Push and Pull

This week’s reading  was Lankshear and Knobel (2008) Ch1: DIY Media: A Contextual Background and Some Contemporary Themes.  This chapter opens with a discussion revolving around the importance of understanding your students’ engagement with media in building connections to their practices.  Building these connections allows you as a teacher to make sure that you are contributing to their digital learning in ways that are meaningful.  I have always made it a point to get to know my students as individuals so that I can make my lessons more meaningful, but it hadn’t crossed my mind to deepen those conversations in regards to what media practices they are already participating in – and perhaps more importantly, WHY they are participating in them.  I look forward to adding this piece to the discussion next year!

The chapter then got into different aspects of DIY culture, starting with its origins, then getting into DIY in terms of media practices.  This part of the chapter seemed pretty dense to me (even though much of what was discussed were the new literacies we have read about in previous weeks) and I found myself rereading several pieces more than once.  Once the chapter got through all of the new DIY vocabulary (machinima, affinity spaces – both brand new terms for me), it dove into the idea of “push” teaching ideas vs “pull” teaching ideas.  This was the part of the chapter that really stood out for me.  I find that most of the curriculum we are asked to follow (as has been the case in all three districts in which I have worked) are, essentially, push curricula.  Reading how the authors defined pull philosophies of teaching reminded me of the few times throughout the year that I am able to include inquiry based extension projects into my practice.  I always get such meaningful results, but I am always struck with just how much time these projects take. In order for my students to truly dig in and guide their own learning as they solve the problems they are given with trial and error, they have to be given time that I often feel like we just don’t have.  That thinking is what led me to this book excerpt from Teaching for Meaningful Learning: a Review on Research of Inquiry-Based and Cooperative Learning by Dr. Brigid Barron and Dr. Linda Darling Hammond.  This book looks at all types of meaningful learning – it explores what different learning experiences look like in a classroom and it discusses the “benefits of inquiry-based and cooperative learning to help students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in a rapidly changing world”(Darling-Hammond, 1).  The findings that are outlined in this book are very interesting, and I could spend hours talking about them, but the piece of this reading that I want to focus on mainly is the section on implementation challenges, because that is where I struggle.  I understand completely the value of this type of learning experience, but that doesn’t make it easy to put into action.  I did get a few good ideas from this section of the book, including giving students a “design diary” that explicitly introduces the phases of the given work that they will be doing (for example, understanding the challenge, gathering information, generating a solution, and evaluating solutions).  The researchers found the most success when students were given specific prompts to respond to in their diary that would help guide and structure their learning.  While this doesn’t directly address the issue of finding the time to include this type of project, I can definitely see how having this diary might speed along the process – especially as the year goes on and the students get more confident with taking their learning into their own hands.

As I said, this was only a small excerpt from the book, but I think the values (although they are not specifically talking about media and technology practices) are in line with the chapter we read this week from Lankshear and Knobel.

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