computers to take notes with in class? Would you worry that some students would get distracted by another student's glaring laptop screen? Or if that student is using iMessage or on Facebook?
I would let students use computers. It's not the professor's job to police how other people spend their class time - it's their tuition money to use or abuse.
Also in regards to assessments. What do you imagine assessments to
Look like if we centered our teaching methods around connected learning?
I enjoyed reading about comfort thoughts and fate and the example of society's afterlife expectations.
So often we make up stories about how we think things are going or how we think they went, according to Gee. That's exactly what has gone wrong with the education system in our country. The changes that have been, the programs that have been implemented to encourage student success, the increased expectations and pressure put on teachers...it's all just a bunch of bullshit. Positive things happen and we focus on that. Tiny moments of improvement and that's the highlight that matters.
Our country has fictionalized what goes on in schools, and I think people are starting to wake up. It's not working anymore. The system is failing.
My question is, what's next? And how do we completely change our system? If we implement connected learning strategies, we implement assessments that fit with the connected learning teaching. Then, how do we bridge the gap of college and career readiness in our schools....it's obvious which one is favored, so how do we warp that to meet the needs of ALL of our students? Whether they want to go to college, or start a career out of high school, what are we doing as educators, as parents, as humans to prepare the youth?
I am left with the same feelings of passion and determination every time we have these discussions, but is there a feasible plan to make it happen? Perhaps it's a plan that is not so concrete?
Next step after all of this: Free higher education to those who want it. :)
When I think about the ways in which the "public" views education it brings to mind concerns like school of choice, where parents are empowered to make the decision of which school their child will attend. I think, in this way, parents may sometimes be more aware than what we think - but I think it is worrisome that the grading system for schools is not what it should be for parents to make educated decisions. I have, myself, looked at school rankings to determine whether my son should attend his home school or travel to another, but the criteria which schools are graded on are very generic and have no explanations as to what they mean. Students either scored well or poorly on standardized testing. Again, it comes back to this idea of making people feel like they are empowered, when really they are still left with only very basic and muddled criteria with which to base their choices on. It's things like this that I think land in the category of "comfort stories" as well.
I definitely overlook the position of being a parent as I am not one, so it is good to hear from a parental figure. I hope you don't think I believe all parents have become unaware because I know there are good ones out there who know exactly what I am talking about..yourself include. I shouldn't generalize, but I was just so frustrated. That seems to be the theme of my current posts..ha! I think schools are lacking transparency. Parents may not be aware of what's going on because it is very hard to see, not because they don't want to. How can we as educators strive for this transparency to be implemented throughout our school to our parents or guardians?
Devyn- absolutely! There are so many parents out there who don't know what they don't know...I was only highlighting one of those elements that appease parents but maybe aren't necessarily the best tools of empowerment :)
Devyn...word as my students would say.
Ah...the stories we tell ourselves so that we can just get out of bed in the morning. Gee’s explanation of the role of stories in human lives parallels my own understanding of why humans create stories. These stories often fly in the face of well established science or fact, and we persist in our beliefs. How stupid can we be? Whether in context or without experience we tell ourselves these stories and then generalize based on the assumptions that spring from from those stories. Memory as Gee portrays is a living canvas every time we bring it out to air we add new brushstrokes and change it a bit. How do we as educators work with this definition of memory? What are the implications for storing and using information? Can our American Judicial system really any longer supports eye witness testimony?
My students and I began this year with a unit on the brain and memory. We are looking at how the current research on the brain and memory might inform and eventually improve our thinking. After reading many articles on the brain and memory, My students have come up with several tenets. One being we learn what we process. One great way to process information is to WRITE and TALK about it, who knew? Sleep was a big source of conversation. The brain needs sleep and when we are sleeping electrical signals fire backwards creating stronger connections between old and new information.
Transferable skills is an oft used phrase tossed around in PSD. I want my students to see how learning about their brains and memory can inform every part of their lives.I constantly ask my students to make meaning from our curriculum and then ask themselves so why does this matter? So.... how do we make school relevant to our 21 century students? How in a world where there are so many forces (perhaps our educational system) encouraging stupidity and discouraging a cycle of reflective action can we guide students to be reflective thinkers, participatory members of their schools and wider communities, and straight up change agents?
How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
This is something that Timmi, a lit grad students who is teaching at Lescher, is using in her classroom to help her students understand how writing is part of the thinking process. I love Jane's inclusion of talking and writing as being part of the process our brains enact to build memory. I love too, when students teach to learn - helping classmates understand something in student language helps both the teaching student retain and the learning student understand new information. I think writing, talking, and teaching in the classroom helps students build those communication skills that are transferable - how can you navigate the world if you don't know how to communicate in it?