Role of a Teacher

I have been having a great discussion on the use of coding in the classroom with some amazing g educators (Aviva Dunsiger, Brian Asinall and Enzo Ciardelli  ). The conversation has been about using coding in the classroom and the reasons why and how we use it. You can read some blogs here.
Today Brian posted this


// The conversation has been amazing so much so that I cannot keep my thoughts to 70 characters with everyone involved. So I thought I would state them here. 

In this conversation I stated that a teacher can change the outcome of a task. I have also stated in other blog posts that the role of the teacher is critical to the learning of students and the speed of their growth.
I see many things in our education releam as really cool things to do. We have iPads, Minecraft, inquiry, problem based learning and coding. The problem is that these are just cool things, if I can dumb it down to that (and please do not take me for saying that these things are not important. In fact I think they are all highly important).  What I am trying to argue is that without good teaching a task is a task and even if it’s the newest thing or an important thing with out good teaching it is useless and can hurt student development.
What is good teaching?
We have numerous ideas as to what that is but for me a good teacher does:
1) Puts students first: I know this is suppose to be obvious but a good teacher knows ther students, is able to understand them and is able to meet their needs.
2) anticipates problems: there is a lot that goes into planning a lesson but one thing is that a good teacher knows how to foresee problems and misconceptions because they have anticipated these problems
3) uses contexts for deep learning: A good teacher is always thinking about the context in which students are learning in and from.
4) able to guide and redirect the learning through questions: A good teacher has a bank of effective questions that will facilitate good rich discussions. They also know how to ask questions that will scaffold student thinking and move them along a continuum of learning.
5) understands both content and curriculum really well.
6) makes mistakes, acknowledges mistakes and is always learning
Now why is this important? Because a good teacher, through these qualities, can turn any task into an engaging, thoughtful and amazing lesson. Because they have a good understanding of student development, content and curriculum they are able to turn a basic plan into one of rich discussion. It is these lessons that we are striving for.
So when we argue that Brian’s task may be a task card or a list of checks and skills a good teacher can turn that activity card into an amazing lesson where students are creating, checking, reflecting and then discussing the curriculum links to what is there. Yes you can take it at its face value and see a list of skills but you can also see a lot of learning goals both in curriculum and in soft learning skills. It transcends the application of coding.
I would also suggest that even though coding is not in our curriculum a good teacher recognizes that there are many important skills that students need to learn outside of our stated curriculum. Yes our curriculum is important, yes it must be taught but a good teacher knows how to manipulate it so it’s not a series of checks but deep conceptual learning. They know how to incorporate the necessary skills of the future into a lesson not because it says we have to but because kids need to learn it.
To me the curriculum is important but it’s not the end all that we make it out to be. Learning is! Now we cannot forget the development of that learning and the curriculum does provide that nicely for us but we should be looking at the learning. Coding provides that opportunity to learn and learn about learning.  Students are engaged in problem solving, rethinking, being creative, being mathematicians, etc. Yes it is not the end all to be all and yes it is something that I wouldn’t spend all of my time on but I think it is still something that must be taught and should be taught.
I guess in the end what I am saying is that an effective teacher knows how to manipulate the curriculum so that students are always engaged in rich contextual lessons no matter what that may be. A good teacher can make all the difference to any task.
I am not too sure if I am making a local argue net but I would love to hear your thoughts:
1) what do you think makes a good teacher?
2) what is the role of the curriculum and how should we use it?
3) what of soft skills?
4) what about these “fun” things like coding, minecraft, iPads, etc? what do they have to offer?

Teaching through Inquiry

There has been a lot said about Inquiry in the classroom and you can take whatever side you want. However, for me it is such a fundamental component of any primary classroom.  This is because in my opinion when we are first learning a new skill it is through inquiry that we learn it. Very rarely is it through a lecture. In fact even as an adult when acquiring new skills do we do it through lectures but through mentor-ship and research.

For me teaching is all about the inquiry process. And teaching through inquiry allows you to meet all the minds in the classroom.

Now before I get too far in my post maybe I should articulate what I mean by inquiry, as I know there are many variations of the process out there.

Throughout my teaching career my journey through inquiry has undergone a lot of changes. When I first started teaching I thought what I did was inquiry. I would plan lessons that were hands-on, engaging, thought provoking and had plenty of talk built in. Students would often be engaged with problems, experiments or activities that required them to think, problem solve and then discuss.  Now I know many of you are thinking but isn’t that inquiry and you are correct.

According to Google, inquiry is:

  1. an act of asking for information.

However, what I was realizing was that I was the one doing the inquiring. I was the one that set the stage for student learning, I was the one that debriefed and discussed the learning.  I felt that this type if inquiry was more about me and less about the students. So I changed. I changed my thinking to be more student driven. My units often start with provocations, which then lead to questions, which then in turn lead to students recommending further learning. I still insert my thoughts but now they are developed through asking questions and using student talk to deliver the observations and learning.

Now why do I love inquiry so much:

The first is that I love it engages the students in the learning. They feel situated and invested. They want to learn because they like to learn. I even have students going home and asking their parents to go to the library or go and research because they want to find more things out about the topic they learn in school. I don’t know about you but this is truly amazing to hear.

Second through inquiry you really understand the nature of your students learning. Because I am not lecturing and then asking students to complete a test where they regurgitate the information I just spewed out at them they have to rely on their own thinking and schemas. You also get to question them and conference more on a regular bases and because of this you see their growth and understanding. Assessment is a breeze because you have almost too many observations and conversations to choose from.

Finally, I look at this world around us and I think that the jobs I am preparing my students for don’t even exist yet. Now you are right some jobs will exist put for the most part the skills that these students need will not. However, what will is the ability to problem-solve, be adaptable, creative, and flexible thinkers.

I recently came upon this:

I love the fact that the first three skills are soft skills, one that you really cannot learn from reading a textbook or listening to someone tell you things. They are skills that take time to develop and through multiple experiences and situations. In my opinion inquiry does this. 
Now these are just my opinions but ones that have been grounded in my practise. They are observations of my growth and reflection. Would love to hear your thoughts?
What do you think of inquiry?
Do you like it? If so why?
What are the benefits? Drawbacks?
I would love to hear your opinions.