Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs
Paul Anderson explains how he designed a game to teach biology in a TEDx talk. Montana’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, Anderson teaches at Bozeman High. His science lessons can be found on YouTube.
He’s clearly a sharp cookie, even if he’s spouting stuff that a lot of educators have known for years. It’s better to be right, though, than it is to be novel, and it’s great when someone can articulate true, basic principles of education well. I approve entirely.
On the other hand… if you can get your principal to allow you to ignore FERPA and to let you pit kids against each other on a public “Leader Board”, using competition as a motivator, your job is already easier than a lot of teachers.
A lot of people view something like that as a pretty strict no-no, though.
Upon reflection… I suppose the LeaderBoard could use anonymous identifiers. It was hard to see in the video. So FERPA might not be an issue.
The LeaderBoard uses students’ avatars, not their names.
I think the value of people like this is that they’ve taken the debate of “guide on the side” versus “sage on the stage” and said, “Why not both?” In a mastery classroom, students get a variety of learning opportunities. They can figure out with ones work best for them. One of those might be lectures from the teacher, but instead of the whole class sitting through them it will only be those students who prefer that mode of learning.
Mastery learning is not new, but it allows the discussion to take a different direction. I would hope that over time someone bothers to study approaches similar to this, because he’s not the only teacher doing it. We already know that different kinds of students and topics benefit from directed instruction and experiential learning, so what kinds of students benefit most from this approach? It won’t be everyone, just like the other approaches. But if we know who gets what from each approach, we’re closer to making good teaching decisions for our students.
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