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Technology- The use of knowledge to make your life easier.
Knowing an answer is NOT the most important thing...
Knowing HOW to arrive at an answer is the most important thing.
"Tell me the answer and I will never remember it."
"Let me discover the answer for myself and I will never forget it."
Maxium of Technology - Do No Allow Inanimate Objects To Defeat You
I. What is and/or should be the basis for accountability in the teaching profession?
The basis for accountability in teaching should be whether or not the education we are providing our students will help them in the world of work. Taking our cues from the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), our curriculum must be geared toward preparing our students with viable workplace skills.
For as long as we can remember the term vocational education, that education which is designed to prepare for students for work, has had a negative connotation. It has always been the type of education that, "was good for other children but not mine, mine is going to college." But with the amazing advancements in technology, our world is getting more and more technically complex, with the need for technical training ever more essential. Presently, a two year technical certification is more valuable to employers than a four year liberal arts degree, and the technical jobs are many times more numerous.
In light of these facts, we have to change our thinking about what is important and not just apply a new coat of paint to an outdated educational philosophy. Somehow we have to evolve from a notion that it is what you know that is important, and move to an understanding that it is what you can do that is important.
With the explosion of technology in this the information age, the knowledge base is now doubling every two to three years. More and more our textbooks are becoming obsolete before they even go to print, let alone the five year period of time before funding for new ones can be obtained. Because of this, the performance of our students should no longer be measured by things they know, but by what they can do with what they know. Specifically, our students need to know how to access and manage information - to be able to find what they need and apply it in a meaningful way. A story about Albert Einstein, though from a bygone era, is quite appropriate for our day. Once chided for not knowing his own telephone number, Einstein replied: "I never memorize information that I know I can look up."
II. PHILOSOPHY OF TEACHING
I believe that teaching is not so much about what you do to students, but more about what you do for students. A teacher can not force learning to take place, but they can do a great deal to create an atmosphere were students want to learn. Learning is so personal and varied from individual to individual that it is unreasonable to believe that a teacher can use a traditional teacher-centered approach to instruction to effect real learning to much of any percentage of the students in their room.
I say real learning to differentiate from rote memorization of facts and figures to merely pass a test. Real learning means the student has internalized the concept and can apply it in other situations, much as a hand tool once placed in a toolbox is reached for and used again and again in different situations.
I believe that for real learning to take place the following conditions need to be present: Learning must be relevant, learning must be personal, and learning must be fun.
I say that learning must be relevant because students need to understand why the information is important. The question: "how are we going to use this stuff in real life?" is a valid one. Students have the right to ask this question, after all they are the customer, and if teachers can not supply a satisfactory answer, perhaps the thing shouldn't be taught. To be included with relevancy, I would add context. Many concepts are taught fragmented from the context in which they reside, as a skill with no application.
When I say learning must be personal, I mean students must take responsibility for their own learning. I definitely ascribe to the belief that when a student is told something, that information will soon be forgotten, but when a student discovers an answer for themself, they never forget it. With this in mind, I make a serious effort to protect a student's right to individual discovery, that they find the answer out for themself. This involves more than just not allowing choral responses to question and answer sessions, in my class it means that students can not expect me to give them an answer.
I believe that it is good for students to experience frustration. Frustration and anxiety are motivational influences in their own right. As any student of history will tell you some of the greatest feats of human ingenuity have occurred in the face of overwhelming pressures and stress, as in time of war, or even America's Space Race with Russia. As long as it does not become incapacitating for my students, I allow them to experience frustration. Often I have to fight the urge to rescue my students and allow them to experience this anxiety and frustration. It is much easier to relieve the anxiety and give out the answer or too much of it and effectually negate a real learning opportunity. I love it when a student says: "Mr. Portz, I don't know how to do this." and so I tell them, "Great! I don't want you to do something you already know how to do, I want you to learn something and do something that you didn't know how to do before."
Making learning fun involves using exciting activities, but more importantly, it involves using a hands on approach to most everything you do. I believe that students enjoy this best because instead of talking about a subject, they are doing something about it. Hands on projects also allow students to manifest their creativity and their personality, both strong needs and highly motivating aspects in a child's life.
I find great personal satisfaction in organizing and managing the students in my classes to accomplish the things that they do. Especially with regard to the technology that we have at Space Coast, to me it is a small miracle to be able to take my students, give them a technological tool that they previously knew little about, and teach them to perform the kinds of tasks that industry pays good money for.
I love technology and teaching with it. To me it is the great equalizer because it speaks to all students regardless of learning style and ability. It really tickles me to see the average student get really turned on and succeed in the lab based activities that we use, or the student with academic or behavioral deficiencies complete a superior project. But most of all, I just love being with the kids.
There is no secret to teaching, the things that you most liked about your teachers, the types of activities that your teachers did that you really liked, that is what a great teacher does. In many of the projects that we do in class, be it bridge building, or dragster racing, I often participate with my students. Occasionally, a couple of students may top my best effort, and I will hear from them: "Hey Mr. Portz, we beat you!" and as it gets quiet and all the rest of the class listens in to what I will say in rebuttal, I congratulate the winners and tell them, "you know, it is always great to demonstrate that you had the best design, but I would like you to think about something... which is better, to be a great engineer, or the teacher of a great engineer?" To me it is much better to be their teacher, of which I am very proud to be.
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