Saturday, November 24, 2012

Don't Knock It Before You Try It!

How many times have you criticized an act, event or idea before due consideration or experience?  When have you put down a venue, style or strategy before trying it out yourself? For many, it is a natural reaction to judge before thinking or actually experiencing a new idea, event or method, and what do those quick judgements, critiques and conclusions do for our own mindset and the mindsets and experiences of those we teach?

As Aristotle notes in the quote above, we learn by doing?  And when we fully experience an event, idea or invention, we are better able to understand that novelty with depth and understanding.  Hence, unlike my attitude in years past, my mindset now prompts me to try it out (or read a lot about it) before passing judgement.  

This mindset applies to my teaching and professional development as well.  For example, in years past I looked at the Edublog Awards with some disdain as I'm generally not a fan of contests that put one in front of another. Yet, when I tried out the Award nomination process this year, I realized that while I still hate choosing some over others, the process actually provides one with a chance to honor some of the many who have contributed significantly to my professional growth over the past year.

The same is true for new tech tools and teaching methods.  I remember in the past when I joked and ridiculed the use of new inventions such as the answering machine, cell phones and email before trying those venues out.  Now each of those inventions are mainstays in households everywhere.  My new mindset leads me to try out new venues first, before judging.  I've had to defend my work a bit more with this mindset, but the rewards are substantial.

For example, in two weeks my students will present their YouTube Poetry Playlist, a series of short films that depict poems that speak to them. Students have worked tirelessly to learn and manage the synthesis of poetry, images, voice and music with tools and actions such as iMovie, PhotoBooth, Garageband, KidPix, Google Draw, Google Docs, Google Sites, analysis, reflective writing, illustration and more to produce these short films.  Students use of these venues has taught them to both utilize movies to present knowledge, opinion and understanding, and to navigate this venue for their own learning since movies will play an important role in their own research and storytelling this year and in the years to come.  Hence, rather than knocking the role of movies in the classroom, we embraced that venue, learned about it and now understand where it fits in and when it's best to choose another presentation vehicle.

So, to learn today, "don't knock it before you try it." Experience the many new processes, tools and ideas that continually arrive. Then utilize that invention to more fully live life and prepare your students for the world they'll encounter.  Agree?

Note: I tried to find the author of the quote, "Don't knock it before you try it," without success.  Let me know if you know the author's name.