Okay, this was easily one of my favorite panels! It was led by a recently graduated high school English sub and her sister (who I believe is theyareafterusjim on here) and was heavy on discussion and I’m an education nerd so I loved it a lot and it made me want to teach again (because, really, what doesn’t?)
So they started off with the disclaimer that they were familiar with the US school system, particularly high school, so that’s what most of the focus was on. There were lots of teachers in the audience, which was happymaking.
Structured was definied as being formal education in a classroom setting, and Organic was just…not that.
We see lots of formal education in Harry Potter, such as McGonagall, Flitwick, and Sprout as positive examples. The students have somewhat of a flipped classroom, with lots of time for the students to learn through experimentation, with immediate feedback, supervision, and interactive learning activities.
They do learn in Snape’s room, but he’s a bully, which hinders learning. Ron, for instance, improves significantly under Slughorn’s instruction.
The DA and Occlumency were examples of more organic learning. The DA was a group that arose organically, but it did have some structure to it also. Occlumency could have been more organic and the need for it came about organically, however, the way it was taught made it structured, while still being a one-on-one individualized experience. Occlumency was mandatory, and Harry had no idea why he was there with no internal motivation, which combined made for a highly ineffective learning environment.
Umbridge, of course, was ineffective as heck for all of the reasons, not the least being her abusive behaviors. Her failure at teaching was the reason the DA did come into being organically.
Hermione is the posterchild for organic learning for the sake of learning, always in the library researching for her own interest.
The electives that started in their third year at Hogwarts offered a great balance of structure and choice.
Examples of organic learning in each book:
- SS-Nicholas Flamel
- CoS-the chamber
- PoA-Lupin teaching Harry about patronuses to fight the dementors
- GoF-Research and practice for the Triwizard Tournament
- OotP-The DA
- HBP-reading the half-blood prince’s textbook
- DH-the whole first half is just camping and learning on the go.
Tumblr & Fandom
There is a lot of anti-school sentiment on Tumblr, but at the same time, there are so many posts here that are internally movitated, researched text posts aimed at educating others.
Tumblr is internally motivated. You are using research skills and other structures to promote your organic learning.
You are not born knowing how to analyze media.
There’s a limited amount of time we have at school, which leads to constraints on what can be covered in a classroom setting.
School exists to socially prepare us. Fandom, meanwhile, gives us Q&A touchstones (favorite book, hogwarts house, etc) giving us a framework to talk to other people within our fandom, common ground.
Fandom, in a nutshell, is people like us who sit around overthinking media. It is internally motivated. We find people who are like us. We learn to read, cite, and analyze.
What’s a good way of translating a top down structure in the classroom?
"Backward design", a goal that teachers design on, making students explicitly aware of their learning goal.
A little bit of discussion about independent study, being able to focus on what you care about in a more organic, but still supervised, way.
Someone talked about the feeling of feeling forced to be in school. Now that they are out of school, they know what they want to learn.
But our learning system is very structured, leaving little room for that kind of exploration. There are basics we feel we need to cover, which limits freedom in learning early on. As teachers, we are told what we must teach.
What we need is teachers who are very passionate about their subjects.
Question about unschooling and what the panelists/audience thought of that particular philosophy.
Noted that criticisms around unschooling tend to just revolve around the fact that it’s new and a lot of people aren’t used to new ideas, so they’ll criticize what they don’t know. Also, there do exist kids who need that extra push, that structure that school provides, who aren’t self-motivated enough to succeed in an unschooling environment. Also, some kids don’t have the access to those kinds of resources. The panelist who was a teacher was very passionate about that point, and her desire to see student-centric learning and passion in the public school environment. (I totally agreed! Like, I wish everyone could have their own private instruction based on their needs and their interests, but that’s not practically possible, so we have to do what we can to change the system from within and hire those passionate teachers who recognize what makes each student motivated and pursue it!
Someone also mentioned Montessori and Waldorf educations as philosophies that tend to be more child-centric.
Talked a little bit about interdisciplinary teaching, teaching multiple subjects that interrelate so students can see how things are connected, rather than having walls up between them. It’s not Math|Science|History|English, it’s math&science&history&english and how they function together to make the world work.
Again, interdisciplinary teaching is something individual teachers can do, but the system is screwy. We are beginning to see some changes depending on the school, but it’s still a work in progress.
Someone asked about charter schools, but they seemed to have a totally different idea about what charter schools were. The presenters were quick to say, no, charter schooling is usually very similar to public schooling, with a different source of funding and often contributing to inequity in schooling.
Question about pubshing too hard in schools, too much pressure. Teachers who can kill your passions. Wasn’t much of an answer to that question, because we’ve all encountered those teachers, they’re a sad reality, but it’s another example of something that’s highly situational.