What Shapes Us?

What we believe transcends our thoughts and integrates into the way we teach.  Our values are passed to us from our community members, parents, teachers, and society (Moser, 2007). Through these values, our actions spring forth.  We are products of our community, and our community is shaped by the idea of our home space.  The people and values that surround us growing up, shape who we are going to be (Moser, 2007).  How do our previous experiences effect how we shape future students in different places?

Teachers have a variety of reasons for teaching (or not teaching) environmental education (Hart, 2003).  In some schools it is not necessary or required to teach environmental education.  While this is not true for my school, there is no established environmental curriculum.  This means teachers’ perceptions of environmental education dictate what and how they teach (Bengtson, 2010; Hart 2003).  How we perceive what we teach can lead to how we engage students.  Through critical self-reflection we can better understand what we believe, which allows us to think about how we engage our students.  Bengtson (2010) says it is critical that we are aware of both our perceptions and our setting when we engage in environmental education.  Are we better environmental educators if we believe environmental education is worthwhile?
As teachers move around, they may not have acquired the knowledge necessary to teach relevant environmental facts.  This dissonance between knowledge and applied values may hinder how expatriate teachers engage students in EE.  Sammel (2005) asserts that knowing who we are as environmental educators is a first step in understanding our educational program. Through interviews with my co-teachers, I can learn more about what they know about our new to us tropical environment and how that relates to what they choose to teach in class.  The perceptions of our shared place effect how we teach about the environment; therefore, we may need to learn more about our new homes before creating an effective program.
Experiences also help to shape our value system.  As expatriates, we have all come from different places, and believe different things. While many of us who travel experience similar occurrences, our previous experiences shape how we perceive our life in our new home.  I wonder how significant life experiences shape who we are as educators (Chawla, 1999; Anderson-Patton, 1980)?  


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Anderson-Patton, V. (1998). Creative Catalysts: A study of Creative Teachers from their own Perspectives and Experiences. (Dissertation) Retrieved from Proquest Dissertations and Theses UMI number 9838453

Bengtson, K.H.M. (2010). Elementary Teachers’ Perceptions of Environmental Education. (Dissertation) ProQuest Dissertations and Theses UMI number 3434324

Chawla, L . (1999) Life Paths Into Effective Environmental Action, in Journal of Environmental Education, Fall 99, Vol. 31, Issue 1
Hart, P. (2003) Teachers Thinking in Environmental Education: Consciousness and Responsibility
Moser, S. C. (2007). More bad news: The risk of neglecting emotional responses to climate change information. In S. C. Moser & L. Dilling (Eds.), Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change (pp. 64-80). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
Sammel, A. J. (2005). Teachers’ understandings and enactments of social and environmental justice issues in the classroom: What’s “critical” in the manufacturing of road-smart squirrels? (Dissertation) ProQuest Dissertations and Theses

Nature Deficit Disorder

Product Details
Richard Louv’s Book
on http://www.amazon.com

Did you know that the typical American child spends 44.5 hours per week plugged into electronic media (not including homework and school)*?  getting kids outdoors

This seems like a lot of time. While I haven’t checked the survey, or how they have collected their data, I wonder about what it means to be “plugged in” or “connected”. 
I bought this book sometime ago, hoping to read it this summer holiday, so was wondering what it meant to be connected in a virtual age. When so much of our lives takes place virtually, where do we find room for the natural? 
To me it seems obvious that we are lacking something, a connection to our place. Can we really heal this through spending more time outdoors? As an elementary teacher, I think that one of the most important things we can do is try to build a community. By having learners working together with the best intentions for a more harmonious community, I find that we can develop skills to improve our ability to interact with others. Now I’m wondering if I’ve left out major parts of our world. If we forget to add other living things into our community, what relationships are we neglecting? How can we really connect to nature, if we’re connected to the virtual world? 
These past two years I’ve tried to instill some permaculture principles into our learning. The students have really caught on to the Fair Share, People Care, Earth Care language, and often bring their wonderings about these ideas up during our sharing time. 
Permaculture Principles
Can we use technology to plug in to, and enhance our community? Can we do this by using less energy, and being more efficient? Or does more focus on technology always mean more waste, and less for the future? 
The students in my class have been asking lots of great questions, and these questions have led to my own personal change of habits. I want both worlds for my students, where they can comfortably go between the natural and virtual world. Or are both worlds natural now? 
Please leave a comment if you have any other blogs, articles, people to see and learn from. 

Comfortable being a beginner?

Reports are done, it was great to see all the progress our community has made throughout the year. As I’ve been reflecting on this, and my new position (in tech) I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of being a beginner.

Jeff Utecht posted this on his blog sometime last year. I’ve been rereading it just about every month, mostly to remind myself, to be comfortable in new situations. As teachers, I feel that we are under some obligation to know, have experience, or have mastery of something.  Our tech world is constantly changing and evolving, so we are always beginners, or should be if we subscribe to this idea of life long learning.

My new position, is going to make me uncomfortable at times. I’m not the kind of person who really wants to call myself a technology leader. I understand that it is useful, I see an amazing opprotunity to engage learners, I hope for the best, but I don’t feel like I’m leading. Jeff’s post really reminds me that, it is okay to feel that way, for that, I’m really thankful.

As always, I want to know more about incorporting slow pedagogy, or environmental education into this new tech position. I wonder, what the future holds, and what information, or skills we really need.

Thanks Jeff

Slow Pedagogy in a Fast World

I am still working on my thesis, a participatory action research project, that looks at how teachers engage in environmental education.

I’ve been taken by this article by Payne and Wattchow.

As I’ve been reading it, I’ve been wondering about how we, as educators, can develop a slow pedagogy as well as the tech skills necessary to live in a constantly changing world. How can we, “live in natural places over time”and encourage students to explore the quickly changing digital world?

I’ve been having students sit in “magic spots” (a place where they choose at the beginning of the year, and sit there everyday for ten minutes) so they have a connection to their specific place. The plan (for next year) is to have them bring an ipad out once a week and take a picture of their spot. They can use the technology to show changes over time, make a stop motion video, or a blog highlighting the connection they have to their place, as well as the changes they have noticed, and the feelings associated with both of these ideas.

I teach at an international school, and I constantly think about how students are displaced, or disconnected from their “natural” environment. As a result, I think, they turn to virtual places to find their identity.

Just torn, as usual, about what to do through tech. How can I share my two passions while making sure we provide the same kind of opportunities for future students to be outside.

My Media Presence

As a person I wonder about putting things online. It used to be fear of the unknown, then people knowing too much (privacy concerns). I mean, who puts their thoughts online, and why do they do it?

Now I’m thinking more about the idea of establishing positive media presence. There are all kinds of blogs that have been talking about the idea of positive media presence. This isn’t just about getting jobs, or keeping up with the times. It’s more about the idea of creating a community, enhancing my ability as an educator, and really engaging with the world around me (something that is really hard for the environmentalist in me to understand).

While checking out other blogs I came upon this guy Brendan Lea. This article really made me think about how we need to be positive role models for students online. If we want students to engage positively and effectively online, we need to do it ourselves. Try it out, learn from it.

So, this is the beginning of my journey. Exploring how to use technology in education, calming the fears of co-workers, parents and the larger community and enhancing student involvement.

Let me know what you are you doing. How you started off? What you learned from, how you would improve, those types of things.

Big thanks to @PENathan for showing me that this is the first step to take.