Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Curiosity in the Classroom- EdTech Talk

Though the conversation I listened to on EdTech Talk didn't discuss how technology affects it, the talk I listened to focused on curiosity in the classroom. We examined how to foster creativity and how a curious classroom appears. The issue that came up again and again throughout the discussion from the speakers was time, but what I saw at the bottom of most issues was motivation and the responsibilities of a teacher beyond curriculum.

Sheila, Maria and Lisa constantly discussed how we need to give students time to be curious and how though wrong answers and misconceptions provide a huge opportunity to foster curiosity, the time to explore and elaborate on something that isn't necessarily part of the curriculum is a huge challenge. What they all agreed on though, that curiosity is a key to being successful learners.

While trying to define curiosity, someone mentioned that curiosity is asking questions. As much as I think that's a sign of curiosity, I think it goes much further beyond that. As a student, I have asked questions not because I really want to know something, but sometimes it's because I feel like it's something that might be on a test or something that was unclear and I feel is SUPPOSED to be important, but I'm not personally invested. In my opinion, fostering curiosity is attributed 100% to finding intrinsic motivation. If an educator differentiates curriculum enough to allow a student to focus on areas in which they are interested that relate to the unit, curiosity should be organic. Lisa joked that "we teach them things they don't care about," but I think as a passionate and interested teacher, part of doing your job well is to find ways to make them care. Present the information interesting ways, make it relevant to their lives, make THEM find ways to make it relevant to their lives.

At the same time, I think it's also the job of teachers to create an environment in which students feel comfortable to be curious. Knowing that asking questions will be well received and encouraged is crucial to learning and curiosity. It's the job of all teachers to, from day one, to create a genuine sense of community where students accept one another and the teacher models that for everyone. I think a part of that, and it's something I really worry about as a future teacher, is a willingness to talk about thing's teachers are "not supposed" to talk about. What students often want information on is what is going on in the world, in their communities, in their families, in their school- they are curious about the things that affect their everyday lives, the world they live in, etc.

Is it always relevant to curriculum? Probably not, but it is important that our students look at school as a safe learning environment, learning is all inclusive and happens every moment in the day, more outside of a structured classroom than within. It is important that educators encourage students to find and examine information and that students have a place that they feel safe to ask some tough questions or discuss some difficult aspects of history or current events. Students should feel like the teacher is honest with them and willing to delve into subjects of all kinds, and they should especially feel like teachers are there to help them learn more about things of which they're curious.

Overall, I liked this edtech talk better than the last one I heard though there wasn't much direct discussion about technology. That being said, I think it's easy to see how much technology plays a role in curiosity whether it's through providing exposure to new ideas or providing further information about existing ideas. It did make me sad that it was so openly acknowledged that there is little time to foster and allow curiosity because of the curriculum that needs to be taught. To me, kids need to be taught about things that they see as fascinating and relevant to create a love of learning that will hopefully spread into subjects of all kinds.

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