~ A presentation on July 15, 2015 ~
Savannah Technical College, Savannah, GA (49 slides)
It is simple...yet complex. I prefer the metaphor of the “navigator” as opposed to the more popular conceptualization of facilitator. You are not the controlling captain but represent the individual who points out the way for a safe journey. In order to support or scaffold the learning of others, a navigator must have a true passion for education. It must be readily apparent from all students and a contagious part of their demeanor. I am a strong believer in diversity and my background as an educator teaching for 10 years in the inner city of Savannah, Georgia has made me thankful for the opportunity to make the world a more informed and equitable place to live. The experiential learning alone has afforded me an epistemic transformation. Imagine working closely with a school system (Anchorage School District) where, according to their website, over 121 different languages are spoken. My dissertation and subsequent publications embody themes of social justice, equity, and empowerment with technology. We, as a society, can only advance as quickly and effectively as we can communicate our ideas and the power and promise of technology can support these efforts of empowerment. These passions are what brought me out of my “comfort zone” in Georgia to work where I would not only be personally challenged in many ways but where the need was greatest due to the structural societal disparities. The marginalization of Native Alaskans along with the persistent poverty and disenfranchisement is arguably at the extreme by American definitions. I have been very fortunate and honored to have been associated with the opportunity of navigating the learning of others in the “Last Frontier”.
Each and every educator must go several standard deviations above and beyond the mundane average to meet the diverse learning needs of each and every student. We are planting seeds that require our utmost attention and nurture. Education is life. When we give of ourselves to students a part of us continues to live; when you deny, an element of us all dies. It is incumbent that the navigator promotes the learners' natural curiosity and inquisitiveness, as well as, fostering a deep appreciation for knowledge. and learning. You must not only be a subject matter expert but also model best practices in your educational practice. It is an inherent responsibility that I take very seriously. My philosophy transcends Maslow’s self-actualization to enter the realm of what I would call “meta-actualization” where the focus is the well-being and growth of learners and not merely the concept of self-fulfillment. Specifically, in terms of philosophical schools of thought, my educational practice has been influenced by Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Bandura’s Social Learning theory, Roger’s Experiential Learning, Dewey/Vygotsky’s approach to constructivism and Mezirow’s Transformational Learning theory.
As a reflective practitioner, I have also learned much from my students and their countless displays of personal courage and enlightenment. It is a symbiotic relationship. My teaching philosophy is not only about giving an individual a “fish” so they can eat for one day and then go home with a momentary sense of accomplishment. Nor is my philosophy about merely teaching students how to fish for knowledge so they can feed themselves each and every day. A navigator must go beyond mere instruction. Using the same metaphor of the fish, it is requisite for the navigator to help students discover the path to the good streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans where students can locate their respective epistemological harvests. A navigator would also challenge the student to explore the polluted streams and rivers so that they can make a difference through finding a humane solution. In more practical terms, my teaching philosophy uses proven empirical research best practices of instruction with emerging and assistive educational technologies that promote 21st Century learning. It involves such items as avatars, blogs, social networks, Moodle, and wikis1 many more tools of the “Semantic Web”.
Most importantly, effective and “deep” learning pedagogical considerations combined with the application of a research-based practice that informs is at the heart of my teaching approach. Enduring boring lectures that do not engage or challenge learners to think critically has been an issue for me during my years as a student. It has been my experience that making learning “fun” in promoting the natural inquisitiveness and applicability of knowledge is what inspires students to effectively problem solve, create workable solutions, innovate, communicate, and collaborate for positive outcomes. Montessori, Dewey, Vygotsky, and others, write about this phenomena and framework which is integral to my educational philosophy.
The navigator must never lose this idealistic foresight, give up hope or become lackadaisical in their responsibilities to learners. They must encourage positive learning outcomes through a variety of tools such as project or problem-based learning, collaborative learning, kinesthetic learning, and more, while at the same time applying the latest advances in empirical research so that their practice is driven by informed decisions associated with best practices.
Finally, a navigator will help nurture a student so that they can one day write and reflect on their experiences and instill a passion to inspire the education and well-being of others. Perhaps they will write a poignant self-reflection of their worldview and experiences that have shaped, inspired, and resonate deeply not only in their consciousness but in their educational practice. If they are honest with themselves they cannot help but view the public school system as a dehumanizing and archaic institution. Unfortunately, the institution of public education is somewhat devoid of the intensity of inspiring learners as many teachers do not easily yield to indignation, weep because of the social disparities, or promote a community of learners resolute in the mandate for transformation. The exclusion of the vision for true and lasting change is perceived to be too extreme or expansive by many educators. However, a vision is, by definition, both expansive and extreme. Revolutionary ideas are often viewed with bias and uninformed perceptions which paralyze and promote hegemony. Even a surface level view of our country today would substantiate this claim.
The truth is that vision is not extreme but healthy, honorable, and intelligent and history provides examples supporting this fact. The power of the navigator to articulate a vision and inspire with substance cannot be underestimated. This is a lesson which endures a lifetime. Some teachers know very well that they will not undo the damage that is being done within the public school system in the United States. They do no more than simply prepare learners for an even-spirited, well-protected, and antiseptic worldview as if they are in an isolation chamber. For me, working collaboratively on a viable theoretical framework for global virtual project-based learning (GVPBL), whereby students separated by time and space, can not only communicate with each other but construct their understanding of our world is one approach for 21st Century learning. Effectively using the technological tools of our time to genuinely foster a collaborative environment is not only plausible but conveys a deeper understanding and consciousness of learning and living. This is just one of several pedagogical approaches by which teachers may experience an initial disorienting dilemma. However, the true transformation does not occur without discombobulating overtones as our imagination soars with energy and vitality. For me, and along the same line of thought as John Dewey, education is life and this is what it means to be human.
My hope is that this philosophy of education through the navigation of learners into uncharted pedagogies derivative from valid and reliable experience will be judged by my substantial actions pursuing positive change. My confidence and determination for all educators to persevere and endure the daily classroom struggles can lead us from debilitating hopelessness into the light of hope. I close with an inspirational poem entitled “Lies” by Yevgeny Yevtushenko written in 1962 and translated into English by Robin Milner-Gulland.
Telling lies to the young is wrong.
Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.
Telling them that God’s in his heaven
And all’s well with the world is wrong.
The young know what you mean. The young are people.
Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted,
And let them not only see what will be
But see with clarity these present times.
Say obstacles exist they must encounter
Sorrow happens, hardship happens.
The hell with it. Who never knew
the price of happiness will not be happy.
Forgive no error you recognize,
it will repeat itself, increase,
and afterwards our pupils
will not forgive in us what we forgave.
September 14, 2017
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