Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Do YOU Peel a Banana?

September brings a lull for staff developers like myself itching to begin working in classrooms but needing to wait patiently as teachers build rapport with students and lay the groundwork for well-established routines and procedures. This holding pattern inevitably gives me time to reflect on my own practices and set goals for the work that I will accomplish during this school year. As I think about what has been and what is yet to be, I surf the web for information: articles, blogs, videos—anything that I can use as a sounding board for my thoughts and ideas. Every now and then, I find a gem. And recently, I found one that I HAVE to share with you.

This is a video about opening a banana. I know what you’re thinking. If I’m amused by a man peeling a banana, I have WAY too much time on my hands, right? Here’s my response: watch the video, then we’ll talk.

After I watched this, I couldn’t help but think that this video is the perfect metaphor for professional growth and development. Year after year after year, we do what we think is best. It works, so we don’t bother to think about how to do it better or differently. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Isn’t that the old adage?

Since watching this video, I have eaten a lot of bananas. Sometimes, I remember to pinch the bottom and peel with ease. But, sometimes, because I’m in a hurry or because I’m just not thinking a whole lot about how to peel my banana, I revert to my old ways. I chuckle and think to myself, so that’s why some teachers insist on teaching whole class novels or give seven ELA practice tests before testing day: Change is hard.

Colin Powell said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant, or the scared. It’s an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms.” When it comes to teaching, the call to action is imminent. Education is under the gun and we can no longer afford to be complacent, arrogant, or scared. The time to change is now and if we don’t start thinking about how to peel the banana differently, we may never arrive at the level of innovation our schools need to improve.


George Haines said...

First of all great post. I tend to like to play devil's advocate, mainly because I dislike the groupthink that saturates the EdTech community, so I will disagree with you on this one.

I saw that video a little while back too and what struck me was that is was wrong. The metaphor you teased out could just as easily be reversed with this example.

Take the literal banana first. I have also tried the pinch and peel technique demonstrated in the video and I think it makes it more difficult. Twisting the stem with one hand is easier than having to peel two long peels. Not that either is especially tricky, but the stem technique is so quick and easy I am not sure why people are so eager to do something the way a monkey does it.

Which brings me to my second point- the metaphorical banana. I think this video could be used to show why not to jump on a new trend. Peeling from the stem is easier because you can generate more torque and you have a handle to peel with (plus you don't get squished banana on your fingers)-- in other words, the new way is actually messier and of lower quality. Translate that to the metaphor of EdTech.

If someone tries to use a digital tool in the classroom and their kids actually retain less information, the teacher will be justified in reverting back to the more successful lecture/worksheet model.

Not to mention the other metaphor that the guy in the video is saying humans should learn how to be as smart as monkeys. In this metaphor, the monkeys equate to the people jumping on unproven EdTech trends and the more evolved species continues to do things the way the always have-- because they figured out a better way.

I am not saying this because I believe this point of view, I am just saying that when I watched it that is what came to mind. I thought, "Yeah, but that isn't actually a better way. Wait! What if that is how the traditional teachers feel?"

I think traditional teachers who don't use technology to enhance lessons are missing out on some phenomenal experiences. I also think that many people in the EdTech community want so desperately to believe that what they like is actually better for kids whether it is or not.

Hendee said...

As an educator I am always making changes and trying new things. If the digital tool did not work perhaps the teacher needs to try the same tool in a different way. I think most educators would agree that we do not want our students to revert when tasks are difficult. I do agree that change is not easy but the things that matter most in life are never easy.

When you're finished changing, you're finished.”
Benjamin Franklin

Kim Yaris said...

George, wow, you've really got me thinking now. After reading your comment, I headed to the kitchen to experiment with my recently purchased bunch of bananas and discovered that I actually got more squish from the open from the top method. I agree that in a way, it does seem more difficult, but I am not convinced that it's because opening from the bottom IS more difficult. I think it's because I am so used to opening from the top, it SEEMS more difficult. It goes against what I have always done therefore feels counterintuitive.

When it comes to change in education, I think that very issue is what most often stops people in their tracks and slows innovation to a turtle's pace. We're so conditioned to think inside our box, we become defensive and doubtful when pushed outside of it. Today I read an article about a math teacher in Colorado who is uploading his lectures to youtube for students to watch as homework so he can help them with their homework in class. This is out of the box thinking. It is counterintuitive to the way things have always been done; however, it makes a lot of sense. Give kids coaching and immediate feedback so their practice is productive. Makes sense to me.

George, like I said before,you have me thinking really hard now. Thank you so much for playing devil's advocate and pushing me outside of my box!

Kim Yaris said...

Hendee, thanks for the Ben Franklin quote, it's going on my wall. I agree that change is never easy. It's not easy, but sometimes necessary.

Susan said...

Kim, Love your post and your blog! Yes, I highly recommend Miller's book "The Book Whisperer". It's a QUICK READ and thought-provoking from the first few pages. I'm going to have to look up a couple of the books you mention as well. Thanks for making this connection!