Monday, February 17, 2014

Learning and Cheerios

While growing up in nearby Rolling Meadows, I remember awakening to the sound of my parent's coffee maker percolating in the kitchen. The aroma of Hill Brothers signaled that it was time for me to wake up and get ready for school. I have never needed an alarm clock to wake me in the morning. Maybe I am the product of routine, or maybe that just makes me a morning person.



After freshening up for the day, my morning routine would include a breakfast of fresh fruit and Cheerios. To this day, our family tends gather around the kitchen table. My dad was always up before the rest of us. If he was finished reading the Chicago Sun-Times, I would get a few minutes to skim the sports pages. If not, I would read whatever General Mills decided to print on our cereal boxes. My father wasn't selfish, the Sun-Times came in tabloid form so separating the reading sections wasn't an easy proposition. Three pages of sports for me meant three fewer pages of local and national news for him. While my mom got herself ready for work, Wally Phillips, and later Bob Collins, would join us in the kitchen through the megawatt power that was WGN radio.

And that was our routine before me and my brother ventured off on our one block hike to Kimball Hill School. I recall only bits and pieces from those elementary school years, but I vividly remember memorizing the nutritional value of Cheerios, listening to the market reports, and studying the football or baseball box scores in the paper. I don't remember ever having to do homework, or ever having to study. On occasion, there were challenging spelling lists, or special projects that required extra time and support from home. My mom insists that I used class time well enough that I didn't need to bring school work home, which was just as well because the daylight hours were spent outside playing with our neighborhood friends. I vividly remember my "morning brain" was always hungry for information.

Fast-forward forty years to today. It's a great morning to have a brain that is hungry for information. A Keurig heats the water for my breakfast, so there is no cereal box to scan, and the Hills Brothers aroma has been replaced by the smell of Quaker Oats maple and brown sugar. Sports talk radio plays in the background while I use my iPad to see what's trending on Twitter. I check the top stories on Flipboard and Zite, and check to see if there is anything worth reading and sharing from my Blogger reading list. I spend a few minutes disposing of the spam in my inbox, and I check the weather on my AccuWeather app before venturing off to school. Like many educators, I am proud to say that I have been in school nearly my entire life. In this age of ubiquitous access to information, a life-long school experience is both a blessing and a curse.

You see, like many of you, I know school. I have lived a lifetime in school. I know the smells, the sounds, and the feelings of school. School intuition is in my blood. I can do school in my sleep. But learning is changing, and because of this, school needs to change too. Change can be challenging and difficult for many of us. But change is necessary as educators are no longer the gate keepers of knowledge and information. You may have seen recent research explaining how Google is reshaping our brains. The Internet may be rendering knowledge, as we have come to know it, as obsolete. Case in point, you may have heard that an assessment item is not a good assessment item if the answer can be found in a matter of seconds by "Googling it". You know you're huge when your name becomes a verb!




The nutritional value of Cheerios was not meaningful information, it was exercise for my mind. Today, like all days, my personal learning network (PLN) has curated and supplied me with a plethora of meaningful, interesting information that I can use and share. It's like a daily dose of essential vitamins and minerals, oh wait... I mean a daily dose of personal learning, dare I say professional development, each morning. There has never been a better time to have a hungry brain. The Internet, also exercise for the mind, provides me with as much crunchy goodness as I can handle. We, as educators, need to make sure that we are not forcing students to live in two learning worlds, the digitally connected, relevant world, and the analog, disconnected world that still resides in many of our classrooms. Sure, both have their virtues, but personally, I would rather get information from my RSS feeds than from a cereal box. Wouldn't you? (relevance, personalized, meaningful, connected, etc.)

While I will always remember with fondness our morning routine, the new morning routine does a much better job of feeding my hungry brain. And my parents, models of life-long learning, two hours away on their farm in Lena, Illinois, they are likely spending this snowy morning listening to the market reports on the radio, enjoying their coffee and Cheerios at the kitchen table, while checking the news and weather on their iPads. Some things never change.

photo credit: Riebart via photopin cc

4 comments:

Mr Biornstad said...

One might think that routines would stifle a hungry brain. And yet our human brains in large part being pattern seeking devices can use those routines to feed our hungry brains. I hope I am inculcating the kinds of patterns necessary for hungry brains in my classroom.

Thank you for the very pleasant journey that reawakened my past patterns and put them in juxtaposition with my current patterns.

tomatokoolaide said...

Bob,

Excellent post. As you said perfectly, "educators are no longer the gate keepers of knowledge and information". You are, however, in the critical position of teaching young people how to filter all that information and then turn it into action.

Critical thinking has always been the an important goal of education. Now it's more important than ever.

Thanks for making me think!

-DR

Robert Schuetz said...

Mr. B. I love our conversations because you add to my thinking, and you make me want to improve my writing through richer vocabulary. Thanks for your attention and for sharing your thoughts here.

Robert Schuetz said...

Thank you Dylan. Your compliments hold water because you are fantastic at communicating your thoughts and experiences. I wanna be like you when I grow up! We've got a good thing going - let's keep it up! #redefiningeducation