Process-based learning: Teachers as Facilitators

COMMUNICATE WITH EXCELLENT WRITING SKILLS

facilitator

Besides the advancement of technology as mentioned in my previous post, the shift in teaching pedagogy from content-based learning to process-based learning also implies that the approaches adopted by teacher are changing as well. From the direction that it is now heading, it is reasonable for educationists to call themselves “facilitators” rather than “teachers”, the reason of which I will explain below:

  • Responsibility of learning: In contemporary times, the onus of learning has shifted from the teachers / educators to the students. This does not mean that the students are entirely independent in their learning. They will still require educationists to provide them with the direction but not the content. With technologies such as the internet, the students have more than enough content. It’s how they digest the information that matters and how it is applicable to their lives that is of the essence to their learning now.
  • Drawing out prior knowledge and abilities within…

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Out of Touch

Tick-tick-tick-tick

The sound drew me back to her reality. I looked up at the wall clock and knew my time was up; there’d be hell to pay. At any moment angry-she would walk into my room and find me crouched behind my familiar, loyal laptop—deep down in my own private digital universe of 0s and 1s.

Wolf Venom: w3 stay in survival mode and mine what we need — no cheating to gamemode1 for easy captures of ore

A world only I could transverse without her following and bugging me to do stupid-ass chores or worse—homework.

Wolf Venom:i n33d more iron – smash that wall

WCushion:crafting new pick ax – hold on

My Minecraft world is three times bigger than her world. Why would I choose the mundane? This power is limitless, the results instant.

Hand7853 has joined the game.

You don’t have permission for this area.

Hand7853:hey guys! cool LAN!!! can i build?

I choose to be alone; no one may enter unless personally invited into my server realm.

Wolf Venom:sry busy with something — later

kick Hand7853

She’s been gone for a few hours, leaving me—trusting me—to complete the fractions and handwriting homework I’d been successfully avoiding for days. Phish! As if there would be any use for cursive handwriting by the time I joined the Gods in Silicon Valley. And fractions –had she ever heard of a calculator?

She was seriously out-of-touch with what was coming. Very soon, it will just be glasses, voice commands, and keyboards. Even keyboards will fade once they’ve finalized the Thinking Cap, and they’re close now.

I’ll get the usual lecture: “I’m out-of-touch with reality, no child should waste all day playing video games.”

Talk about a waste—she’d lost hours of her short life in useless slumber while I had built an entire village from dirt to dome, enriched an economy, created cathedrals and manufactured my monuments.

She’d washed my dirty underwear and crusted dishes, while I’d constructed a 63-story castle of brick and stone to house a treasure of precious gems—diamonds and gold packed high in treasure chest— protected from heinous thieves, and my big brother.

She’d created another vegan, GMO-free, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free meatloaf to extend her life of dredge, which will go untouched by me—again—as its skin flakes around the sawdust bark and berries that she’ll serve with my dinner.

And all the while, I had killed and roasted a cow and feasted with my virtual friends around the world on steak and potatoes and pumpkin pie.

WCushion:dude! cr33pers swording my Steve!! teleport me out of here

/tp WCushion to Wolf Venom

WCushion:damn! you b33n busy since last night. Is that the tower?

Wolf Venom:ya like? i put in 3scape hatches in library

I’ll always protect my small windows of mental escape.

Wolf Venom:toss m3 your wood for smelting– w3 build the next glass dome here

My infinite sandbox. No one to say: “No, you can’t.”

Wolf Venom:readable b44ks and gold’s in chests protected under 10 layers of stone

WCushion:swwwweeeeeeeettttt

Tick-tick-tick-tick

She’s due back any minute.

Fine!

I’ll log off for just a bit and crack open the math book.  But when she leaves, I’ll return to complete something that truly matters.

Besides, she’ll take my computer away if I don’t; ending my rule before I’m done.

Wolf Venom:need to jump — keep going — BRB

WCushion:k s33 u soon

Gawd! This is so slow and boring: read-thought-number-write-read-thought-number-write-read-thought-number-write. This will take F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

Her processional footsteps down the stairs vibrate the wood planks in ominous rhythm.

She doesn’t get it. What adults can do in a century, I can do in five hours.

She can keep her mundane reality and meager existence and leave me to starve in mine.

Wolf Venom:dude – back — whoa… you added a roller coaster- brilliant!!!!

WCushion:i know right!??!

“Jacob Swartz! What in God’s name ar- (blah-blah-blah-blah)”

Wolf Venom has left the game.

Tick-tick-tick-tick

Death or Speech?

Most people would rather die than give a public speech. Literally.  A survey conducted a few years back by University of Denver startled researchers when they discovered: physical maiming by shark, public defamation on Social Media, and even out-and-out death was preferable to giving a speech. I’m not kidding here; 90% of participants said this or some version of it on their surveys.

It’s so real, they gave it a name—PSA: Public Speaking Anxiety. Oh goody! Another anxiety to medicate.

I sat, staring at my cue cards, feeling that death could not come soon enough. My heart pounced around my torso, unable to make up its mind: stay put or be barfed up.

I’d felt a lump in my leg last week.  I’m sure an ER Doctor would happily look at it, tell me I need a biopsy and give me a letter explaining why I wouldn’t—couldn’t—speak today.

“Stop being a big, fat chicken,” I scold aloud to no one in the auditorium.  “Gawd! you’re such a wimp.” I sounded like my little brother. This was all his fault anyway; he had gotten me into this by volunteering me to his high school principal.  I made a mental note to seriously mess little bro’s car up next time he came to visit; payback.

I’d come to the empty high school gym early this morning to practice, before anyone else hovered near consciousness. I wanted—no needed to hear aloud my pathetic attempt to convince a group of teens to join me in a Youth Leadership group hosted by the local Toastmaster’s group.

I had been given the assignment to help me overcome my own fear. I wanted to teach, and most of my life I couldn’t stand up in front of a group and speak without my knees buckling.

This Youth Leadership group would be my first, organized workshop and seminar series designed to help me and other’s rise above. But right now, I had no sign-ups. I was here to recruit teenagers to face their biggest fear; the same fear that had paralyzed me for so long and by the look and feel of it, still does.

youth-leadership-program

 

Hunting for a Bargin

CLASS NOTE: This is the story I want to pod cast and publish. Word count: 2033

I had this idea, not that I was smarter than my son, but that I was at least as clever as him – and that simply was not true.

Dinner that night was a remix of most of our previous ones: paper plates, because who the hell likes to wash dishes? But real silverware—as plastic forks were just too redneck for me. As a kid growing up in Texas, I had once gone to a neighbor’s BBQ  (that’s code for dinner party to you East Coasters), and there I saw a horde of sweaty, overweight men, with BBQ sauce dripping down their wife-beater tee shirts, or worse, their shirtless, hairy chests. When they were done ripping the meat off a rib and gnawing the bone, they pulled out flimsy, white plastic forks and attacked the coleslaw. As they spoke, food fell from of their mouths. They waved their white forks in the air between bites to help emphasize something they thought was humorous: “Y’all remember Keith? He los’ his damn leg las’ week to Vicky’s damn dog.” They would laugh, slaw dripping from their faces and off their forks. Pieces caught in their chest hair.

And that was the end of white, plastic dinnerware for me.

Using actual silverware, I placed dinner in front of my son, Hunter, who had somehow folded his long, thin legs into the dinning chair, filling it completely while he sat, with his face buried behind the orange case of his well-worn Kindle. He offered me only a few mental attention-units for what I was saying to him:

“Hunter! Please son, please – just eat your vegetables,” I begged.

Hunter said nothing, nor did he move to indicate he heard my plea. He knew I wasn’t done with my predictable “drink this and eat that” rant:

“After nine years you would think I could stop telling you to eat healthier and drink your water,” I continued, shaking my head in real exasperation.  I attempted a full-on guilt-trip diplomacy tactic: “You know this stuff already. I want to teach you things you don’t know.”

He looked up briefly, but I could tell he was tuning out most of my well-worn rave. He had this adolescent look on his face that translated into: “If-I-look-at-her-she’ll-think-I’m-listening-so-she’ll-stop-talking. Okay-I-looked. She-saw-me. Now-back-to-my-book.”

He’d done this a lot over the past few months and I had come to hate it.

Smelling trouble, he glanced up again to inspect my continued silence. That glance told him I wasn’t buying it.

Looking back down at his book, Hunter calmly asked: “Mom, how do sharks make babies?” I paused, not sure if this was an honest to goodness home-school student to home-school teacher moment, or if he was just avoiding the broccoli on his plate.

He waited just a beat –waited for my silent deliberation on his intent behind the question mixed with a mental search for an actual answer. Once he saw I was down—deep— in contemplation, he tossed out: “Very carefully!” and smiled, applauding his own comic timing.

I had my answer: He was avoiding the broccoli.

“Okay kid! How about you put away the book and focus on the food not being eaten?”

In my pre-Hunter life, I had prided myself in my organizational prowess. I made my living as a project manager and corporate trainer. I was an Emergency Manager, trained to organize 150+ relief volunteers to respond to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina or a few Texas Tornado aftermaths. I had created full organization charts, trained and placed new help, and personally ran smooth, on-the-ground operations in disastrous situations. Hell, I have a very large award hanging on my wall for my efforts at Hurricane Katrina; signatures of well wishes and “Thank-Yous” because of my brilliant leadership their and elsewhere.  And yet—here I was, battling to get a 9-year-old to eat his damn broccoli. And what was worse, he seem to be winning.

He had two paper plates and one actual bowl in front of him, (paper bowls are worthless for anything heavier than oatmeal or popcorn). No food could touch the other, or it would be irreversibly contaminated. I think his aversion to food touching started when he was five years old. He had made some feeble mention about wanting to cook something in the kitchen. Instead of properly translating his intention: “You suck as a cook Mom, please— for God’s sake— let me cook something I can eat because I’m starving,” I took it the wrong way. My corporate trainer alter-ego kicked in and took over. I was thrilled that he had expressed interest in the Culinary Arts and began by plastering the milestone all over Facebook in typical mother egotistical brag.  I promoted his career intent to be a Chef, and promptly enrolled him in “Young Chef’s Academy” to cultivate his newly found passion. Afterwards, I gave him free, unsupervised reign of the kitchen. After all, he had been trained to handle himself in a kitchen and I should respect that. Should I?

We called his first creation “Texas Hold’em Pancakes” featuring 52 different herbs and spices, and were guaranteed to make you fold after eating them. Bloody Milkshakes and Meatloaf Hands with dried scabs followed.

His father eventually cancelled the “free” and “unsupervised” parts of Hunter’s kitchen rein after his coffee pot had been used to brew a new flavor of coffee: garlic and onion.

Hunter’s enthusiasm waned for cooking after his father and I protested the fact we were now his sole food-tasters; he had stopped tasting his own creations early on. We eventually caught on to his practice of using creative recipes as weapons against any perceived injustices we may have inflicted on him during the week.

Never fully trusting that we wouldn’t exact our own revenge, he kept his own diet simple and food separate, allowing him to easily inspect for any foul play.

Now, we were resigned to fight battles over daily vegetable consumption, just as I was doing right then with my Eat Broccoli or Die! rant.

Hunter had a distaste for being boxed in, and sensing opportunity to maneuver in his favor, he said: “Mom, I’m perfectly capable of doing two things at once—three if you count breathing. Four if you count talking, while chewing and breathing and reading. So what’s the problem with reading my Kindle while I eat?” He tossed it out, challenging me to pick it up.

It was late, I was tired, and I lost it. “How ‘bout you focus on the damn broccoli and stop givin’ me sass.” My Texas accent had crept back in; it does that when I’m too tired to keep it suppressed—deep—where it belongs. There was no surer way to be pegged as a hick than to speak with a heavy Texas drawl. I was 8-years-old when I vowed never to sound like my mother, who was as Texan as they come. She was born in Fort Sam Houston on Texas Independence Day and eventually re-married a descent of the liberator himself and promptly produced my half-brother whom she named, “Liberty.”

Hunter put the book down and stared at his plate, looking for his next move. “There’s too many of them! Why do you have to give me soooo many?”

There were all of eight isolated small stalks of broccoli perched on his plate in a perfect formation.  I could see the negotiation forming on his face.  “I’ll eat three,” he tossed out to begin this well-worn deliberation tactic.

I had made the mistake of teaching my son a few actual corporate negotiation strategies. In my defense, I got the idea from a child psychologist who reasoned that unless a child knew how to negotiate, debate, and settle an argument with an adult, he would be left with crying and throwing fits as his only means of getting his way. As Hunter was three going on four at the time, and had a tendency to do just that, I decided to give it a try.

He had been so eager and attentive, soaking up my every word, that in a week-long period of teacher-inflated-ego-blindness I went too far, I taught him every tactic and debate maneuver I knew, leaving myself no new trick to use when I wanted my own way.

Oh, I was proud. For the very shortest of time I was so proud. I would show him off at the grocery store, pushing him down the aisles, debating aloud the pros and cons of “Puffed Rice” over “Frosted Flakes,” happy to discuss nutritional content, price variance and the marketing gimmicks that hook kids up to harmful foods, tangling them in pomp and flash.

I’d get home and marvel at how effective my teaching-skills had been, while shaking my head as I unpacked foods I have never dreamt of purchasing before: a box of the non-organic cereal because “If I don’t like the taste, I’m not going to eat it and you’ll waste your money;” or a bucket of fried chicken over my usual baked preference, as there are “only two legs on a baked chicken, and you get as many as you want in a bucket.” Of course, I despised legs—but Hunter loved them, and I did want him to eat.

My ego-bubble was forever deflated after I offered four viable and fun-filled venues for his 8th birthday party.  I had always made a big thing out of his birthdays and spent way too much money on the occasion. For his first birthday, I had rented out the apartment’s entire pool house and thrown a fully decked out Finding Nemo themed swim party for close to 80 people. I like to argue it was because my parties had been so meager as a child, but in truth, I just liked throwing parties and showing off—another Texan trait I am plagued with.

After carefully laying out his venue options, accompanied by potential full-day agendas as any respectable former project manager would do, Hunter promptly asked: “How much are you planning to spend on my party?

I told him the basic budget I was aiming for and without missing beat, he replied, in all seriousness, “Forget the party this year Mom, just give me the cash and we’ll call it even.”

That was when it finally dawned on me, I had gone too far. Despite my perceived project goal of molding the best kid possible, no child needed to be taught what came naturally programmed in their DNA: how to get what their own way.

To this day, unless I am angry to the point of foaming at the mouth, he will launch into a negotiation until a “reasonable settlement” has been reached between us.

But at that point in our parley over broccoli consumption, there was no foam spewing from my mouth, so he felt he was still on semi-solid ground.

“No, you’ll eat them all, and you’ll do it right now!” Being in no mood to play his games, I had lost all of my patience. Never had I gotten such flack in the corporate world. My voice was rising in pitch, while I was lowering—considerably—in any sort of measurable sanity.

Sensing the dangerous shift in air, Hunter changed his strategy. In a completely deadpan, poker-faced voice he said, “Mom, let me guess, logic didn’t work for you so now you are trying out volume?”

He had nailed it and I couldn’t help myself; I burst out laughing. The moment lost its steam and I relaxed. He had a way of puncturing stress with his comic wisdom.

“Okay kid. Five pieces, right now, and that is my final offer.”

“Four?” Still testing to see if I would budge his way.

“Five!” I was not budging.

“Done!”

He gloated like a middle-eastern open air merchant having won his treasured haggle. After all, he got out of eating three pieces of baby-tree barf.

Of course, I had only put eight pieces on his plate knowing I would be lucky to get five of them eaten, but best keep that between us.

Tenacity –nine more years before I call this project “done.”

 

 

“The Best Part of Me”

by Hunter Jackson (age 9)

The best parts of me

are my awesome muscles

that go so well

with my beautiful face.

 

No one can out match my ego.

Me so smart I no need grammar.

 

I cook so well

that the fire alarms cheer me on.

 

I dress so well

that it leaves my mom speechless.

 

My mom hopes

the best parts of me

are only temporary.

For the Children

CLASS NOTE: This idea is now being developed into a novel by me.

Monday morning, 8am and the bell went off above the door to my Mandatory Indoctrination Cube, indicating once again, it was time to start my education for the new day. That same insistent, annoying, non-musical chime went off six times a day, six days a week at 8am sharp to start, 8pm sharp to end.

The sleek non-reflected brushed aluminum door soundlessly slid open.

“Welcome Becket.” The MIC’s female voice sounded from inside.

“Thanks Sally.” I had nicked-name my MIC Model 3, “Sally” to break up the mundane.  I had also nick-named my MIC Model Two and “Susie” had served me until my tenth birthday before Sally replaced her—taking over the duty of molding my young, impressionable mind while relieving my parents of their daily, mandatory, oversight responsibilities the were obligated to perform just because they were parents.

I was just learning to talk when my Model One MIC “Sam”, became my teacher and nanny all rolled-up and compacted into one metallic cube of artificial intelligence.

I had always found something mysterious about the “S” sound voice makes; maybe that was the source of my crush on my only neighbor, Sarah. But, I hadn’t seen her, in person, in almost four years. Virtual interaction was the only approved contact for prepubescent students of the MIC Model 3.

I stepped into my eight foot cubed “home” inside my home.  Inside it looked the same: compact wall to wall screens, a small control panel, and my sensory chair centered within the cube. All screens were off except the large one directly facing me. Sally had rendered “Welcome Becket Reed” next to the date and time, “September 27th 2067.”

I slipped into my full-body-length black sensory chair that sat in the middle of the cube.  No sound was made as it molded to my current body size, taking into account my weight and any recent growth changes.  I felt no discomfort. The chair was designed to take pressure off any single part of my body; equalizing again if I shifted. I never felt any physical pain from sitting for my 10 hour stint of indoctrination education per day. The sensory chair had some sort of muscle pulse-stimulation that kept me feeling loose and comfortable.

I saw down in the chair and the malleable metal clamps strapped my ankles down once I settled into the chair. The annoying ankle clamps were mandatory in Model Three MICs; they discourage interruption and encouraged concentration.  Or so UCLID, the Unity’s Child Learning and Indoctrination Department, had said. UCLID was responsible for standardized curriculum, simulations, recording assessments and ensuring all of Unity’s children successfully graduated, moved out of childhood and into one of their Divisions for work.

Sally set me free only for meals and my scheduled, but timed, bathroom breaks.

“What’s on the docket for the day Sally?” I asked, knowing well that I didn’t really care, so long as it made the day flash quickly by. All I really wanted to do was join Sarah in the virtual Student Commons room, to discuss my upcoming graduation and final test results.  I was so close to graduating that I was sure whatever else Sally had left to teach me would hold no surprises.

I was wrong.

An arm slide out from the left-hand side panel. On one end held the Thinking Cap, a contrivance engineered with electrodes that sent my brain waves and physical signals back to a part of Sally’s Simulation programing; a program she would alter to boost my understanding if my ideal electronic signal feedback was not detected.  A few of these electrodes had the function to measure heart rate, perspiration levels and other physiological functions all of which were found to be related to true conceptual learning. Conceptual, as opposed to the Surface learning which had utilized workbooks, pen and paper, and the memorization of inconsequential facts my grandparents and their parents before them had been plagued with in their own archaic schooling.

It was hard to imagine the endless days of memorized mathematical “facts,” which are performed now with a simple and instant thought request.

I put my hand on the single manual control lever that poked out of the control panel.  I preferred the texture of something substantial in my hand. Something real.  Daily roll-call was done with a DNA scan via the check-in lever.

Sally flashed my progress chart on the screen and in her soothing, sing-song voice (and she had many to choose from depending her mood and my lack-of progress) she said, “You are fourteen days away from your mandatory completion date and your fourteenth birthday. Right now you’re a full five days ahead of schedule in all subjects except History. You’re almost there Beckett,” she added reassuringly.

I slipped on the Thinking Cap, and my mundane world disappeared, launching me into my first simulation.

“Alright,” I said aloud, releasing the lever and relaxing into the chair, “Let’s start with History.”

Of course, most of the commands could be performed by thinking them, but I preferred the old-fashioned method of speaking my commands.  It gave me a sense of separation from whatever simulation I was swimming around in at the time.

“Two new subjects have been released to you, now that you are so close to graduation. You have the History of Mandatory Indoctrination Cubes, and the History and Logic behind the 22 Negative Stimulus Laws in effect today,” Sally explained. “Each subject is mandatory, of equal importance, and with matching difficulty ratings. Which would you like to start with?”

The MICs are programed to give choice, when choice was possible; it supposedly gave me some semblance of partnership in my own education plan.

But who was kidding who here? I was stuffed in a box most of my childhood, being virtually transported from the black-market spice fields of Italy, to underwater cave exploration in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, and back to roasting illegal pig on a spit in the now non-existent Papua New Guinea.

None of it was real, but real had become a relative term; maybe it always had been.

Old-School Learning

45

Here is how you say your words and put them on the paper; don’t change the format or you’ll get a D; this is how you add your numerals; don’t call the individual digits a number – you’d be wrong; this is how you sing this song, because it doesn’t sound right when you sing it any other way; always be to school on time; is it true you’ll be grounded a week for every minute your late? Make sure you heed every word they say; you mustn’t let on you have a better way, it would be counted wrong; this is how to take the test and pass without cracking the book; after all it’s the scores that matter most, not where you go with what you know; are you truly grounded a month for a B- or below? This is how you don’t talk to boys; this is how you do what we think is right – if you try you’ll mess up and you’d be wrong; this is how bully the younger; this how they bully you; this is how you keep your friends; this is how they treat you; this is the difference between a joint and a hit – don’t be stupid or you’ll be dead wrong; this is how you ditch school; this is how you run away and that way you won’t feel so wrong; this is how to live in the real world and this is how to realize that they weren’t so wrong, it just felt that way to you at the time.

 

Your Mundane Reality

Tick-tick-tick

The sound drew me back to reality. I looked up at the wall clock and knew my time was up; there’d be hell to pay. At any moment angry-she would walk into my room and find me crouched behind my familiar, loyal laptop screen, deep in my own private digital universe of 0s and 1s, a world only I could transverse.

She had been gone for five hours, leaving me—trusting me—to complete the math and handwriting assignment homework I’d been successfully avoiding for days. Phish! As if there would be any use for cursive handwriting by the time I entered the work force. She was seriously out-of-touch with what was coming out of Silicon Valley and seeping into Corporate America.

Tick-tick-tick

Fine! I’ll log off and crack open the math book. Maybe, I could pool tears and pretend overwhelming frustration with fractions? But I’d used that same excuse last week and it had only gotten me more practice problems.

I’ll get the usual lecture: I’m out-of-touch with reality, no child should spend “all day” playing video games.

But she’d lost an hour of her short life in useless slumber, while I’d built an entire village from dirt to dome, enriched an economy, created cathedrals and manufactured my monuments.

She’d washed my dirty underwear and crusted dishes, while I’d constructed a 63-story castle of brick and stone to house treasure chests packed with diamonds and other precious gems.

She’d created another vegan, GMO-free, soy-free, daily-free, gluten-free meatloaf to extend her life of dredge, which will go untouched by me, again, as its skin flakes around the sawdust bark and berries she’ll serve with it at dinner. And all the while, I’d killed and roasted a cow online and feasted with friends on steak and potatoes and chocolate pie.

Her processional footsteps down the stairs vibrate the wood planks in ominous rhythm.

What adults can do in a century, I can do in five hours.

She can keep her mundane reality and meager existence and leave me to starve in mine.

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