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Philosophy

Philosophy of Education

My educational philosophy was formed many years ago when I discovered Maria Montessori’s educational methods. Her child centered approach emphasizing discovery learning started me on an educational journey,covering a list of prominent education thinkers such as,J. J. Rousseau,Jean Piaget,John Dewey,Jerome Bruner and Seymour Papert,just to mention a few. All these people had an impact on defining my educational philosophy,but the ideas that had the most impact on me were Seymour Papert’s theory of Constructionism,and Jerome Bruner’s ideas about education and learning,in particular discovery learning. Constructionism is based on Piaget’s Constructivism and the differences between the too is clearly defined in this quote by Dr. Papert:“Constructionism—the N word as opposed to the V word—shares constructivism’s view of learning as “building knowledge structures” through progressive internalization of actions… It then adds the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity,whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe” (Papert,Constructionist Learning,1990,p.3). Jerome Bruner’s Discovery Learning is based on the idea that if students were allowed to pursue concepts on their own they would gain a better understanding of their learning. According to him students should engage in discovery learning which involves the teacher providing guidance or scaffolding,organizing the curriculum in a spiral manner so that students are constantly building upon what they have already learned. These ideas have influenced my work as an educator and founder of an after-school organization and helped me develop a set of beliefs that make up my educational philosophy.

Reflections about Learning

Some of my learning reflections include the frustrations I experienced while growing up,but the ones I experienced raising my children are the most vivid. I had the feeling that something was inherently wrong with the current system because,in most cases,it was not able to produce confident and skillful human beings ready for life’s many challenges. Answers did no come easy until I watched a National Geographic show about ancient tribal societies and the way they pass knowledge from one generation to the other. From a young age,a tribal father or mother,start training their offspring to step comfortably into their shoes. When children reach their teenage years,the confidence and skills that they exhibit is so obvious that no adult would have difficulty acknowledging and trusting it. That is when I realized that somewhere along the way a disconnect occurred between the school system and its perceived goal—to prepare children to become confident skillful young adults,ready to assume the responsibilities that the grown-up world requires. With this new revelation in mind,I went ahead to find out what educational theorists have to say and discovered research that corroborates my assertions. Beginning with John Dewey,who believed in the inclusion of children in adult activities throughout their education,and who complained that urban children in the 20th century can participate only in the form,but not the substance,of most adult activities,and continuing with the theories of Constructivism and Constructionism,which claim learning to be an active process in which children actively construct knowledge from their experiences and that it is most effective when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful products.

Out of all sources that I looked into for answers about education,my students taught me the most important lessons. They taught me to believe in Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory that every child is capable of learning and each of them possess unique qualities that when discovered and developed can lead to successful careers. They also taught me that there is no one learning style that can be applied to all. As we do not expect people to have the same physical abilities,cultural and social economic backgrounds,we cannot expect to have the same learning style. In fact,children’s backgrounds and social cultures have a great impact on how they construct their meaning when they learn. Children always surprise me that they seem to enjoy a serious challenge. My assumption was that most people will opt for the easiest solution. My experience shows that the more confident students are in their skills,the more challenges they are ready to face. Students enjoy learning and applying their skills toward tasks that can ultimately be controlled by them. It provides them with a feeling of pride and exhilaration that cannot be matched by any other type of learning. I think that students thrive on intellectual freedom and dare to venture when backed by a teacher’s help and support when needed

Reflections about Teaching

I think that the teaching profession is one of the most important professions that exist. If done right,teachers can change students’ lives,influence them to pursue careers,help them become the people they will end up being,and serve as a lifelong inspiration. These are very important roles which pose heavy demands from any teacher. This does not mean that teachers are expected to be perfect beings. Up until now,teachers,in their capacity as knowledge dispensers,are expected to demonstrate a perfect control of the subject they are teaching. However,with the proliferation of knowledge in the world and the growing popularity of a “student centered” teaching approach,teachers will be seen more as mentors or guides that step in whenever a need arises. This teaching experience is seen more as an open-ended communal experience that allows the entire learning community to contribute,and accepts the fact that teachers are learners too. My experience shows that the most effective learning happens when teachers serve as guides while inserting planned “benchmark lessons” serving as a launching pad for students’ self-learning. The development of excellent observational skills are becoming the focal point of 21 st century teaching,because watchful observation can detect when students face problems and need a push to continue their ventures in the right direction. I believe that all knowledge is connected and nothing manifests it better than the internet. Effective teachers take this into account and plan inter-disciplinary curricula by situating knowledge in a meaningful context that helps students see the big picture.

Reflections about Technology

At this point into the 21st century,there is no doubt that technology is becoming part of every discipline. In some places more than others,technology in education fails to catch up with other areas in life. The reason for this is that the benefits of technology are not obvious when “traditional” teaching methods are used. Technology dictates new ways of work and study which hold the potential for benefits both ways. The computer facilitates a diverse range of learning styles,in particular those that are discovery-based and constructive. Seymour Papert best described this in Mindstorms:“The computer,simply,but very significantly,enlarges the range of opportunities to engage as a bricoleur or bricolleuse [ed:someone who tinkers] in activities with scientific and mathematical content.” For the first time,computers enable young students to participate in the content as well as the form of adult activities with relative ease. With the promise of new technologies and the growth prospects of young tinkerers,I set my goal to prepare students to handle the future workplace with confidence. In my classes,I try to  excite kids to the endless possibilities by exposing them to models of technology as tools for design. I encourage them to create their own computer-based products while exploring their own ideas,and learn to work in teams as they communicate and collaborate around common interests. I enjoy watching my students as they build confidence in themselves and witness how technology keeps them engaged,curious,and up for a challenge.
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