Saturday, January 03, 2015

Making Mods

I've loved guitars as long as I can remember, even before I started playing in grade 7 because my dad played so there was always a guitar around the house.  I didn't want to bore my 6 readers here about my interest in guitars, so I started a new blog .   

The thing is while I started the blog as an aside or even an escape from thinking and blogging about education, I keep seeing the parallels in my thinking when I write about things guitar.  I've only written a handful of posts on the guitar blog, and a couple of them are about modding, or making modifications to my guitars. 

After chewing on those posts, I began to realize that my views on modding guitars are almost the same as my views to "modding" teaching.  I tend to buy cheap, imperfect electric guitars, and then change the pickups on them, or swap out the tuners, or change necks on them.  Similarly, I tend to get a basic understanding of a teaching method and then change the components as I go.  Like my cheap guitars, I am okay with imperfections and uncertainty as long as I can make changes to suit my needs.  With guitars, it is about sound and feel; with teaching, it is about learning and feel (or relationships).

I've mentioned on this blog that I can't follow someone else's lesson plan or teacher's guides. I am not inherently a non-conformist. It is more that I am lazy and can't be bothered to read lesson plans, or I have more desire to make things my own than to follow someone else's recipe.  I think my explorations with classroom design reflect this attitude.  I am tweaking and modding the concept of a learning environment to suit my needs and the needs of my students.  All of my mods reflect my desire to maximize learning, enhance self-regulation, and to strengthen the bonds I have with my students.  Sound and feel, indeed. 

I want my modding philosophy to be reflected not just in my teaching but in my students' learning.  To be clear, teaching and learning are always the same thing.  I have this great, cosy classroom where students choose appropriate learning spaces for them to work, but sometimes my teaching can only be described as stand and deliver.  I have made forays into inquiry-based and project-based learning, and I'd like to continue in that direction where students start with a big idea (instead of the sound and feel of electric guitars, maybe the importance and preservation of Beluga whales), and with my help, chart a course where they take that big idea, investigate or enact a plan (for instance, to share the importance of the whales or implement a way to save them), making changes along the way. 

Having gone through the process of my own PBL (with guitars, classroom design, curriculum design, teacher professional development, and home fitness-with varying levels of success), I can probably find a way to help my students with their own inquiries more than I am now. Just like guitars, I just need to make changes that are necessary, doable, and manageable.