Friday, January 2, 2009

"Pedagogy, schmedagogy..."

Wes Fryer's post concerning "WOW" type changes in education and technology and those that affect pedagogy is much of what I have been thinking lately. It is all meaningless unless it causes change in instruction for students.

He offers some great information (I am not going into the wow information in the post) about technology that enhances pedagogy and the learning experiences of students.

As our district is looking to go to one-to-one computing, we were invited to give concerns and comments on that move via survey. One of my biggest problems is the focus on the flashy things we can do when the pedagogy itself has not changed. A worksheet given as a word document online is no different than the same worksheet handed out on paper. If this is what we do, then the move to one-to one will have more headaches than cures.

Listen up!
I loved the part of the post that discusses chemistry teachers reworking how they teach. Students are generally left alone to "practice" the parts of class that are the most difficult at home and where they actually need the most help. The easy stuff, listening to lectures, is done in class. Really, we lecture, they nod their understanding, we give them an assignment, and then what...

...they don't get it. They scratch their heads, and we do it again.

Their article linked in the original post from ISTE is password protected for members, but a news article about these remarkable teachers can be seen here:

What if like the example, we assign podcasts of lectures to be done at home? Students can listen to it as many times as needed, make notes of questions to ask in class, and maintain for a reference. We can require notes to be shown for evidence of work having been done.

The hard work can be done in class. Or the application of the material, a project or extension activity...

In Biology, much of the hard work is understanding the terminology and how it relates to other concepts. Some of the hardest parts of Biology is Biochemistry, Respiration, and Photosynthesis. I have actually thought about using podcasts in class but have not. What has stopped me? Lack of time. I teach 3 different classes and can't even keep up at this point. But, will the shift from some project-based learning activities to a different model of learning for students be the right course right now? Is not doing this giving less than the 100% I am striving to achieve this year? Is the reinventing myself of last year the best, or do I need to reinvent further?


Currently, much of the project activities I have designed have students working through and learning material as they are completing the assignment. What if we get some of the information out of the way first? This is actually counter to the other arguments made in the past where working with real world activities are necessary to learn the material effectively.

I have found that students have learned a lot being deeply immersed in content as they are learning. But I am also struggling with a few of my classes not getting there. Most of the time it is still lack of motivation, lack of skill, and generally stumbling over the language of the curriculum and most sites they must navigate. I do lecture minimally, and have been thinking I may need more at this point in the year. Most would agree that not one strategy works with all content.

I do not want to be the educator who finds one way and only does that. That would mean I remained stuck in a particular teaching pattern. I am actually looking at the best ways to differentiate instruction for all of my students.

I really do not view this as a flitting around from idea to idea, but using the best examples out there to craft the best learning environment for my students. Most of what we have today does not change because of the argument of "what if..?" I am thinking, "Why not...?"

Tags: Wes Fryer, podcasting, podcast, vodcast, lecture, education, technology, iste


  1. I agree 100! that changing the learning tasks and learning opportunities for students is the key. Without those changes, it's all hot air.

    I think this idea of "flipping" the traditional in-class lecture and at-home independent practice time is a great idea. This is very doable in a 1:1 learning environment, certainly much more doable than it is where students don't have laptops or computers at home. I'd like to follow up with these Colorado teachers and see how many DVDs they are burning per week to send home. That sends like a management nightmare, not to mention costly in the long run.

    This idea begs the question of how to "coursecast" affordably and relatively easily. There are lots of expensive solutions for this. I think these teachers are just recording with their electronic whiteboard software and then web-posting the screencasts. To support this across a school, I think you'd want to have a student technology support team like Gen-Y suggests and supports, to assist with all the technical details.

    Good luck as you contemplate these options and decide what to do!

  2. Wes, Thanks for all the great comments. Science is particularly tough as there is a lot of content to cover in a short period of time and our approach has been knowledge type activities which obviously has not served us well. The mile wide content needs to be pared down and students need to have time to think deeply about material and most importantly need to learn to think, analyze, and apply. It has been my experience that they do not know how to question and therefore take their learning deeper. That is a skill that takes time, patience, and a little innovation.

    I look at the time to create video lectures, but it need not be re-created every year. Having chapters allows you to add more in later. I know our district is also creating a podcast server which will help.

  3. Jonathan Bergmann here: I am one of the teachers in the video. We are now doing something even more revolutionary: We are using the pre-made podcasts to implement a mastery lesson. It has been very successful. We posted a video to google that explains what we are doing now. The link is:

    In fact we are doing a conference tomorrow (1/16) and Saturday with 50 educators from around the country who are interested in learning how to do what we are doing.

    Feel free to email us with more questions and comments.

  4. @Jonathan Thank you for commenting. I followed the above link to your video and find it fascinating. I am mulling over some great ideas and will definitely be in contact. Would like to see how this progresses and your thoughts. It reminds me of OBE (outcomes based education). As long as managed correctly, is a wonderful tool. Are there students who find this challenging and fall behind their peers or does it see pretty successful to all? Do you need to conference with students to look at progress?

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