Wednesday, November 30, 2016

John Dewey & Paulo Freire: A Common Core Standards Approach

When the Common Core Standards were introduced in the educational field, there was an immediate reaction to new ways of teaching and learning as many teachers were not familiar with a model of inquiry, relevant learning, and student centered instruction. For more seasoned teachers, the integration of Common Core Standards were kind of a return to a teaching approach where creativity and student thought were seriously taken into account during curriculum planning.

As I continue to engage in reading the work of educational philosophers who have impacted teaching approaches in the Century 21st classroom, John Dewey and Paulo Freire offer similar perspectives that I believe influence Common Core Practices. Both of these philosophers believe in a student centered approach with freedom of action and thought. They are critical of students being "repositories" of information and advocate for an active, relevant, and authentic approach to learning where students are engaged in designing educational experiences. Dewey and Freire advocate for knowledge to be the key component to a transformative power that comes from every learner and the way they impact their world through critical attitudes and dispositions. This is certainly true for the 21st Century classroom where technology serves as a vehicle to expand, refute, recreate, and promote new ways of thinking. I have created a simple comparison chart of the main ideas between educational philosophers and thinkers John Dewey and Paulo Freire.

© Chart created by Adriana Castillo November 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Communities of Practice: Places To Find Identity, Meaning & Purpose

Have you ever been tired, stressed out, depressed, and feelings as work demands more of you that what you can possibly give? Do you come home and find yourself lost in papers, projects, grades, and lesson planning to do which just represents an extension of long and challenging days at work? I found myself in that position last week. I so desperately needed a break and a reason to find joy and peace after hectic days at work in my teaching position.

I highly recommend that as teachers we make an effort beyond our work duties and personal duties at home to search groups in our communities that share the same passions and goals in life through fun and interactive ways. Finding a club, a collective hobby, a community that we can join who can bring a sense of belonging, understanding, joy, laughter, and a place where we can grow our passions to fulfill longings and desires is vital for our wellbeing.

As I am reading John Dewey's (1938) philosophies for education, I agree that many times what we learn in formal educational settings does not compare to what we can learn through worthy experiences that have an immediate connection and application to real life. Communities of practice allow us to grow in very natural and personal ways.

Connect your passions and desires in meaningful ways through a club, a networking community, a group of people to share your passions and goals. Communities of Practice can be local or global, face to face or virtual, they meet regularly and have set goals and a common vision in mind.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

John Dewey: Practical Applications for Technology Integration

As part of my coursework for my Masters in Educational Technology, I have been reading the work of American philosopher John Dewey. In the first few chapters of his book Experience and Education The Kappa Delta Pi Lecture Series, he focuses on issues of traditional and progressive learning theory and practice in the context of educational endeavors. He comments on the disconnect that may exist between the knowledge that adults impart to new generations and the practical applications and relevance that the new generations attribute to such knowledge. According to Dewey (1998), neither traditional nor progressive education can address the dilemmas that arise in the learning process as these are connected to the context of new and relevant experiences. It is in the process of new experiences that knowledge acquires meaning and purpose for the new generations.

The old is made new by a process of interpretation and adaptation within practical contexts. This is an area where teachers have a great responsibility because "teachers are the organs through which pupils are brought into effective connection with the material. They are the agents through which knowledge and skills are communicated (p.18)".

Some of the current issues with technology integration in classroom settings can be understood through the lense of Dewey's work. Technology functions as a bridging gap between adults and young learners to make the knowledge practical, relevant, and accessible to the new generations through platforms that revamp old textbook material and lengthy boring lectures into interactive adaptive materials that students can enjoy and engage with. Dewey (1998) proposes to focus on experiential contexts to make learning relevant to the youth. Nevertheless, he also offers a word of caution in regards to experiences as not all experiences offer quality in the learning process. "An experience may be immediately enjoyable and yet promote the formation of a slack and carelessness attitude (p. 25)". This rings true when we as teachers, allow students to carelessly use electronic devices in the classroom or allow the use of technology without an adequate pedagogical approach or learning objective in mind. It has been proven that the use of technology for the sake of technology does not provide students with adequate experiences to successfully apply learned skills in the real world. It is imperative that teachers strongly rely on their content area pedagogical training and best practices when choosing digital experiences for their students in the classroom setting.

Dewey, J. (1998). Experience and education. Kappa Delta Pi.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Untaught Technology Skills: The Hole in the Wall Experiment

Have you ever wondered why children cannot resist touching everything when they are little? Theories on the process of learning and knowledge acquisition in the early stages of development confirm that human beings start learning the day they are born. Newborn babies start learning by watching, feeling, smelling, and hearing. Even though formal language is not understood, babies learn to communicate to have their needs met. We learn through our senses and our sense help us understand the world around us.

As I am reading about the Hole in the Wall experiment in India back in 1999, I make a strong connection between the theory of natural learning and the reasons why it amazes me to see babies and toddlers find electronic devices to be fascinating tools.

In the Hole in the Wall experiment, Professor Sugata Mitra conducted an experiment in which a computer was placed inside a man made hole in the wall. There was also a camera installed to record activity near the computer. No instructions were given in any language. The location of this whole in the wall was in the slums of India with high populations of kids with no formal education or English language reading and speaking abilities. The findings of Dr. Mitra's experiment gave rise to the the concept of minimally invasive education  as it was observed that children learned basic computer skills on their own as well as curriculum content through games and other engaging activities. Kids just explored on their own and started to build knowledge structures that eventually allowed them to engage in more complex tasks.

The Hole in the Wall Experiment serves as a reminder that when it comes to technology integration in the classroom, children need to be given the opportunity to explore and learn through technology even if the adults in the room do not feel capable to handle or integrate technology. Fear of technology integration is more pervasive in adults rather than in children. A word of caution when allowing minors to freely learn and explore on electronic devices is the need for an internet filter. Children are capable of finding amazing things online, however, material not suitable for children needs to be kept out at all times. I believe that allowing students to learn with an electronic device has valuable implications for English Language Learners. ELL's can learn valuable concepts and skills by freely exploring an electronic device that has access to age appropriate pre-loaded resources.

I have included one of the only creative commons picture I found on the internet for the Hole in the Wall experiment. The computers depicted in the picture resemble the original one but the first computer and setting looked different.

Mitra, S., Rana, V., Campus, I. I. T., & Khas, H. (2001). Children and the Internet: Experiments with minimally invasive education in India. British Journal of Educational Technology, 32(2), 221-232.

Trucano, M. (2010, June 18). Searching for India’s hole in the wall Retrieved from

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Communities of Practice: World Language Fair April 29th 2017

As many people would think, every time I think about the learning process images of  books, lectures, classrooms, and structured environments come to my mind. I am a teacher and have been a teacher most of my life. The word learning evokes everything related to my profession. I have never stopped to reflect upon the actual process of learning and how people learn. However, recently my time has been occupied with several readings for my ET-715 Foundations of Learning Theory materials. It has been challenging but intellectually stimulating reading.

One of the books I am currently reading is called Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives by Etienne Wenger (1998). There are many theories for learning including the social learning theory. According to Wenger (1998) we are social beings that acquire knowledge through active engagement in the world  as well as our ability to experience the world in meaningful ways. We learn while interacting with others, learning about their practices, values, and beliefs, and by having an open mind and attitude towards existing differences.

One component of social learning theory is the sense of community: "Community as a way of talking about the social configurations in which our enterprises are defined as worth pursuing, and our participation is recognizable as competence (Wenger, 1998, p.4)". It is in the realm of learning through community experiences that the World Language Fair 2017 at Central High School on April 29th will allow for fun and engaging learning opportunities.

Attendees at he World Language Fair 2017 will have the opportunity to learn by direct observation, by engaging in language and culture experiences from different regions in the world, and by direct participation pursuing personal interests through games, sampling of multicultural foods, as well as performances from different regions in the world.

Learning does only happen within the walls of a classroom. Join us April 29th 2017 at Central High School East Campus for the World Language Fair!