Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Avoiding Psychic Disequilibrium

One of the neat ideas in this reading for me included the concept of psychic disequilibrium. 

An Imperfect Summary of Reading #2:
Carroll, Joyce Armonstrong and Edward E. Wilson. “Preface and Introduction,” xvii-xl in Acts of Teaching, 2nd Edition. New Hampshire: Heinemann/Teachers Idea Press, 2008.

Ubiquitous, global access to technology has transformed the skills our children need to thrive in an interconnected world. The process paradigm better prepares students to think, create and invent their job in a world where easy access to cheap labor, cheap manufacturing, and abundance have made the old factory model insufficient for today’s world. Abydos Learning research-based approach to the writing process empowers teachers to create non-threatening learning environments for students unafraid to take risks and confront challenges.

“This is your special pebble. It will help you write something wonderful,” shares Sharon Chamberlain after a period of sustained silent writing and reading of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, “when you return to your seat.” Kidwatching allows teachers to gain insights into classroom practice, teacher interaction behaviors. For example, the practice observed is described in the Preface. The site is a first grade writing classroom, students explore vocabulary in the context of a story students have read. They are also invited to share their predictions, descriptions and associations from the story. In this way, students are engaged by the content and meaning of the story that serves as a model of the writing they themselves will do as creative, inventive, discoverers authors.

Students find themselves empowered to connect with the content and each other, taking risks that challenge them to grow in the relationships they formed. These relationships with everything they did came as a result of the integrated reading and writing approach.

Facilitating student relationships with the world around them, what they are learning helps minimize “psychic disequilibrium,” a term coined by Adrienne Rich. Psychic disequilibrium can be described in this way: a worldview in which the learner does not find him- or her-self, jarring one’s view of the value of the world or one’s own place in the worldview proposed. Psychic disequilibrium may be seen as rendering students’ experiences irrelevant, disempowering their ability to be, as Jerome Bruner puts it, “meaning-makers” critical to life and culture.

Avoid this disempowerment in writing classrooms. Enable students to grapple with words, craft those words in exciting, meaningful experiences within the context of daily reading, writing listening, examining and predicting in a classroom. This approach enables students to gain confidence as they create in risk-taking environments embedded in their life as meaning-makers.

Building relationships, crafting meaning ties into a process paradigm. This paradigm fits into the writing classroom of meaning-makers and risk-takers overcoming challenges through their writing. The process paradigm models problem-solving within a community of practitioners, which as a result of a “flattened world”--a reference to Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, outlining 10 world flattening technologies--require a fundamental shift. This shift highlights the inadequacy of the Product Paradigm, or the old factory model for the organization and operation of schools. This factory model focused on rules, discipline, conformity to a lock-step curriculum. Though effective for its time, the role of teachers and students has had to change in the face of globalization.

That required change--recognizing teachers and students as learners, risk-takers and meaning-makers, shattering the silos of isolation imposed by factory model schedules--results in statistically significant and important increases in student writing performance, as cited by Carroll, 1984, 325). Abydos Learning International (f.k.a. New Jersey Writing Project) facilitated those changes through its theory, pedagogy and encouragement to teachers to implement its unique approach. Teachers learn a different approach to writing and reading than that encouraged by the Product Paradigm, eventually earning the right to participate as certified teacher-trainers focused on shifting practices from product to process. Technology facilitates “mind-bloggling” interconnectedness that “requires shifts in theories, teaching, training, methodology, pedagogy, curriculum...[and] understanding of what learning is” and how it can be assessed.

This century--a global age--requires shifts in ideologies that expand student, and teacher, learning beyond the prison of classroom walls. Simply, technology has knocked down barriers that kept poor countries overseas from implementing the Product Paradigm more successfully than the United States. Daniel Pink characterizes the challenges as abundance (inexpensive to manufacture goods), automation (technology) and Asia (cheap workforce). Research statistics support a swift transition to teaching writing--as modeled by Abydos Learning--that prepares students to think “holistically,” recognize patterns, be thinking writers.

Reading, predicting, writing are continuously required of citizens today across a variety of media. Over 8 million pages of discourse are generated each day...the authors point out that if you cannot write, you may face psychic disequilibrium--a highly literate world where illiterates will not see themselves. We can avoid that disequilibrium only by helping students work through unfamiliar problems in technology-facilitated collaboration with others, employing complex tools, defining your job are only some of the requirements for entrants to the work force.

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