Before I move to the actual ed content here, let me say that I've been
fly fishing for over 45 years and own ca. 200 books on the subject, but
I never tire of reading new material. Thanks for the links. (Of course,
I really made the above statement to establish myself as dean of I.T.
fly fishers. I hope you are impressed.) :-) While we should conduct
further fishing discussion off-list, I would like to use the example at
hand to make a point about education.
I was certainly impressed with the effusion of suggested learning
activities in your e-mail message. The projects you propose are creative
and, if directed by someone with your energy, might well provide
exciting and educational experiences for students. Specifically, these
particular activities would be useful in giving students an introduction
to aquatic entomology, and probably to riverine ecology in general.
American education really shines when talented and enthusiastic
educators conduct projects like the ones you suggest. We're learning to
engage students who might otherwise be sleeping through most of their
classes. And they're learning things. Where I don't see us succeeding
quite so well is in moving those students who are capable on to more
sophisticated understanding of the subject matter.
Though it's not strictly academic, I'll continue with the fishing
example, if I may. If my son wants to become a skillful fisher of wary,
stream-born trout, I'd suggest he approach it this way: Get some
instruction from someone who knows the subject well (probably me, in
this case). Read some basic books on the subject. And, in the midst of
this, go to the stream - without a fly rod. Crouch down on the
riverbank and watch like a heron. Eliminate extraneous stimuli - no
iPod, no cell phone, no buddies - and just observe the bit of ecosystem
before his eyes. What fish activity can he see? What insects are on the
water and in the air? How does stream morphology here affect current
Does this sound a lot like traditional education? It should, because
that is what I'm suggesting. In this case, I've been discussing an
empirical activity in which observation is essential. Not all education
is empirical, but the operative characteristics of this work are
careful, focused, serious, and individual I feel there is a lack of
that in schools today.
Collaborative learning has been the rage for at least the last decade
or two. I think it has been effective in helping the less talented
students, but I think the "better" students may not benefit as greatly.
I understand the view that group collaboration is the typical modus
operandi in the modern workplace, and I do believe that the teaching of
collaboration is important. I think we are now doing a pretty good job
of that, but I believe that the most serious academic work at the
secondary and undergraduate level is best accomplished alone.
I find it difficult to believe that serious education occurs in an
environment such as Adam described in his post a week or so ago. Do you
remember Adam's description of his nephew working on a paper? In case
you don't, I'll quote him:
I observed my nephew writing a paper the following way: Sitting at a
computer desk, dvd concert of the Who on tv behind him, 5 browser
windows open, IM, Open Office, Word, FrontPage, and was speaking on
phone while he, gasp, wrote a paper on Constitutional Freedoms and
Citizenship & Equal Justice. He wrote the paper by collaborating with
three classmates on IM, checking web resources, heard a great album -
mean dvd, found out who just got expelled from school because they got
caught putting an m80 in the toilet in the boys locker room, and he
found out the red sox won that night before I knew.
That description makes me cringe. It may well be that Adam's nephew,
like Adam himself ;-), is extremely talented and able to carry that off,
but I'm convinced that the typical student would, in that environment,
produce a paper that was superficial and disjointed with too little
thinking and too much material lifted straight from the Web. It would
have some nice pictures - maybe even audio or video files attached - and
the teacher would give it a good grade because the student had "used
If our intention, in the above situation, was to teach expeditious
collaboration under pressure, the exercise might have been useful, but
if we wanted students to achieve some serious understanding of
constitutional freedoms, I think we were widely off the mark.
Okay, enough. Sometimes, when I go on like this, I think maybe I'm just
"beating a dead horse". But mostly I feel like it's my duty as a
certified "old-timer" to take this position and hang on. I believe
there is - and has always been - a dialectical dynamic in play between
enthusiastic youth pulling for change and stodgy old-timers pulling for
stasis - sort of a tug-of-war in which we'll all go crash if either side
completely lets go. Like I said, I'm hanging on.
>>> [log in to unmask] 04/23/05 2:21 PM >>>
In response to Vince and to include others with an IT concept from his
techno fly fishing post...
: These pages contain samples from the vast archive of the author's
photographs of insects that are central to the art of fly fishing.
Also, a link to a book your son might enjoy if you don't already have it
- A Hatch Guide For New England Streams.
~You might extend your son's interest and encourage him to produce a
Hatch Guide for his favorite local river. A great excell document
data-base and simple web page project opportunity :-)
~You might suggest it to your Earth/Environmental Science Teacher and
send students off with digital cameras to take pictures, probes to test
water temps, etc. Get several schools to participate and create the
Vermont Fly Fishing Almanac.
~ Inspire connections and support outside of school by asking fly
fishing businesses to help fund and participate in the project.... have
them support the editing and publishing of a book.
~Have participating schools host a celebration at the end inviting
parents and students to join local fly fishing experts for a day on
their local river to unveil the book.
Examples of Hatch Charts:
Wouldn't this be a fun multi-disciplinary collabrative unit to get paid
to produce at Ed and Gregg's summer Model Performance Task Workshop!
Sorry, I get carried away sometimes. You might want to check up on the
Information Literacy program at your school.... from my cell I could
have found a picture of a Stonefly online. Good news is that your son
regards you as an expert.... yikes! *runs*
Nice article for your son -
Morristown School District
(802) 888-6729 (w)
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From: School Information Technology Discussion on behalf of Vince
Sent: Fri 4/22/2005 4:15 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Tech moment.
I hope this isn't inappropriate, but I'd like to relate something that
just happened that had to do with a kid, technology and education.
My 17-year-old son has decided he wants to become a fly-fisherman like
his father. He was down at the river a little while ago and saw some
insects hatching which he wanted to identify. He called me on his
phone and described one to me. I said it sounded like a stonefly, but
wasn't sure. Within several minutes of the end of our conversation, I
get an email message from him with a picture of the insect in question
attached. My son had taken it with his cell phone camera and used
Verizon's photo messenging service to send it to me right from the
riverbank. I called him back and said: "Yup, that's a stonefly."
Talk about a teachable moment. I mean for me. Here's what I learned:
sometimes these tech gimmicks actually are useful.
Information Technology Director
Montpelier Public Schools
58 Barre Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
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