Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Post-modern teacher

This post is inspired by Andrew Finch, who gave my favorite presentation of the Kotesol Conference this past weekend.  He talked about postmodernism and how it relates to teaching ESL.  I wish I had a handout, but sadly, they only had 50 for a room of about 500 people.  So, here's hoping the memory still has a wee bit of elasticity left.  Oh wait, maybe I'll use my postmodern skills to think of an alternative way to get the information.  Hmmm....think, think.  Wait!  I don't need to store information in my brain anymore or on paper anymore because I have my old friend Google.  "Postmodern Andrew Finch."  Ah yes, #1.

Basically, he was saying that in this constantly changing world, the actual facts we can give a student will no longer be relevant at some point in the future.  The best thing that we can offer students is to teach them how to teach themselves. 

Students these days are living and thinking and doing life in a postmodern kind of way.  And teachers are caught up in the modern world of tests, textbooks and competition should be replaced by collaboration, English learning through pop culture and assessment using portfolios.  And the most effective learning will be student centered and directed, not the teacher as expert kind of thing.

So how does this translate into my class?  I'm going to introduce the portfolio style of assessment for next year.  I think I'll come up with about 20-30 potential assignments the students could do.  They can choose to do as many as they want but I'll suggest a minimum amount in order to get a "C."  I'll probably assign a significant amount of the final grade to it: say 40 or 50%.  This way, if a student doesn't do it, they'll fail the class.  These assignments could range from making a video in English and putting it on youtube, to writing an introduction of yourself, complete with pictures, to making an English resume.   I'll put these assignments on a class website.  I'll try to meet with each student 2 or 3 times over the semester to track their progress and offer some feedback on what they've done so far.

I'm kind of excited!  This could be really fun for me, and for the students I think.

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