More Than Just Music to Their Ears

5146079703_24f8fea201_m“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works

I read a fantastic post about how teachers are using Hamilton the Musical in their history classes and it made me think about how I learned. My mother would say she taught me everything I know while singing to me in the bathtub and during potty training. While I may beg to differ on ‘everything’, I do believe that I learned a lot through music: the ABCs, how to spell my full name, the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence. Ok, the last was not while in the bath, but it was learned on Saturday mornings when Schoolhouse Rock came on in between cartoons.

There are many ways to use music to help boost memory so I thought I would share some sites you can use in your class to help improve your student’s memory for facts, concepts, and details. You can read here and here for more about tips on how to engage your students and improve memory.

  1. Teaching the American Revolution and Founding Fathers? Here is Hamilton, the Musical soundtrack on YouTube
  2. Teaching grammar, history, math? The complete Schoolhouse Rock on YouTube
  3. Flocabulary has a great channel with videos for digital citizenship, Social Studies, English, Math, and more
  4. History for Music Lovers has 53 videos on many historical topics and figures
  5. Harry Kindergarten Music is for the K-2 crowd

There are so many more to find, but why not have your students create songs to help themselves and others learn the way our 4th graders did?!

photo credit: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds via photopin (license)

“Who Owns the Learning?”

image from

I recently read Alan November’s book, Who Owns the Learning and, of course, was inspired again, by what I read. I have heard Alan November speak live and as I read, heard his easy-mannered voice come through each word on the page. Many highlights later, I thought I would share some with you.

1. The most successful way to teach students innovation and creativity is to embrace those elements in our own methods.

It goes without saying that if you want your students (or teachers) to do something, you should do it as well. You may start out faking your way through it and that’s fine, but shift begins with you. Model what you preach.

2. Beyond earning a grade, many of our students see no higher purpose in their work efforts.

If students work has no purpose, if it is not being shared, then it is being wasted (IMHO). Let the students work have purpose, let it mean something. Let it leave the classroom.

3. Simply adding technology-the thousand-dollar pencil- to the current highly prescribed school culture won’t help very much.

The culture and the mindset has to change as do the methods.

4. Successful implementation of technology into K-12 education is much more complex than providing students with access to computers and moving content to online courses. Instead, we have to teach students to use information and communication technologues to innovate, solve problems, create, and be globally connected.

Students need to learn how to learn, how to connect with others, how to be globally literate and digitally literate. Implementing technology needs to go beyond substitution. It needs to lead to change in how we view the world and our place in it. Students need to see themselves as active contributors to their learning and to the world.

5. Essential questions for educators: Who owns the learning? How much autonomy can we afford to give our students? How much purpose can we design into school work? And how can we design learning environments that lead to mastery?

6. Publish student work to a global audience– We should expect all students to create knowledge.

Who benefits from a student’s work when it goes from the binder to the teacher to the student to the trashcan? Let students work become valuable; share their learning with others beyond the classroom.

7. In adopting a new educational model, superintendents and principals must lead the way.

Many people resist change because it is scary and uncomfortable, especially if you have been doing something one way for a long time.  If principals and administrators are learning along side the teachers, and modeling what they are expecting from the teachers, it becomes a shared experience, a culture of learning and evolving and growth.

8. Superintendents and principals must lead the cultural evolution of education by establishing an expectation that supports self-directed professional growth and more collaboration among teachers, not just within their school community, but globally as well.

Schools are not just places of learning for students, there must be the expectation that teachers (and leaders) will continue to learn and grow and evolve. With Twitter and educational conversations and conferences happening on a daily basis, teachers need to be encouraged and expected to engage in self-selected and self-directed learning opportunities. Professional learning does not need to happen only on in-service days. At the same time, in-service days should be developed with input from the teachers and staff on what they want to learn.

9. While teachers remain responsible for ensuring that the curriculum is covered, student contributions to the learning experiences deepen their understanding of curriculum content.

There is no longer the need for students to wait for the teacher to deposit information; students need to actively engage in their own learning and understanding.

10. What do schools accomplish by blocking students from learning how to use social media as tools for learning?

Students need to be able to learn after they leave your classroom and school. Teaching them how to use social media to network and develop their own PLN allows them to learn from people who share the same interests or who have a different knowledge base as well as a different zip code or time zone. Not to mention the ability to learn and practice good digital citizenship.

These are only the first 10; there will be more to come. If you have read the book, I’m wondering what stood out to you. What did you highlight or find interesting, intriguing or motivating?

Education V. Learning

I just read this post by Andrew Barras, aka “crudbasher”, and was inspired to write this comment, which, turned into a post:

In his post, “Crudbasher” said, “Too often we confuse education with learning. Education is a process, learning is what we hope happens during that process. It is that simple. We keep adding more and more things to the process but the learning isn’t improving. I believe that is because the purpose of the public education system is not to have children learn things, it is to sustain itself,”

I was nodding my head in agreement up to the last 3 words. I think he is completely correct that there is a difference between education and learning; just because the students are in the class does not mean that they are learning. The same way if two people are having a conversation and one of them is doing the talking, it doesn’t mean the other person is actually hearing what is being said, even if they are listening.

I think the problem with some (I won’t say all, that would be over-generalizing) public education is that there are too many constraints put on the teachers that prevent them from teaching so the students will remember it and use it once the test is over. Too often assignments are given that have little purpose other than to satisfy a need for a grade and once it is handed in, the teacher sees it, returns it to the student at some later date (making it completely irrelevant by the time it comes back) and then it is tossed in to the garbage (again, not every public school and not every public school teacher because there are many excellent ones out there who are doing exciting, problem/project-based learning with their students, but this is not the majority).

Additionally, often what is being tested and assessed does not involve critical thinking on the part of the students, rather the working memory of that student. Often times teachers and schools are using programs and books that have pacing schedules included leaving them no time to “play around” or spend time on a unit until it is mastered. I have heard teachers say that if they spend more time, they will get behind. How does that help the student learn the material? Of course there are some students who will get things the first time they are explained, but what about the others, the ones who need it explained differently, the ones who need more time? They are being “educated” because the information is being presented to them, but are they learning it? Could they explain it? WIll they even remember it next week or even next year?

I suppose the ones being sustained are the companies who create the books that the schools use. They are the ones who say that a math lesson should take x amount of time if it is done according to the plans.

It’s unfortunate that what is being assessed as “learning” and “education” often have nothing to do with each other.
photo credit: ailatan via photo pin cc