As a teacher, I bet you have heard the question “When will we use this?” As a student I can confirm that this goes through many of our minds. Students always want to know when the material they are taught in school will help them later in life. I aspire to be an architect when I grow up and have been dreaming up ways teachers could help me and other students achieve their goals. Specialized learning is a very good way to do this. Specialized learning zeros in on the interests of students and sneaks the material in with activities.
Since I know this as a freshman, if I study my classes while incorporating things about architecture, I would know even more about it for when I grow up. Many people end up not liking or being good at their choices in college. Specialized learning would let people figure this out before they spend big money to take a college course that didn’t contribute to what they were trying to do.
Specialization of learning is learning based on interests, careers for example. The curriculum would be based around the students interests so the students could learn the material while simultaneously finding out more about the job that they are interested in. For example, my obsession with architecture. All the work I would do would contain direct ties to architecture. For instance, instead of reading the generic high school books, I would read books like Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor and Architecture: A World History by Daniel Borden, Jerzy Ezlanowski, and Joni Taylor. It can also be incorporated into writing. General questioned essays allow students to take a path most suited to them. For teaching speaking, have conversations with students about their interests. This will develop good speaking skills. This is great because it allows students to learn more about what they want to be while still learning what is required. Teachers should still be teaching material. “A reasonable goal…might be 50 percent time for inquiry, design, and collaborative project learning and 50 percent for more traditional and direct methods of instruction.” (21st Century Learning, 2009). This split would still allow the material to be received by the students while giving them the opportunity to use it while learning about concepts that will help them long term and that they are interested in.
In the English classroom, specialization of learning could be tied in to all the standards. An example that is already being used are quick writes. Providing thought provoking questions while allowing the students to dive deep into it allows them to practice writing while writing about their interests. However, these are just a quick start for the class and not normally the focus. This led to the idea of students having their own websites where they put information about what they want to be when they grow up. Using a website builder like Weebly, students would create and personalize the site to their liking. The pictures and overall feel of the website should show both the personality and career choice. On the first page, they would put up an “about me” where they would write a summary of themselves. This should include explanations of their personalities, interests, and facts about themselves. Also on that page, the students would put a section dedicated to explaining the occupation and summarize what they do. This description should include briefly hitting on what the main goal of the job is, how the job is important to society, and if the job is popular. This should be completed and very well written by the end of the first week. Students could then go back and change different aspects of the writings as interests and focuses change. The second page would be a space for the facts of the job. Some aspects that should be on this page would include the average working time, the average wage, a more in depth description of the job, the schooling required, and more. The set up for this page could vary. Personally, I would have a main paragraph going through the basics. I would also have a bullet point list of more in depth facts. These should be facts that would help the students in the occupation. This should be worked on and added to over time. The third page would be dedicated to creativity. Depending on the job, this page could contain many different aspects. Since I want to be an architect, I would put some of the designs I drew on this page. I also would explain why I put specific components in the design and why they were effective and attractive. But this page would also allow other jobs that don’t involve design. If the students do not have a job where design is prominent, like accounting, then they will need to be creative with this page. For example, student ideas for innovating the spreadsheet, the way money flow is tracked, et cetera. Or for a teacher, the students could make creative lesson plans from the point of view of the student. As students start designing and creating, amazing innovations could arise at a young age, leading to a more productive future. There should be a post containing the creative idea and explanation every week. The fourth page would consist of a writing space for assignments. Let the students be creative with the topics and writing on this page. The last page would be a page of choice for the students. Let them innovate and find different ideas to put up. This will, in a way, force students to innovate and create using new ideas. Some students are not sure what they want to be when they grow up. In this case, talk with them and help them reach a conclusion. In later blog posts, I hope to go in to detail on how this works in a ninth grade classroom as my English teacher has allowed me to pilot this in fourth quarter.
This website would allow students to learn English and more about their job choice at the same time. Also, this teaches real life skills. “Surrounded by digital media and media choices, 21st century students need to understand how to best apply the media resources available for learning and to use media creation tools to create compelling and effective communication products such as videos, audio podcasts, and Web sites.” (21st Century Skills). The website will contribute to learning how to best use websites and the internet. Most students do not like to write at all. “Perhaps it is not the writing that they are reticent about, but the vehicle for that writing.” (Rewired, 2010). Students use social media and anything online for writing and posting. The website gives the platform for them. Students are going to know how to do effective analytical writing and how to write casually. Both of these forms can be taught and used on the website.
Rosen, Larry D., Mark L. Carrier, and Nancy A. Cheever. Rewired: Understanding the IGeneration and the Way They Learn. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Print.
Trilling, Bernie, and Charles Fadel. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our times. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.