A few of us on Twitter started talking about the newest ASCD member book Focus and decided to start a Twitter book group. You can read more about this and find out how to participate at http://www.ryanbretag.com/blog/?p=2045.
For the past two Wednesday nights at 9 pm EST, I have sat on my couch discussing an education book with colleagues from around the country and maybe a few in other countries as well. We have used Twitter and Elluminate as discussion platforms.
While much of what Schmoker writes is darn near “self-evident,” much of it is controversial and clearly based more on what he thinks than any body of research. I personally think he does a reasonable job of letting the reader know this.
In chapter 3, he uses a term “interactive lecture” that seems like an oxymoron. Here’s how he describes it:
“At its heart, we find guided practice, formative assessment, and ongoing adjustments to instruction.”
“…where the focus is on the teacher’s words and directions, but students take part in lots of pair-sharing, note-taking, and quick-writing.”
Oxymoron or not, it certainly sounds better than the inflexible worksheeting we see in far too many places these days.
Schmoker also writes that “teachers are in this habit of spending too much time sitting during the period” and that teachers should be “circulating, observing, and listening as students work in pairs.” And, the work he describes them doing in pairs is NOT necessarily worksheets but various means of “formative assessments.”
Schmoker does not promote technology as a solution to educations woes and falls short of recognizing its potential to, in the right hands, solidly deliver exactly what he is describing as best practice. I would love to spend a few days with him taking him to a few, albeit hand-picked, classrooms where a few teachers are masterfully using technology to support solid teaching. Sadly enough, though, I could take him to as many or more classrooms where technology is the center of the activity and solid teaching has gone by the wayside in favor of pursuing the next cool thing. I could also take him to a number of “teaching by packets”-centered classrooms as well, but I am sure he has seen many of these.
I haven’t finished reading the book yet but will hopefully do so this weekend. This is, perhaps, the last ASCD book I will receive on paper as I understand they will offer members e-platform choices beginning in June. So, I have broken the spine and marked the book up in three colors of highlighters as I have engaged about the book with colleagues I have never met face-to-face. I have tried to get local colleagues to join in (see http://beckyfisher73.posterous.com/learn-with-me-not-like-me) but have failed miserably. Perhaps this pseudo-review is enough to hook you in to joining us on Wednesday!