Professional Philosophy E-Portfolio

What I've discovered about learning

Although my professional philosophy is still in its infancy, I’ve recently had a number of invaluable revelations about how students & colleagues learn. I’ve also developed a far broader understanding of what “learning” actually means; specifically how the act of “learning” can be much different than “understanding”. I believe it’s extremely important to make this distinction because in any situation which requires real cognitive thought, learned information is useless without a genuine sense of “understanding”.

I like to express this idea through the metaphor of a singing Parrot; Just because a Parrot has learned to sing “Old McDonald” doesn’t mean it has the slightest understanding of how music works - you certainly can’t expect the Parrot to write a song of it’s own. Accordingly, just because a chemistry student has learned to recite the periodic table doesn’t mean they have the slightest understanding of how molecules interact. Humans have an extraordinary ability to connect seemingly unrelated concepts, creating clarity out of abstraction (I personally believe this is the secret of human creativity and ingenuity). In order to truly understand a new concept, an individual must first connect it with a concept they already understand. Without that connection, the concept will remain abstract and unclear. It’s the teachers job to help students and colleagues make these connections.

Future Learning Short Documentary

What technology offers

Technology offers an extraordinary opportunity for teachers to help others make these personal connections. I believe that the best way to have an individual connect to a new concept is to make the learning process interesting. An incredible resource which has recently emerged out of the internet is TedEd - a free service which provides simple and engaging explanations of otherwise very complex subjects. Not only are the speakers enthusiastic about the topic, but their lectures are accompanied with beautiful animation which further serves to portray an abstract concept as a relatable perspective.

Technology also offers a slew of conveniences in the realm of student/teacher collaboration. There are countless services which allow students to collaborate and share both in the classroom and at a distance. The majority of these services (google docs, glogster, wikis, etc) come at no expense. Personal devices such as tablets & smartphones provide easy access to educational applications, which can make the learning experience not only more interesting - but all the more interactive and fun.

Salman Khan talk at TED 2011 (from
Just how small is an atom? - Jonathan Bergmann

How it applies to me

In my own instruction, I would like to use a combination of all of these technologies. TedEd would play an enormous role in my classroom - I would present the class with as many relevant Ted lectures as I could find. I believe they provide a very digestible overview, and they could act as the perfect segway into an engaging class conversation. YouTube also contains a seemingly infinite amount of fantastic learning materials; I would likely scan through YouTube while designing lesson plans to find interesting lectures and animated infographics. I would most likely use a service like Google Drive to create an easily accessible online catalogue of class material; daily notes, links, homeworks, updates, etc. I would use the same service to have students submit and store their homework.

Ultimately, my goal as an educator is to work behind the scenes, at the creative end of the software we’ll use to connect and educate students in the near future; although I imagine I’ll do a fair amount of “field work” as a traditional educator of some sort before I reach that point. As far as areas where I’d like to improve my own teaching abilities, my answer is: all. I want to become as competent in education, in all regards, as possible over the next few years. I believe I’ll need to work on my public speaking, specifically. As optimistic and excited as I am about teaching, I fully recognize that talk is cheap, and that making students “connect” may be a fair amount harder than I’ve expressed. I expect to get knocked off the horse a few times, but that’s when it’ll be my time to learn.