#IMMOOC Blog Prompt: Innovation is defined as a way of thinking that creates something new and better. What are some examples that you consider innovative? How is it new and better than what previously existed?
#edublogsclub Blog Prompt: Write a post about using popular culture in the classroom.
When working with students, we often hear the term “You have to meet them where they’re at.” Most often we take this to mean meeting them where they’re at academically, but if we want to be innovative teachers we have to meet them where they’re at in other ways as well. During the first live episode of the #immooc, A.J. Juliani talked about making meaning with our students and building relationships with them. I believe that this is an equally, if not more, important part of meeting them where they’re at.
A.J. said the following about best practices:
Learning has always been human centered, it’s always been social, it’s always been meaning based, it’s always been language based! It just has to work for kids now in 2017. Those best practices still work, they just have to fit into the reality of how students are communicating, how you make human and social connections, what meaning is today in 2017.
So how do we meet our students at a place where learning is more meaningful to them? If we want to find that place, we have to take on an innovator’s mindset and constantly be reflecting on how to present things to our students (the ones in front of us this year) in new and better ways. One way that I like doing this is through pop culture.
Taking the time to get to know our students, allows us to peak into their world and find out what they are interested in. Often their interests relate to pop culture (t.v. shows, the latest technology, trends that have gone viral, toys that are being collected, etc). Whenever we can link student learning to their interests, we will automatically have more engaged and empowered learners and the learning will be more authentic and meaningful. This, however, also means that we have to be willing to constantly change our teaching, and be reflecting on new and better ways to teach the kids in front of us (and not the ones we had last year, or worse, ten years ago). Innovative educators are constantly asking themselves, “What do these learners need? What will interest them?”
I remember a number of years ago when the Facebook craze had started. My Grade 8 students were heavy into Facebook, and it was a huge part of their lives (and mine for that matter). I had to figure out a way to incorporate this interest into their learning and more than just at the surface level. In order to do this, I challenged them to find a link between Facebook and selective permeability, a concept I wanted to cover in science. They worked out that the privacy settings in Facebook could be set to selectively permeable. Although not called that specifically, they knew that they could choose to limit who would be able to access their Facebook profiles, essentially making their profile selectively permeable. Through this one challenge, we were able to cover selective permeability as well as internet safety. This was much more meaningful and made much more sense to them than learning about selective permeability through cells.
This is but one example of how I have turned to pop culture to connect and make meaning with my students. And while Facebook is still a part of my life, since then, most grade 8s have moved on to other forms of social media. If I was still teaching this concept today, I would have to come up with a new and better way to make meaning with the new students in front of me.
So was this new? Was this better? Was this innovative teaching? It was definitely a new way for me to teach this concept, and in my humble opinion, it was also a better way to teach it. Too often people imagine innovative teaching to mean undertaking huge projects, with lots of expensive bells and whistles . Although sometimes that is the case (and there is nothing wrong with that), there are other ways to add innovation to your everyday teaching. This idea cost me nothing and it didn’t take more time. All it took was the mindset, and mindsets are free! New + Better = Innovation!