1. How do you prevent technology from taking over the curriculum essentials that you are trying to teach? What role do Prensky’s “verbs” and “nouns” pose in answering this question? Justify your answer.
The number one way to keep technology from taking over during partnering is to remain focused on what the students will be doing, not how they do it. According to Prensky (2010), “Focusing the partnering and learning process on the verbs (skills), and not on the nouns (tools), is the best way to avoid letting technology for its own sake take over students’ learning” (p. 46). The verbs (skills) should be the epicenter of instruction and should remain the target of partnering. However, using different tools (nouns) will assist students and teachers in achieving these goals. It is crucial to keep in mind the verbs used for instruction will be constant while the nouns will change regularly based on technology advances and resources available. With “nearly 50 learning verbs” and “100 nouns available to students” (Prensky, 2010, p. 47) partnering teachers and students must carefully utilize the most appropriate tools (nouns) to meet the skills (verbs) they are working to master. Educators must think of technology usage (nouns) as a means to an end, not as the sole factor.
2. In Dan Pink’s talk about the science of motivation, he says, “There is a mismatch between what science knows and what education does.” (Yes, I took the liberty of substituting “education” for “business”.) How do his three points (at the end of his talk) agree with Prensky’s teacher and student roles in partnering?
Dan Pink made a very strong case against the mismatch between what scientists have determined is effective and what businesses and schools are actually doing. Pink pointed out in his presentation the three characteristics of motivation “autonomy, mastery, and purpose” (2009) were able to improve the performance of individuals. This information directly supports and correlates to Prensky’s description of partnering in a number of ways.
First, by allowing students to become active participants in their learning and not requiring them to do the learning of others through partnering, students become active learners who are more engaged and less disruptive. Even with less advanced structures of partnering, students are able to determine the means in which they find the answers to guiding problems or questions. Since they are given autonomy in either the topic or the means to which they find answers, students see themselves as real learners who are making choices that affect their learning.
Secondly, partnering allows for students to see the true purpose in their learning. Many times teachers give assignments to students without fully explaining the purpose. Students then begin to tune out, as they see no relevant reason for completing the task. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Why do I need to know this?” in our classrooms and yet, many teachers continue to teach in the same manner with ineffective results. Through partnering, students are more aware and even may choose the purpose of their work. They understand that what they are doing is relevant and important and thus the end results are more proficient and meaningful.
Mastery is the final component of motivation discussed by Pink. It is described by Pink as being “inherently exhilarating,” a means to “real enduring learning” and that people “gravitate toward activities that allow mastery” (Pink, 2010). By encouraging our students to work toward mastery, we increase their motivation to learn. Partnering allows for this quest for mastery. Prensky describes the different roles students should be “living out” (2010, p. 63) in order to master them. Researcher, technology expert, and thinker are a few of these roles that students should attempt to master in order to improve their learning. In addition, teachers are still mastering their skills as well. According to Prensky, teachers should never “wait until he or she has learned or mastered the technology” (2010, p. 65) before allowing students to use it. This only negates the point of partnering—everyone is learning and working toward mastery. Through mastery, students and teachers become excited, motivated, and inspired, which should be the main goal of our educational practice.
3. What does “passion-based learning” mean to you? Discuss three examples of how teachers (or you, if you are a teacher) can individualize instruction by using students’ passions.
Passion-based learning is exactly as it is defined, learning through our passions. Thinking of my own learning, I definitely learn more when I’m passionate about the topic. This passion encourages me to read more, take action, and share what I’ve learned. When planning instruction, I do build my content around topics of personal passion and ones that also ignite passion and action in my students. While this works in most situations, there are some passions that I have that clearly aren’t relevant and passion-building for my students. Embedding the following strategies are promising for meeting the needs of individual students in my classes and igniting their passions.
The first strategy I can incorporate into my instruction is to physically ask my students what it is they are passionate about. As I read this and thought about how this might go with my students, and how some may not have a passion that they can claim yet. Prensky (2010) made a good point in that I should encourage those students who lack a passion to continue to look for their passions as these passions will be important in their lives. By having personal conversations with students or posing questions about passions via online surveys, I can gather important information about my students that can be used to guide my instruction and to better meet their individual needs.
Secondly, to better differentiate instruction and encourage passion-based learning, I can regularly iterate in my classes. I currently am an instructional coach working with three small groups of students a day. By having the advantage of working with small groups, asking them how the lessons and activities are going each day by eliciting their feedback is feasible and achievable. I can then alter my instruction for the next group and/or the next day lesson based on their feedback.
In addition, by holding these feedback-driven conversations, I can assess the passions of my students and incorporate these passions into my teaching. If students aren’t excited about the current topic, I can allow them to choose a topic that excites them but ask them to practice our current skill with their topic of choice. Since the skill is what is most important, how students practice that skill can vary based on passions and choice.
According to Tomlinson, in Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom (2013), the process of providing feedback is one way to build trust between teachers and students. By allowing for the give and take of feedback, all parties become more accepting of the support being provided and are then more likely to take action on the feedback. Thus, by encouraging student voice and choice, student success will follow.
The last strategy that I can embed into my instruction to meet the needs of my students is to partner with outside sources. I currently allow my students to work in pairs and various small group sizes to encourage peer-teaching, but I rarely, if ever, partner with others outside of my room. Using technology to bring in outside experts is a strategy that could benefit my students and me. Consulting with experts in various fields, based on student passions, via the Internet or other communication tools can provide my students an educational experience I could not personally give them. This strategy has no limits. Allowing for collaboration between all parties can only build motivation, engagement, and student success.
Pink, D. (2009, July). The puzzle of motivation. TEDGlobal 2009. . Retrieved
Pink, D. (2010). An interview with Dan Pink [Section 6]. Masie. . Retrieved
Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks, CA:
Tomlinson, C. & Moon, T. (2013). Assessment and student success in a differentiated classroom.
Alexandria, VA: ASCD.