Category Archives: Reflection

Should You Unplug from the tangled “WEB” we weave?

Wow!  It’s crazy how fast a spring class goes and how much you can learn when you take the time to step back and reflect.  I think that’s been my favorite part of ECI 830 – Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology.  The chance to talk about Ed Tech issues that are shaping our world with thoughtful, creative educators who are passionate about learning.

Our topic this week asked,

Have we become too dependent on technology and what we really need is to unplug?

cell-1344985_960_720Pixabay (TheHilaryClark) – CC0

It’s June and as educators, I think we are all counting down the days until we can unplug and step back and take a breath. Not because we don’t love what we do, but because whether tech related or not we all need a chance to recharge.  It helps keep us healthy.  Perhaps the question really is do we actively make time for ourselves?  Is it about unplugging or setting aside a few minutes in a day for you to recharge? Our devices need time to recharge maybe we do to:)

8bcaf3662f33c28e98e1cbf38e943aaf-610x475Image from 14 End of Year Memes That Any Teacher will Understand

I reflected in my summary of learning that how we choose to use technology impacts us directly, but as I continue to reflect it always comes back to balance.  And just what is balance?  In Dre’s final blog post, he talked about hanging out in the grey areas – the space between – finding moderation.

It’s how I choose to shape my life. It’s the small choices that I make each day that over time shape the life I live.

Chip & Dan Heath in The Switch and Malcolm Gladwell in the Tipping Point both noted the significance of context and how it’s often the small things that cause a change to tip one way or another.  It’s also about how you shape the path (context)… so if you aren’t thinking about it just who is shaping your ed tech path?

It brings to mind the story of Two Wolves told from a Grandfather to a Grandson…

Two Wolves
Screenshot from First People – The Legends

There’s always multiple perspectives to each issue, the one you feed will get stronger.  I think the scary part is how often do we stop and think about which wolf we are feeding? I know that this class has taken my Ed Tech reflection to an entirely new level.  In fact, I think it’s taken my ed tech interactions to a whole new level.  When I travel with my consultant colleagues to our various schools, we have time to talk in the car.  My colleagues are very supportive (I’m fortunate to be surrounded by SLPs, Counselors, OTs and Ed Psychs on my travels.  Talk about a amazing support team, outside of family and friends;)

My point is when you start the conversation…when you choose to step in and talk about the issues, you never know how it will ripple out and who will be impacted by your conversations.

Think about the number of different people you interact with on a daily basis – students, parents, teachers, Admin, support staff, community members….At one point in my teaching career I was seeing a minimum of 130 students a day.  The conversations that you have and your willingness to share your stories and your reflections matters. And those are just your face to face interactions, consider your online connections.  Think of the ripple effect… now consider if your conversations start a word of mouth epidemic… now there’s a potential tipping point (It’s a great read – Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point).

I found this week’s spoken word videos are a form of communication that maintains my attention (it seems to be harder to do in the days of information overload).  I love podcasts and Ted Talks but the rhythm and rhyme of spoken word creates a engaging flow of ideas.  I was drawn in by “If this video doesn’t convince you to put down your phone, nothing probably will.

He raises some thought worthy questions – Do touch screens make us lose touch?  We have large friend list but are we actually friendless?

Or in this case is the question more important than the answer?  Is it that it makes you stop to think for a moment?  And if it does resonate with you, will it cause a change?

Gary Turk also uses spoken word to encourage us to “Look Up” at the world around us.  Have we lost our connection skills?  What are we missing if we don’t look up?

 

Looking for an interesting read?   Margie Warrell‘s article “Text or Talk: Is Technology Making You Lonely?” explained how recent studies noted that “despite being more connected than ever, more people feel more alone than ever” (2012, para 2).  In fact the people who most reported feeling alone were in fact the most “prolific social networkers” (para. 2). She also shared that we have less close friends than we did 25 years ago and social media enables us to control our vulnerability and vanity…turns out that true connections require vulnerability and that means it isn’t always pretty. (Brene Brown‘s Daring Greatly – is an excellent read on the value of vulnerability).

binary-1327493_960_720Image from Pixabay – Geralt – CC0

Warrell suggested 7 strategies for building a “REAL” social network, I’d argue they are basic life strategies: (the bracketed comments are mine).

  1. Unplug (I’d say not just from tech but make time for you to recharge)
  2. Become a Better Listener (Always a good strategy)
  3. Engage in your community (not just online)
  4. Practice Conversation (Face to face interaction is more than words)
  5. Find Like Minds (Look around – who challenges you to grow?)
  6. Reconnect with long lost friends (go for coffee)
  7. Invite People over (Yes, but first I have to clean my house;)

Just this week I was talking with my colleagues and I mentioned how we had discussed the addiction to the internet in one of our many debates.  Interestingly, the counselors both mentioned that connection is the opposite of addiction and then they shared a comment that made me pause…. so what happens when we think we are helping someone’s addiction by taking away their device… how does that help them find meaningful connections? What determines meaningful?

Sophia Breene (2015) commented that “social media is the Green Eyed Monster’s preferred stomping ground” (Why Everyone Should Unplug More Often). It conjures up quite an image for me, but is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) causing us genuine anxiety?  Don’t laugh, an Anxiety UK study noted

“if you are predisposed to anxiety is seems that the pressures form technology act as a tipping point, making people feel more insecure and more overwhelmed.  These finding suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than be controlled by it” (Anxiety UK, 2012).

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Image from Pixabay – geralt – CC0

So if you’re not thinking about how tech is affecting your life, who or what is shaping your life? And do you lead two separate lives (online and offline) or just one augmented life that now encompasses the digital world. Jugenson (2011) reasoned we “live in one reality, one that is augmented by atoms and bits… an augmented self” (p.3). As far as I know, life exists in the moment we are living in. The online affects the offline which in some cases affects the online.  It’s a tangled web we weave.  And so I return to the idea that it’s the choices we make that affect the life we live.  Social media and tech are part of the world we exist in.

 It’s your choice to mix the atoms and the bits, but the more important question is do you every stop to think about how ______ is influencing your life and is that the life you want?  It’s your life, you get to write the next chapter. 

bfed9a_8bb1e1a124c049da987669c54296750bCreated using Canva

 

Thank-you to my ECI 830 classmates for stepping into the arena and sharing their stories.  It’s truly made for a rich learning experience.

way-1031336_960_720Image from Pixabay – Unsplash – CC0

So will I unplug? The end of July will mark an intense 23 months on the ETAD journey, starting a new business, working full time as a Learning Consultant and being with my family.  Have you ever heard your family and friends say I’ll see you after you finish your next class?   It was my choice, I shaped my own intense path.  I’m a self admitted workaholic that attempts to find balance each day (and I don’t always win – but I attempt to fight the battle and tech is only part of it).  It’s a work in progress.  By the end of July, I will complete my ETAD program which I’ve done completely online.

My favourite parts were when I went to Saskatoon to work on a couple group projects with classmates face to face…and the two times I attended class (Yes twice I attended Saturday classes).  It wasn’t the project or the class, it was that I had the chance to meet the people face to face.  It’s the fun of going to a PD event and meeting your online classmates in person.  And with that I pause… I’m a classic introvert and as introvert face to face interactions cost a lot more energy.  I think I’m more of an offline introvert online extrovert – it’s complicated (Collier, 2011, para 2).

I did attend one Saturday Grad Seminar on research ethics.  I opted to go in person, it was the loneliest seminar.  A room filled with people that I didn’t know from a diverse variety of colleges.  Everyone else appeared to know someone.  Sure I could have tried to add myself to a table but it was a month and a half into my masters journey and my network was all online and this seminar was for every new grad student at the university.  At the end of the day I wished I had taken it online…I might have met more people that way or at least found the ones that I only knew by their online profile pic and name.

So just keep in mind as you choose to use different types of technology and instructional strategies in your classes, each choice affects each of us differently.  So variety is important as it gives us all time to recharge and step out of our comfort zones once in a while.

Without the connectivty of online classes, I wouldn’t have gone back to school at this point in my life.  Two hours away from a university makes for long drives just to get to class. I’m glad I chose to complete my masters online, but how deep you go online has human costs.  I’m very thankful for a supportive family and close friends (no one does the Master’s program alone all your friends and family do it with you;) and that goes for my online friends that have supported me too.

So will I unplug? I have to say I’m looking forward to evenings where I can choose whether or not I engage online. There will of course be the mandatory summer hermit phase when I attempt to recharge (do all teachers go through this or just me?), but in the hermit phase I’ll still be online.  Will I disconnect from tech?  Not likely.  Will I attempt to be more conscious about my choices. Yes.  Will I think twice before I fall into a pattern?  I think this class has certainly opened my eyes.   In Go Pro, Eric Worre, explained that you become most like the 5 people you spend the most time with and these people will change as you grow and learn.  So I hope I’m aware of who’s around me and that together we will find ways to connect in and step out in a dynamic balance (equilibrium).  After all if you walk into a room and you are the smartest person there, you are in the wrong room.

Unplug or not, it’s really about the way to you choose to experience your life.  Will you leave a well documented online legacy or will family and friends be the ones to share your stories around the fire for years to come?

What will your story be?


What’s your Story? Here’s the Story of my ECI 830 Journey

So what’s my story?  What did I learn?  ECI 830 has provided many thought provoking opportunities for reflection on the Ed Tech world.  Here’s my attempt to try and sum up my learning journey.  Because Alec & Katia classes are different than my Blackboard based U of S Educational Technology and Design  (ETAD) classes, I’ve included a short section at the start of the video that highlights how we learn in this class.  It will be added to my ETAD Portfolio because after I’m brave enough to post my summary of learning and share my last debate reflection this will conclude class 9 of 10 on my ETAD journey.  Next up is an independent study on Leadership – Is there a difference between our face to face and online worlds?

So here’s my video….
—The first part is more my style and then, like a fellow ECI 830 student mentioned, I stepped way outside my comfort zone and attempted to rewrite a song.  (I should mention my husband plays in a band (guitar and vocals)… I don’t sing…in public…or very loud… so this is way outside my comfort zone – hopefully your ears are okay after;)  It’s hiding at the end of the video.

–I’ve attempted to rewrite & perform the Johnny Cash version of I won’t Back Down – It’s now called, “I Will Step In.”  Special thanks to my husband, David, for recording the guitar & background vocals and not laughing at me while I attempted to sing it:)  He helped edit the musical track together for the song. (It was quite the process, first he recorded the guitar track, then I had to sing, then he added the harmonies… glad he’s a DJ, rockstar, shop teacher. And did I mention… he always sings the Johnny Cash songs that the band plays)

All images included in the video are sourced from Pixabay Creative Commons CC0 & Screenshots by Stephanie

Our debates reminded me of the Story of Two Wolves shared by a Grandfather to his Grandson.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight and it’s between two wolves.”

“One is evil, he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt and ego.

“The other is good, he is joy, peace, love, hope, serentiy, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“This is the same fight going inside you – and inside every other person, too”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?

He replied simply, “The one you feed.”

There’s always two sides to the story, to the issue – careful which one you feed.

Thank-you for watching!  I truly appreciated learning with everyone!! Truly one of the highlights of my Masters class journey.  I can’t thank you enough for sharing your stories and different perspectives.  It’s truly added to the richness of the class.

Wishing everyone a restful and re-energizing summer and smooth sailing your Masters journey.

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No need to keep reading – this is just my reflection on how I came to learn what I did in ECI 830:)  It’s a more detailed description of what I tried to put into video with a top 10 things I learned.


What’s my story? 

The non-video version


Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. – Martin Luther King Jr.

It started with a decision to apply to the ETAD program in April of 2014, a letter welcoming me to the program and the fun of trying to register and figure out classes. Class #1 started in September of 2014, the same day my daughter started Kindergarten.  Coincidentally, the same summer the Color By Amber came to Canada and I started a home based business all while I worked as a Learning Consultant.   Because when opportunity comes along you just have to go for it.

 

Change is an ever present force in our lives and you can either fight it or learn and grow .  So why not step out of your comfort zone and see just want you can do.

Fast forward to the count down to my two remaining classes.  I reached out to Alec Couros to see what might be available at the U of R and he suggested ECI 830 – Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology – one SUGA agreement and a “hey, so we just found out your are in our class from Katia and her I am.  Working on finishing class #9. (Okay this post means the class is almost finished:)

The more learning I do the more I find we are all connected by the stories we tell and those that we share. ECI 830 enabled me to step out of my ETAD comfort zone and meet a whole new network of amazingly talented, reflective and creative teachers. So here’s the story of ECI 830….Contemporary Issues in Educational Technology… which is really a fancy way of saying in the world around us;)

Having just finished a full year of amazing Kitchen Parties with the legendary Rick Schwier, I was excited to join my fellow colleagues each Tuesday night at 7 for our Great Ed Tech Debates.

I use zoom with my business team so it was great to see it in action live with an entire class.

Instead of textbook we shared articles each week and instead of lectures we debated ed tech topics.

We shared evidence of our learning through blogs, which is something that I’ve always wanted to do but have just never had the time to do consistently.
We used WordPress to share our ideas and interact with each other.

In ETAD, we typically posted behind the blackboard walls in discussion forums so this provided a public forum for us to share our ideas.

I’ve never met these educators before but they  are shaping my stories by choosing to share theirs.

Twitter gave us another chance to connect and share our ideas and grow our personal learning network.

Finding that online community that energizes and encourages you to grow is like finding a treasure.  Together we shared not only our stories but our articles, blogs, podcasts and TED Talks all intended to help us better understand the Ed Tech issues all around us.

While the class talked about focusing on Ed Tech trends and issues, it’s really a course that any citizen would benefit from.  Our topics don’t just affect our schools and our students, they affect our lives and our children….that’s who our students are.  These issues affect all of us.

Alec and Katia carefully crafted the debate statements to get us to dig deeper and think more reflectively about how the issue affect us and our teaching.

Let’s break that down who’s affected….

You – students, parents, teachers, admin, division, community members…

  • your kids, your family, your friends
  • your social media connections…

The conversations that you have matter and whether you choose to step in or just listen impacts the ripple effect of your legacy.

Does technology enhance learning in the classroom?

Technology is all around us.  It comes in many forms from the pencil with an eraser, scissors, to mobile devices, to the cell phone in your hand, to 3D printers.  There will always be technology.  It’s not inherently bad or good, it’s what you do with the technology you have that has the ability to enhance learning.

Should you teach anything that can be Googled?

Google is an integral part of our lives, if I said just Google it – you’d know what to do.  Does our 24/7 access to information replace what we need to teach?  It all depends how you teach; moreover, how you assess?  If your students can just google the answer, what is it we are teaching them?  Let’s remember that for information to become knowledge we have to think about it – Google doesn’t think about it it’s programmed to find connections – it’s up to us to use our brain to make sense of the world we encounter and as educators it is up to us to reflect on how we authentically assess students in a information based world.

 What we choose to value in the learning process is going to echo forward for years to come.

Our class challenged the notion that memorization is bad, just think of all of the processes you’ve learned that have become automatic.  It’s about what we choose to memorize and the purpose of investing in it.  I’m more of a connectivist – yes there’s knowledge I need to hold in my own brain but there’s also an immense of amount of knowledge that I can connect to in my learning network (Google or the human kind).

Is technology making our kids unhealthy?

Is it making all of us unhealthy? Again it’s developing an awareness.  Each week I find myself stepping back and looking at my world through a more reflective lens. Is my love of technology making me unhealthy? Or rather do I need to be more aware of the lifestyle choices that I am making?  Tech is just a tool – before mobile devices, TVs were bad influences and before that books contained information that might just make us want to stay in one place until we finished the story.

As Audrey Watters pointed out, we always seem to have amnesia when it comes to new technology – as if we are the first ones to struggle with the challenges of tech.  Are our problems must be more significant than those before us.

Isn’t it really about how we choose to use the tech? It’s how I choose to shape my life? You have to find the balance.

Is openness and sharing unfair to our kids?

Again it’s about the choices you make…. although I may be a bit biased.  In a social media, knowledge based world where your life, as Alec pointed out, seems to be public by default and private by effort.  I think we (educators and parents) have to teach our children how to become thoughtful, digital citizens that are aware of how their actions will impact their future.  Every generation has things to learn and learning what and how to share may be one of the top five things to understand. Like the agree side explained, you are essentially creating a digital tattoo that will live years beyond you.

What do you want your legacy to be?

Is technology is a force for equity in society?

Let’s step back from technology – how do you create equity in your classroom?

Tech has the potential to be a force for equity, but it depends on how you use the tools you choose to use, how you choose to use them and the prior knowledge that your students bring to the table.

Equity doesn’t just happen, people consistently choose to look, listen and reflect on the environment they are creating in their class. In a diverse world, it’s important for us to recognize that culture shapes the way our brains make sense of the world.  So you are going to have to step out of your comfort zone and choose to value equity.

This is the week I learned about Storientation = sharing your story builds connections, listening to the stories of others develops trust and being aware of your organization’s story shapes the path you are on.

Like Malcom Gladwell shared in the “Tipping Point” and Chip and Dan Heath explained in “The Switch” – it’s the small consistent choices that we make that truly shape the path and move us toward our goals.  Tech is only one piece of the puzzle.

Is Social Media ruining childhood?

Social media has changed childhood.

As educators and parents, we need to be aware of what we choose to share and the medium we choose to share it in.  If you are choosing what you post on social media, you are branding yourself.  Changing the identity of a brand isn’t easy so learning strategies to think through things before you post is an important strategy in continuing to build a digital footprint. You wouldn’t send your child to the park unsupervised to spend the day with strangers, so use your not so common, common sense.

Make the effort to be aware of the world you live in and make the best choices you can to help build resilient children that have a well developed tool box of strategies to not just cope but thrive in today’s social world.

Has public education sold it’s soul to corporate interests?

Of all the debates this this one opened my eyes… not that I was oblivious to education’s connections to business. It’s part of life. Schools will always need supplies, tools and tech from the non educational world, what tugged at my heart was …it’s not something I actively reflect on very often. I love google, office, windows, android, apple, share point…. I use the tech I have access to – to create the best learning opportunities I can for my students and staff.  If it’s free, all the better… but how do my choices ripple out?  When I choose to use Google Apps because it’s free for education do I ever stop to have the conversation with my students about why I chose this tool?

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my Coordinator or Student Support Services. Attribution theory – as we reviewed IIPs she reminded me it’s great to explicitly teach students the strategies they need but we also need students to learn to think about why choosing that strategy in that context works.  It’s important for them to attribute their success to choosing the tool or strategy appropriately.

After all if I tried to use one thing for everything, it just wouldn’t work, but if I step back and choose the tool or strategy that best fits the situational need, then I’m more likely to find success.

What have I learned on this journey?

  1. If you are too comfortable with what you know maybe you haven’t thought about it enough
  2. Learning is messy and that’s good.
  3. It’s all about perspective.  We each come to the table with different ideas and strengths and that’s the best part – it’s how we learn by sharing ideas and challenging each other to think outside our comfort zone
  4. If you walk into a room and you think you are the smartest person you are in the wrong room!  You become like those you interact with, so choose to surround yourself with people that are going to challenge you to grow outside your comfort zone in positive ways.
  5. The more I learn the less I know & there’s always more to learn
  6. There’s always two sides to every issue, every story has at least two sides.  It’s important to respect and listen to the challenges and questions raised by those that lie outside your initial zone of comfort…. you always have to listen first.
  7. Dean Benko explained that you have to find the balance – when you do you will find a state of flow.
  8. It’s not about the technology its about what you do with what you have… then again in our last debate … does it matter the kind of tech you have?
  9. Data and information are just that – knowledge is created by individual minds drawing on individual experience.. making value judgements based on their experiences….tech makes info and data easier to access, more visual and what seems at first easier to interpret… but that of course depends on who created the parameters of what to graph out? Just because it looks pretty doesn’t mean it’s any more valid – you have to think critically and look deeper.
  10. Our ultimate goal is to encourage our students (our children) and those around us to become an engaged, multi-literate learners that care enough to think critically about the information, the environment and it’s sources that they encounter and choose to make a decisions based on their experiences.  As Toffler says,  the future belongs to the those who can learn, unlearn and relearn.

To reach the end is really to begin again and write the next chapter.

So here’s to the next chapter. 

to reach the end

 


Let me Google that for You…

This week I had a tough assignment.  I had to debate the question, ‘should schools teach things that can be googled?’  I was arguing the agree side of this debate and I found it challenging to say the least.  I enjoyed researching the science behind how people learn and the importance of meta-cognition in the ways we organize information in our brains and make sense of it.  In essence this debate question came down to whether students should be taught the basic facts that have been standardized across our society or whether we should be encouraging more critical thinking and skill development.  On a much deeper level this becomes a question about curriculum and who decides what knowledge is required for use in society.  For example, is it necessary for everyone in our society to memorize the periodic table of elements?  For those of us who did memorize it in high school, is the recall of that information possible or necessary at this point? Furthermore, the periodic table is easily searchable online and readily available.  I am far from saying that the information in the table is irrelevant, however I am suggesting that the memorization of these types of facts may not be necessary or beneficial for life after school.

Is this to say that we shouldn’t teach anything that we can find online?  On the contrary, their are some sets of knowledge that are necessary at a base level in order to continue the scaffolding of knowledge.  Amy Signh brought up a good point concerning reading and the alphabet.  Can we find the alphabet on Google?  Of course we can, so why do we teach young children to memorize a song that helps them remember the letters?  We do this because this base knowledge is necessary for the development of the SKILL of reading.  Students need to be able to recognize the letters of the alphabet in order to practice and develop their reading skills.  This is a key element because if we intend to prepare students for life after school, we must take the next step and help students move beyond base level memorization of facts to the synthesis, analysis and constructive phases of learning.

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“Students who create, build, invent and lead SOMETHING in high school are those who not only stand out in the college application process, but they are also those who are more sure of themselves and more confident about their abilities.”-Alex Ellison

So how should we be preparing students for life after school.  Firstly, students should be given opportunities to deepen their understanding of material through practical application.  The difference between memorization and understanding is an important distinction that needs to be present in the organization and planning of learning activities.  In essence, teachers need to assure that students are being moved from passive learning to active learning.  In other words, instead of listening to or reading information from a textbook or computer, students should be given opportunities to participate in hands on learning and then reflect on what happened and why.  Research has shown that as knowledge is applied and experienced, it is embedded further in our active memory.

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I have been very involved over the past number of years in the Middle Years Practical and Applied Arts.  As my fellow teachers and I developed kits that allowed the hands on application of scientific and mathematical principles, I began using these types of Project based learning and Inquiry models in my classroom.  I quickly discovered a few very important things.  Firstly, there is an improvement in student engagement inherent in any activity that requires practical application.  I have definitely witnessed students who normally struggle with traditional styles of teaching and learning soar to new heights when given the opportunity.  Students who have difficulty sitting in desks thrive when given a chance to use and develop hands-on skills.  Secondly, the light bulb moments come thick and fast while students are building and discovering together through experiences.  Here’s an example from our classroom in which the students created a Mbira (Finger Piano) while working with fractions, measurement, sound waves, and world cultures.  I could have given my students this information in other ways but I wanted to have them share in a challenging hands-on experience and then reflect through blogging on the process (Meta-Cognition).

It will always be a difficult question to consider.  What and how should students be learning in schools?  Let’s not forget that the entire traditional classroom design was born out of the Industrial Revolution.  Society had to find a way to produce workers for factories that would have a set of basic skills in math and language to be able to continue in the labor force.  Education systems sought to have a standardized set of skills and values adopted by all society members and students, just like future labor force workers were to be compliant and obedient to authority.  The rise of public education was due in large part to the Industrial Revolution but the school system itself was modelled in large part after the factories of the time.  As we now know, we cannot educate students as we move pieces through a factory.  This is why it is crucial that teachers focus on giving students engaging and investigative opportunities for experiential and problem based learning.

So can we forget about teaching base knowledge because most of those tidbits of information can be found on Google?  The result of this type of teaching approach would most likely result in much confusion and lack of direction.  On the other hand, teaching through wrote memorization exclusively does not serve to challenge our students, make them curious, help them solve problems or give them skills necessary for life in the real world.  Scaffolding is the key and any good teacher is constantly evaluating, planning and reflecting on their students as they move through the levels of blooms taxonomy.  I think we can all remember studying for hours for an exam, only to write it and immediately forget most if not all of the information.  If students are simply memorizing answers for a test, deeper understanding is lacking.  We need to ask ourselves, are our students being given the skills and understanding they need to thrive after the last school bell rings?