Is your lesson relevant?

I get frustrated when I’m asked to do something irrelevant. Don’t you? And yet, many teachers dread when students ask, “When am I ever going to need to know this stuff?” It’s a rather obnoxious way of asking, “Is this lesson relevant?”

Now, picture this. You craft a lesson that is so relevant that you hope some kid inquires! This episode is designed to help you create such a lesson. To help in this mission is an awesome primary source.

Mitchell Charles

Mitchell Charles is an articulate young man destined for academic brilliance.

In World Civilization, we were meandering through a unit on the Industrial Revolution. This topic typically leaves some students cold. My challenge was to make it relevant.

I did this with the help of Elon Musk and Peergrade. Below is the lesson that Mitchell evaluates. Please feel free to commandeer some of it, or all of it!

Applying the Industrial Revolution via Elon Musk

History students often complain that what they study doesn’t seem relevant. You may have heard the cliche, History repeats itself. You may, or may not be persuaded by this idea, but hopefully you’ll concede that the study of history at least gives us templates through which we can better understand the present, making a lot of subject matter relevant.

Technological changes that are at work today have the potential of reshaping the world along the lines of the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Studying how that unfolded has the potential to make a young person more adaptable.

Elon Musk is one of the world’s most interesting and perhaps most impactful citizens. Musk is determined to improve the way you live. He also is determined to help the USA win back it’s manufacturing advantage.

This man has the potential to create products and systems that are as impactful as anything we’ve studied so far. He was born under the yoke of Apartheid in South Africa and as soon as he was able, he migrated to Canada and then the USA. He’s now a US citizen.

I first became interested in Musk when I saw him appear on the Big Bang Theory years ago. 

We’ll focus on 4 of Musk’s objectives:

  1. SpaceX
  2. Tesla
  3. SolarCity
  4. The Boring Company

Job 1: Make it relevant: Become familiar with your topic by reviewing the links and conducting online research.

Job 2: Meet with other students who’ve been assigned the same focus. Dialogue about the company. You certainly don’t have to agree, but consider the views of your classmates.

Job 3: Individually, Respond to the prompts on the appropriate doc on Google Classroom.

Hacking Engagement Again

Click image to peek inside

Job 4: Upload your views to Peergrade.

Job 5: Evaluate your peer’s ideas via Peergrade.

Each student has been assigned a focus. Here are some links, but please don’t limit yourself to only the links I provide.

SpaceX

Start your research by visiting the company website. Then navigate to this objective article. Conduct research on this entity including a video search.

Tesla

Start your research by visiting the company website. Then, navigate to this objective article. Finally, conduct research on this entity including a video search.

SolarCity

Start your research by visiting the company website. Then, navigate to this objective article. Finally, conduct research on this entity including a video search.

The Boring Company

Start your research by visiting the company website. Then, navigate to this objective article. Finally, conduct research on this entity including a video search.

Elon Musk Reaction Prompt

Build your responses based on your research. Each prompt is worth 10 points. Elaborate on your ideas. Don’t just give 1 word, or 1 phrase answers. Compose a narrative for each prompt.

  • Pretend that you are Elon Musk. You’re appealing to a number of venture capitalists with the goal of having them invest. Provide your audience with a sales pitch. This has nothing to do whether you…as in you personally, not as in you pretending to be Elon Musk…think the venture will be successful.
  • Indicate whether you think this venture is feasible. Don’t just respond yes or no. Explain why, or why not, you think it’ll work.
  • The inventions of the Industrial Revolution changed people’s lives in fundamental ways. Do you believe this venture will change lives and if you do, in what way and if you don’t, why not?
  • Pretend that you’re in this class and it’s 200 years in the future. Your instructor, who is a remarkably improved version of yours truly, asks you to describe Elon Musk, place him in context, and describe his significance.
  • Indicate something that you would like to see invented. This needs to be an innovation that will dramatically improve life on earth. Describe it, explain how it works, and predict how it will improve life.

click image to learn more

Apply the Hack Learning Formula

The Problem:

Students often feel lessons are not relevant.

The Solution:

Craft lessons where kids are challenged to apply what you’re teaching to their lives.

What you can do Tomorrow:

  • Brainstorm real world applications for tomorrow’s lesson
  • Break your students into 4 topics or problems and then challenge them to respond to provocative prompts
  • Have kids submit their work to Peergrade and then watch a virtual Socratic Seminar unfold before your eyes

Teaching relevance is the responsibility of every educator. Teaching relevance will empower you to embrace the question, “Why do we have to learn this?”

Listen to “94-Usher in Relevance Courtesy of Elon Musk and Peergrade…Starring Mitchell Charles” on Spreaker

 

A version of this first appeared at JamesAlanSturtevant.com

kid hates school

My Kid Hates School But You Can Help

One social share can immediately impact change. “My kid hates school,” I shared on Twitter and Facebook, and suddenly I had support from people around the world.

Here’s what happened. I tweeted this then shared it on Facebook.

School must get all kids to comply. School must organize large quantities of children, manage them, sort them, quiet them and control them. For a lot of kids it may not be a big deal. For some, it’s like stealing their soul. — Anonymous

Some weighed in by raging against the machine:

One regular commenter in this Facebook group had this initial response:

No, you can’t. You can advocate, you can argue, and you can encourage him in a variety of ways. But you can’t change the school or the teachers–it’s not in your power. You can help him to find satisfaction in other ways/venues and maybe within the school or within certain classes. Teach him to hack his own way, eh?

After all of these incredible comments and suggestions, I kept coming back to the previous quote.

And I wonder, is this right? Is school change out of my control? Is it out of our control?

Or, is it possible that we have all the power, and we only have to choose to exercise it?

At the very least, one expert, New York Times bestselling author Jessica Lahey, believes that we need to keep showing the evidence of what’s best for kids to educators. Here’s what the author of Gift of Failure tweeted:

What You Can Do Tomorrow

  • Talk about best practices: Create discussions on social channels and at your school about best practices. Ask, “How can we eliminate old school methods and replace them with progressive pedagogy that inspires student engagement?”
  • Share stories like this one: Share podcasts, blog posts, and Facebook statuses, in which parents and educators discuss their experiences about kids who hate school and what they’re doing about it.
  • Encourage participation: If a kid hates school, encourage her to join a club, go out for a sport, or try out for the play. The more kids participate in things related to school, the more likely they are to start enjoying it.
  • Be present: Talk to teachers, school leaders, and parents in your own school district–especially where you kids attend school–about making learning fun. Don’t let them tell you it’s not about the fun; that’s a load of crap and simply not true.

So, what’s my final take on all of this? I’ll continue to advocate for my son, and I’ll continue pushing his teachers–and all educators–to be the absolute best they can be.

With your help, I believe we can make a difference.

More hacky stuff

Find the Facebook discussion here.

Share your thoughts on Twitter at the #HackLearning feed here.

Subscribe to the podcast here.

Can Your Students Spot a Fascist?

Listen to “James Sturtevant Hacking Engagement” on Spreaker.

If you’ve taught a humanities class, you’ve probably recognized how frequently Adolf Hitler comes up. Unfortunately, many kid’s understanding of Hitler and Fascism doesn’t expand much past the Holocaust, and some students can’t spot a Fascist from across the room.

In fairness to kids, though, lots of adults also struggle with this, because, like students, they haven’t been exposed to the characteristics of a Fascist (see list below).

Scott Elliott teaches 9th Grade World History with me. Right before Christmas Break, we were yakking about how we could teach Fascism, our first unit in January, in a more engaging and impactful way.

Scott found a wonderful resource which formed the backbone of the assignment. The article is by Laurence W. Britt and is entitled Fascism Anyone.

The assignment we created challenged kids to rate WWII leaders on the 14 Characteristics Britt articulates and also to apply them to current leaders with authoritarian traits. Here’s a link to the Hyperdoc we posted on Google Classroom.

Britt’s list of 14 Fascist Characteristics

  1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
  2. Disdain for the importance of human rights
  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
  4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism
  5. Rampant sexism
  6. A controlled mass media
  7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite
  8. Religion and ruling elite tied together
  9. Power of corporations protected
  10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated
  11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption
  14. Fraudulent elections

This turned into a solid activity in our World History class, but the lesson can be applied outside of the humanities.

Perhaps, there are misunderstandings about important concepts in other subjects. I can certainly think of examples in science.

Applying the Hack Learning model

The Problem

Students freely use words like Fascist, Nazi, and Hitler with limited knowledge of these label’s broader meanings.

The Solution

Expose kids to what Fascism is and then challenge them to apply it, and challenge them to apply agreed-upon standards to a set of contentious circumstances.

What you can do Tomorrow

  • If you teach a humanities course and Fascism is a topic, please steal our lesson and morph it to fit your needs.
  • If you teach a non-humanities class, take a controversial or misunderstood topic, expose students to some agreed-upon standards and then challenge them to apply that knowledge.

Please inspire your kids to pursue objective truth relentlessly. Assignments such as this will nurture this essential disposition!

Why grading and evaluating are not assessment

Hack Learning’s Mark Barnes wrote about revolutionizing assessment by going gradeless in Education Week’s 10 Big Ideas special report. Some readers are intrigued, and some are pushing back.

In Episode 110 of the Hack Learning Podcast embedded above, Mark takes on the pushback and explains why grading and evaluating are not parts of effective assessment.

No, Students Don’t Need Grades, excerpted from Education Week’s 10 Big Ideas article

Technology and social media continue to disrupt education. Classrooms are morphing into maker spaces; STEM labs and media centers are filled with fascinating electronic gadgets. Teachers spend less time in front of the class and more time in the middle of the action. Schools, teachers, leaders, parents, and students across the country are embracing this brave new world.

In the midst of rapidly changing technology, and consequently, pedagogy, there is another fundamental change I would argue more educators need to embrace. It’s a growing movement to alter the one function of education that most stakeholders steadfastly refuse to revise: how we assess learning.

If you’re interested in disrupting education far more than the 3-D printer or smartphone ever could, consider schools and colleges where there are no grades. Imagine classrooms where teachers never place numbers, letters, percentages, or other labels on students’ work; where report cards don’t exist; and where the GPA has gone the way of the dinosaur.

In a gradeless classroom, the perpetual lies that numbers and letters tell about learning would cease to exist. Honor and merit rolls would disappear. There would be no school valedictorian. Clubs that celebrate high performers would disband. Many colleges and universities would change how they admit incoming freshmen, and academic scholarships would need a makeover.

Moreover, teachers would learn how to effectively assess academic performance, and students would become independent learners, driven by curiosity and inspiration rather than by the empty promise of a “good” grade or the threat of a “bad” one.

Now, this may sound like only a big, perhaps even unrealistic, idea. But the gradeless classroom already exists in schools worldwide. While I don’t claim to be the creator of no-grades learning environments, I and thousands of my colleagues across the United States and around the world have turned it into a movement that is helping educators reimagine how they assess learning.

Read the rest of my EdWeek article, part of the 10 Big Ideas in Education special report, here.

Mark Barnes on grades, feedback, and evaluation

  • Grades and feedback are not the same. Grades are numbers, percentages, and letters that label students and mislead stakeholders about what has or has not been learned.
  • There are many factors that impact learning, and teachers must have a conversation with students about those factors.
  • It’s crucial that teachers ask kids questions: Why did you do this? Why this way? What if you had done this instead? What don’t you understand? How can you better understand this?
  • Education needs to eliminate evaluation from assessment. Evaluation is about judging performance, and the only shareholders suited for this type of judgement are the learners. Teachers should relegate their feedback to observations and questions and teach kids how to judge their work.

More on going gradeless

Click image to look inside Hacking Assessment

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