Monday, August 5, 2013

What is "Mastering a Skill"?

In education today many teachers are letting students learn at their own speed or their own skill level, letting them stay behind, until they master a skill, and letting others move on quicker when they learned the material, so they may be challenged with the next area of learning.

The amount and time and effort it takes reach mastery varies according to the complexity of the skill.  But exactly is mastery?  According to Dictionary Reference a master is:
A person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation, art or science, a person whose teachings others accept or follow; a Zen master.  the great masters of the Impressionist period.  
The Provincial Government states in their PLO (Learning objectives) that the student must learn these specific skills or these specific items of knowledge.  In my field of teaching (computers) I teach a skill.  Mastering a skill requires both theory and practice.  Theory is important, because if you're all about the "doing," you'll waste energy doing the wrong things.  And practice is important because it reinforces learning.   But most important of all is having the students recognize and want to learn the skill.

There are levels of learning in each of these fields (theory and practise).  In the theory section the students can be tracked at these following levels:  
  • Unawareness: You are unaware that there is a skill to be learned.
  • Awareness:  You realize you need to learn that skill.
  • Clarification:  You understand what you need to do differently.
These stages show when the student is willing to learn and has looked into the learning.

In the next stage of learning is the practice side, the repetition of learning this skill until it becomes natural to you.  This is also in stages.  These stages are simplified but can be changed for any teacher.
  • Awkwardness:  You attempt the new skill and find it difficult.  You need support.
  • Familiarity:  The new skill is easier to do but still not automatic.  You need to refer to previous learning.
  • Automatic:   You no longer need to think how to do the skill, it just comes naturally. 
It's when you reach that sixth stage listed above that you have mastered a skill.  Up until that point, this skill requires requires constant and consistent practice (usage). After that point, however, the skill is automatic, like riding a bike.  You may get a bit rusty, but the skill is always there for you to draw upon.  When rusty, practise and relearning will bring back the skill once more.

The reason I have been considering this is to understand a rating system (not so much as a marking system) for students to learn the skills I want them to learn.  Both they and I need to understand when they are proficient in a skill and when they have mastered it to the level of being able to teach another student (something needed when doing differentiation in a classroom of 30 students and 6 different choices of learning.

But there is something else to consider when talking to students about mastering a skill.  The biggest thing that we as teachers need to do is to reinforce the learning with positive reinforcement.

I know the video below is not an educational video but it is an excellent and simple example of how the human brain works when trying to master a skill.  You guess the skill and as a teacher, consider what is being learned, not by exemplifying, or reading, or instructing, but by simple trial and error and you'll see that the motivation is there, and in the end the reward of the finish project is show great appreciation.  View this video with the eyes of a teacher and see what we've forgotten in the learning process of a child.  The two things mentioned above has no age barriers where the need for passion in learning, the need for reinforcement, and the celebration of learning ever dies.   

I need to show my students this video so they understand the concept of learning, that with trial and error, and with practise, they too can accomplish a skill.  Why is this important?  Well after doing the MOOC in Genius Hour, I believe this is a consideration for the the students, to understand that they may not meet their expectations, but it takes time and practise to master what they want to master. This is what I need to think more about for the Genius Hour in my Information Technology 11/12 Classroom.

Just my two cents  ;)

    Thursday, August 1, 2013

    A Summer of Continued learning

    It's only been a month since we've been off school, to relax and like most teachers I've taken a vacation, gone somewhere and tried to unwind.  But also, like most teachers, I've been doing some learning to keep myself up to par, to strive, as always, to be my best for the students.  That means learning new programs (we've moved from CS4 to CS6 and take my word for it, it's very different), but also learning new methods of teaching or building the "passion for learning" for my students.  

    A friend of mine talked me into taking a MOOC in the first month of school off.  What does MOOC stand for?  According to Wikipedia it stands for
    "A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for the students, professors, and teaching assistants"

    The MOOC is on Genius Hour, how it works, things to consider, the principles behind Genius Hours, and so much more.  There is a sharing of information, material, and networking.   This program lasted 4 weeks, with myself working on a Genius Hour Project, adding Genius Hour to my Information Technology 11/12 classroom.

    But that's not where the learning ends.  I'm also reading "Flip your Classroom - Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day" by JOnathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, the gentlemen who started this practise and have been gracious enough to share their learning and the learning of others while following this understanding.  

    This is a podcast of Alan November interviewing the authors, chemistry teachers from Woodland Park, CO, discussing their  models of flipped learning.  To learning more go to this link or network at the Flipped Learning Network.

    Here is the designers of Flipping your Classroom and Mastering Flipped Classrooms.

    Learn with me.  Differentiation is where it's at.

    Does this seem like a person on holidays?  I've been redesigning my courses that are online because I differentiate in my classroom, teaching 5 subjects at once, at different levels of learning, doing Adobe CS6 programs, as well as animation and movie making.  I do nothing but answer questions to what they are learning online, probe and prode for students to learn more, and continually demand for the kids to add to their e-portfolios, explaining what they have learned or not learning, and what has happened today in school.

    What is it about the educational profession that we continue to learn even when we're on holidays?  I firmly believe that our passion in learning ignites the student's passion in learning and once that flame is lighted, you cannot turn it off.