Wednesday, January 20, 2010

January's Book Club Book

Note: I apologize in advance for this blog post. The thoughts are disjointed and the grammar is horrible, but I wanted to get my thoughts about the book down quickly before I forget about them for the rest of the day.

Dear blog,
For our book club book this month, we read "Why Don't Students Like School?" by Daniel T. Willingham. Willingham makes several excellent points that I agree with regarding why students don't learn. One of which is that thinking is hard. I mean honestly, why think when you can already get the answer quickly somewhere else? However, he also states that students do like to think as a challenge as long as the challenge presented by the teacher is seen as having the ability to be solved.

Other important points that Willingham makes is that students need to "think" about what they are learning in order for it to go into their long term memory. In other words, students need to spend time and practice what they are learning in order for it to stay in their long term memory, so they can possibly use it later in life. He states many examples and studies that prove this. And I would have to agree with him. I have learned many things in my lifetime and I would have to say that the things that have stuck with me are the things I had to do over and over and over again. Or things that I thought about over and over and over again. That's why we tend to remember movie plots better than abstract concepts taught in school because we spend more time with the characters and story rather than the abstract concept that the teacher only presents us with for 40 minutes in class.

He also goes into using examples when presenting students with a problem and emphasizing the need to give the students something concrete for students to use when explaining abstract concepts. Furthermore, he states that making a lesson like a story (or like a movie) helps students better remember what is being taught, whether it's a history lesson or math lesson. The diagram he has in his book showing the story arch of the beginning of World World II from the Japanese perspective reminds me a little bit of the instructional design hierarchy we learned about in the ETEC master's program.

One other aspect of the book that I like is that he makes an argument against one of the main key points of progressive education. Progressive education emphasizes the need to be all inclusive to ALL cultures in order for students to learn and relate to the material provided. However, Willingham states that that is not necessarily the case. It's the background information that students need and that they need to spend time with in order to learn and for it to be a challenge. I'd have to agree with this. I am Chinese-Caucasian, but I love learning about Japanese and Indian culture. Those cultures are not my own, but I love learning about them because I have spent a lot of time learning about them and have always challenged myself with learning about them.

Overall, I am not sure I would use this book in an Educational Technology class. It is quite useful in regards to teaching in general but specifically for instructional design, I am not sure. It does present some key points that can relate to instructional design (example vs. non-example, using a story like diagram to design a lesson), but overall I cannot say I would use it. I'd have to think about it.

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