Category Archives: hamlet

To Google or Not to Google

Should we focus on teaching things that should be googled?  I still stand by my debate team and say a resounding yes!  For our debate, we decided to focus on three key ideas:

  1. Critical Thinking Skills Without the Aid of Google
  2. Memorization Holds a Key Part in Education and in Life
  3. Google is Hindering Our Ability to Concentrate and Focus

To watch our introduction video, click here!

After the debate, I realized there is even more we could have focused on, including the einsteinidea of “fake news” and our students’ ability to interpret it, and the idea of curiosity as a skill.  I touched on this slightly in my closing statements, but I hold strong on the idea that children and teenagers NEED to be curious!  If they are not curious with their ideas, then where is the creativity?  Where is the innovation?  Where are the skills that they will NEED in the future?  The “agree” team posted a video: Knowledge is Obsolete, so Now What? spoken by Pavan Arora and I do agree with them.  Some knowledge is becoming obsolete, but not all of it is obsolete.  Key math skills, and basic understanding of the English language are incredibly important!  And whether my students believe it or not, they will need to add, subtract, create ratios, convert measurements and be able to do it quickly and will not always have the assistance of their phones.

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Examples of the consequences of bad grammar!

autoWhen it comes to English and writing skills, everyone will need to know how to properly write an email, a cover letter, and important text messages.  You cannot text your boss that you are ill, and send something full of abbreviations and misspellings.

Of course, Pavan’s argument goes beyond this.  He discusses the idea that children of today, will not have jobs that exist today, so how do we educate them so that they are ready?  He states our job is to “teach our children how to access knowledge, how to assess knowledge and how to apply knowledge.”  Our group never stated that teachers should not use google or that students should be banned from using it for research.  Our focus was to use it with purpose and not simply answer students questions by saying “google it.”  Students need to use their critical thinking skills first and develop their own opinions before they start accessing the internet and using someone else’s opinion for make their opinion.  Things like facts, should be checked and students need to figure out how to weave the web to find the good stuff, the right stuff and make educated decisions based on the information found.

The same goes for memorization.  Imagine having a conversation with someone who didn’t know the basics of the discussion and everything they had to say, had to come from google.

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These ideas of fact checking have their place, but it is much easier if we teach certain skills and basic understandings so that students CAN apply the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.  Memorization is the base of the levels so students need some ideas or thinking critically or innovative will not happen easily!

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Students always ask me why we have to study Hamlet.  I’ve thought about it, and is it necessary, no, but is it relevant, absolutely.  I tell my students, what better way to learn than from a story.  There are many life lessons from Hamlet that can be applied to the real world, and probably some irrelevant information as well but sometimes a piece of literature can help a student through a situation or they find a quote that really means something to them, and they hold onto it.  In a world where mental health is a huge concern and we are trying to advocate for it, I show my students Hamlet – a depressed character who has been through a lot (the murder of his father and the marriage of his mother and uncle) voicing how sad he is, and no one listens.  We discuss the importance of listening to each other and helping each other.  He even has soliloquys about dying and wanting to die.  Some of my students can unfortunately relate to that so we discuss the ideas of suicide and how Hamlet really feels right now.  We talk about mental health and the differences between then and now and I would say it’s the most important thing we discuss in my class.  to beAnd you know what, they don’t forget it.  I have students come back and tell me, it is still their favourite Shakespeare play and they still remember the story!  Of course, there are also ideas of following through with your actions and thinking before you act; watching the effect you have on others around you, and many other life lessons that are better experienced through literature than life itself (I mean, I don’t think anyone wants to plot the murder of their uncle and see what consequences follow, so probably better to read about it 😉 )I think Shakespeare also helps interpret language we don’t understand, students have to find meaning in it, and it helps them understand bigger ideas, and see how far our language has really come and it’s awesome to watch!

This example also leads into our third argument about deep-reading and reading for understanding.  Of course, the internet and the process of skimming are valuable skills but so is reading and actually remembering what you read.  I know I struggle to focus on the computer, especially for long articles or even books online.  If I print them; totally different story!  Anyone else??  The idea of reading and understanding is becoming a lost art and I know my students struggle with it.  Lots of them turn to Sparknotes or other websites to tell them what happened in the novel instead of reading it themselves which can be really frustrating as a teacher.  5There is so much more to a piece of writing than just the summary and it can help them become better writers, and critical thinkers if they actually attempt to interpret the writing for themselves.  Even looking at the ideas of themes or choices characters make can help them deeply in terms of their depth of knowledge and understanding of other people.  In Is Google Making Us Stupid, Nicholas Carr makes an excellent stating, “our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged” when we are browsing the internet.  I think he is 100% correct.  I know the “agree” team argued this point stating that it’s a different type of skill we are gaining and I totally agree.  And I think it is excellent that we can skim dozens of articles to find something meaningful to use for our own research but I’m also talking about stories and books and those need to be read to be truly understood.  Deep reading is a valuable skill and one I’m worried we will lose if we don’t continue to make kids read!  What will happen to all the old literature, the beautiful stories, and even our own history if we only skim it in the future?

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So to conclude, I still think there is a place for memorization and facts in the classroom.  There is value in teaching things that can be found on the internet.  Do I think we should erase the internet all together?  NOPE!  It’s not going anywhere and we do need to teach our students to be responsible digital citizens and be able to navigate the web responsibly and effectively for information.  It all depends on your purpose.  And honestly, if we are teaching students that the first response to a question is to google it, I don’t think we are teaching them correctly.  We should let them be curious, think about the answer, find their own idea, and then turn to the internet because that will have more meaning, they will remember the lesson more, and they will automatically think more deeply and critically about the response they found if it contradicts their own.

Sharing is Caring

I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve really shared to my best capability as a young, millennial could.  I have all the knowledge, and the tools and yet I don’t feel like my lessons or ideas are valuable enough to share or for someone else to use in the online world.  This is funny, because I don’t hesitate to hand over lesson plans, ideas, binders, or

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Via Tenor

USB sticks of information to fellow teachers in my building.  If there is ever a need, I oblige and give any of my colleagues what they need, in hopes that one day the favour will be returned if I ever need it.  In my short 5 year career, I’ve taught a whopping 18 different curriculums at a high school level.  I know, in my earlier years, teachers handed me lots of resources and now it’s my turn to help some young, stressed out teacher play the part.  In Sharing: The Moral Imperative, Dean Shareski talks about how it is our responsibility to share these resources not just with our colleagues in the building, but with the world and I totally agree.  I think that main reason I haven’t, is because I’ve never actually thought about it!  I should.  I’ve had many compliments on my plans and curriculum.  I’ve made a bunch of “original” projects that would and could be useful to many teachers, especially in Saskatchewan.

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Via LinkedIn

We discussed in class one night about who owns our lesson plans?  Us?  Or the division?  In some cases, it is the division, but I know in Prairie South, sharing is encouraged and I don’t think I would ever be reprimanded for sharing resources online via Twitter or my blog.  I think my personal barriers is thinking that my work will not be of benefit to others, even though I’m sure this is not the case.  As Dani stated in her vlog, she didn’t think her post would be noticed even though she should have known better.  I feel the same way.  I think I get caught up in the idea that the internet is SO big, how would my tiny footprint, make a difference.  I also think I haven’t shared online because in my busy day, posting an assignment or idea to Twitter seems irrelevant and like more work sometimes.  It’s super quick and easy, but it’s just not something I consciously think about on a day-to-day basis.

The benefits to sharing work and collaborating online are incredible!  Dean discusses a few examples in his video and the one that stood out to me the most was Dan Meyer’s Math Stories.  He put over 18 hours of work into one lesson.  ONE. And he felt validated by it because he shared it and had over 6, 000 people download and use it within a couple of weeks.  I think as educators, we get stuck in our bubble and in reality, there is SO much information out there that can help ease the stress and pressure on teachers to 3590412-quotes-about-teacher-collaborationbe innovative.  If teachers learn how to use the information, filter through resources and had time to collaborate together, I think there would be a lot more sharing going on.  Teachers need some professional development and education geared toward how to share, why it’s so important, and the benefits that can ensue.  I think that the younger generation of teachers is a lot more equipped to help this movement become a reality, however I think there needs to be support by divisions and maybe even time in a day, week, or month to collaborate with others in their buildings to help develop a sharing network for teachers.  The movement needs to begin small, and with an implementation like that, I think it would be possible to create a culture of collaboration.

Sharing students work is another story.  I think it is great to get their ideas out there and

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Via ComicStrips

amazing things can happen.  Students can learn more authentically and understand how to navigate social networking sites and be able to filter through information.  I’m starting a project with my ELA B30 class as we begin Hamlet.  In the past, I’ve struggled to make it authentic and get them to really buy in.  I created an assignment after browsing a few websites on making Hamlet relevant.  I decided to use social media to help them relate to the characters (with some motivation from this class).  I want them engaged so I’ve decided to get them to create character profiles for the whole play.  They have the option of doing it alone or in groups and they have the option to interact with each other online as characters or as an omnipresent narrator. Here’s the link to the assignment (also my first attempt at sharing my work online): http://bit.ly/2AYEYJO. I’m pretty proud of this assignment already and I think the students are already engaged with it as I had two new Instagram followers (Hamlet characters) yesterday immediately following me handing it out!  I will keep you posted as we progress through the play and I hope to actually share some of their posts if they are good! Of course, I’d love to know what you think of the assignment? Maybe a fellow Senior English teacher like Kelsie could chime in?  Anything I could tweak?  And what do you think would get teachers more involved in openly sharing resources online?