Saturday, July 26, 2014

attempting to break through silo walls

Richard Bazeley described in an email his successful presentation to his fellow teaching staff of the value of woodworking for teaching math.
"I made a 20 minute presentation to our school Principal and maths faculty as part of a Professional Development day last week. After a brief verbal introduction I took the opportunity to run an activity on measurement. Using tools of the trade such as folding rulers, tape measures, digital calipers and steel rulers I had the Principal and teachers measuring the door and door opening, a length of wood, the diameter of a drill bit and the insides of a pipe. It was brief but I had them thinking about what they are missing out on and the need for more tools in their area.

Looking around the maths room I pointed out that much of the work the students do is theory based learning and 2 dimensional, so I took the opportunity to emphasize the need for the students to have more concrete examples of what they are being taught."
Getting other teachers to understand the value of doing real things can be a particular challenge when you have college educated teachers who may not have ever had the experience of doing real things with their hands or with tools. It has been called the ivory tower, or silo effect... with teachers being  comfortable as masters in their own classrooms and failing to interconnect both the subject matter with other learning and their own work with that of fellow teachers. I wrote about this in an earlier post as follows:
"The silo effect leaves professors or teachers isolated (often comfortably) in their own classrooms where they fail to take the advantages offered by collaboration with colleagues, and neglect to offer interdisciplinary studies to their students. The result is the loss of vigor in education, as studies become irrelevant, mind-numbing, and unadventurous. Studies confined in silos can be quite rigorous and within silos, students can be held to high standards, but not without paying a high price of attrition. Even students diligently present each and every day, will pay little attention to materials presented without vigor or without relevance established in their own lives and by their own interests."
What's rigor without vigor? Boring and irrelevant. And there is yet another challenge to contend with, in the sense of superiority that some academically trained professors feel. They may regard themselves as superior in some way, because their hands have never been dirtied doing real things. But that is just a cover up and distraction from how the world must make them feel when faced by the many things they can't fix without help... helpless. And when they feel helpless in the presence of those who can do real things, you can see that it may take some courage and encouragement for them to break through the silo walls.

The image above is of student initials cut out by Richard Bazeley's 13 year old students in Australia. Nicely done, don't you think?

Today I leave for Marc Adams School of Woodworking where I will teach box making for one week and then small cabinet making for a weekend class.

Make, fix and create...

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