Thursday, October 28, 2010

Section 1: “Why Don’t Students Like School?”

Section 1: “Why Don’t Students Like School?” “Because the Mind is Not Designed for Thinking”

My first reaction to the primary title of the book was: “Well that is obvious.” It was the secondary title of the book that really captured my attention. What do you mean “because the mind is not designed for thinking”?  I must admit, I almost skipped over reading this book because I thought this might be another of those authors who grabbed an obscure idea and ranted about some medical finding. After all, in all this time haven’t the scores of doctors and scientists thoroughly analyzed the brain!
Much to my surprise and delight, this author really does have some fresh ideas and can back them up.  I have only covered the first two chapters and realize that I would have been wrong not to read this book.  If the secondary title doesn’t prick your interest in reading the book, the introduction certainly will.
The author focuses this book on his extensive research on the biological and cognitive development of the human brain and what that translates to for the learning process.  He backs up every comment with very clear examples that everyone can connect with.
In the beginning of Chapter 1, Mr. Willingham states: “People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.” Then he proceeds to back up his comment with the section on “The Mind Is Not Designed for Thinking” and his examples/reasoning clearly backs up his comment.  He even quotes Henry Ford “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few people engage in it”.    This section of the book contains more of this thought provoking comments such as:  Humans don’t think very often because tour brains are designed not for thought but for avoidance of thought.  Your brain serves many purposes and thinking is not the one it serves best.  It is no accident that most of your brain’s real estate is devoted to these activities (seeing and movement).  The answer is that when we can get away with it, we don’t think. Instead we rely on memory. Most of the problems we face are ones we’ve solved before, so we just do what we’ve done in the past.
One thing like about the way this author rights is that he includes a brief summary in each section. Here he summarizes two ways in which the brain is set up to “save you from thinking” is:
·         Some of the most important functions (for example, vision and movement) don’t require thought – you don’t have to reason about what your see.
·         You are biased to use memory to guide your actions rather than to think.
The next section of chapter 1 is: “People Are Naturally Curious, but Curiosity Is Fragile”
                Mr Willingham reasons that the brain, although not very efficient at thinking, enjoys mental activity in some circumstances.  He talks about different types of thinking and what most people enjoy or avoid.  Much of it depends on the level of difficulty.  Too hard and people will avoid; too easy and people will lose interest.  That middle ground or as he states it “find the sweet spot” that grabs the interest and maintains it.
                The section on “How Thinking Works” is not completely new in concept but new in the way to look at it. He goes into some detail about the environment, working memory, and long-term memory.  There are a couple example problems to illustrate how thinking and problem solving work.  There are direct connections made to student in a classroom and how the working memory is limited and the more it gets crowed with new information the more difficult the problem becomes.  This only leads to people feeling like the problem is too difficult for them to solve and the eventually give up. 
In the last section of this chapter he doesn’t brings the topic home to teachers with “Implications for the Classroom”. He recommends seven items that teachers should consider for fully engaging students in the learning process:
·         Be sure that there are problems to be solved – identify the challenges and outcomes (look for negative outcomes)
·         Respect Students’ Cognitive limits – develop effective mental challenges, bear in mind the cognitive limitations for each student
·         Clarify the problems to be solved – make the material relevant to students and develop key questions
·         Reconsider when to puzzle students – the goal is to puzzle students and make them curious
·         Accept and act on variation in student preparation – it is self-defeating to give all students that same work
·         Change the pace – change grabs attention, monitor student engagement
·         Keep a Diary – reflect on your classroom, students and on your teaching. Write down the lessons you learned so you can improve and not repeat the same error.

The most interesting quote from this chapter was: “People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.”

At the end of this chapter, I asked myself if any of these seven suggestions were new to me.  I can say that none of them are new to me but I certainly didn’t incorporate and employ these strategies in the same way the author suggests.  It is a different way of looking at things. I’m curious and learning!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mixed signals

Some students are bored with school because of the mixed messages they receive. Teachers may expect a certain level of technological advancement that they do not possess. Other students are much further advanced and are annoyed by waiting for their classmates to catch up.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Black & White

Many kids are bored at school, and we are asking why. Technology is wonderful, and it makes the world interesting and fun. I think this black & white picture says it all. Technology is the “color” in our educational world, however, we need to start in black & white first by learning the basics.

Not Again!

The old blackboard and textbook, with the cell phone on her desk, seemed to be a great way to sum up today's students. She does seem to be putting forth effort, but it is a struggle. And we wonder why they don't like school!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I would rather text!

Todays students are far more engaged in electronic media and social communication. Their social connections trump anything teachers and parents have to offer. We need to find a better way to grab and keep their attention.

Friday, October 22, 2010

We have all had teachers like this!

This picture is so real for me! All of us have had teachers who lectured with their back to the class and in a mono tone voice. Kids in the class just hated to come and spend 60 minutes listening to the same thing over and over.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why students don't like school.

I chose this image for a cover because it is clear this student is frustrated. You can see there a computer in the background and would could be homework under him. He may be struggling to understand what is expected of him or just overwhelmed, both can be a cause for not liking school.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Welcome to Literature Circle Eleven!

Your Super Summarizer schedule is as follows:

Section One--Due October 28, Larry Broomfield
Section Two--Due November 4, Rick Meyerink
Section Three--Due November 11, Keven Morehart
Section Four--Due November 18, Virginia Schmunk
Section Five--Due December 2, Ashley Wiley
Section Six--Due December 9, Roxi Withee