Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Tag: philosophy (page 1 of 1)

Philosophy for Children

I read this article today about philosophy for children, which was shared in last night’s discussion about math in the real world. I thought it was pretty appropriate because my own son has started asking some difficult questions, and I’d like to find some more resources for exploring them with him. Obviously, I can give him my perspective on the issues, but I think it would be better to find resources which are more familiar to him.

Here are some of the questions he has asked me in the past few months, which are in my mind a sign he has entered a period of philosophical reflection.

  • Why don’t we fly away from the Earth, if it is spinning so fast?
  • Does the Earth spin this fast (starts to spin himself very slowly)?
  • Are people on the other side of the Earth sleeping when we are awake?
  • How did monkeys become people?
  • Where does the universe end? Does it go on forever? How did it start?
  • Is Earth in outer space?
  • Why does gravity happen?
  • Were you alive before I was born?

My son is 4. I don’t want to stop his questioning of the world, because I see his curiousity as something to nurture and help thrive. I’m worried that if I give him none of the answers to these questions, he’ll stop asking. Similarly, if I give him all of the answers, will he see me as the primary source of information? Will he stop asking other people? 

I can give explanations for all of these. It’s sometimes hard not to answer in terms of other things he doesn’t know yet, but I suppose that can lead to more questions. Still with effort I could help my son find all of the answers to these questions. I’m wondering if it is better to leave some of them unanswered though, to leave space for him to continue to question, and to grow.

One way I’m going to encourage this kind of thinking is by reading books which ask some of the same kinds of questions, and encouraging thinking about "big ideas."

Here is a suggestion of books you can read with your kid (or give them to read) with a philosophical perspective:

Thanks to all who shared these suggestions on Twitter earlier. For more information on teaching philosophy to children, you can also check out this useful wiki.


Philosophy of Educational Technology

In my teaching, I infuse technology through-out my lessons.  Although I have a deep interest in technology going back as far as I can remember, I hope I am using technology purposefully and appropriately.  It is important to me that technology not just be a fancy add-on, but that it should be a tool with which to help students understand the world.

The purpose of using educational technology is to enhance pedagogy and enable students to learn.  We have many tools we use as educators, and different types of technology are included in this toolset.   The major benefit of using technology is that it can greatly expand the variety of types of lessons students can participate in.

In my experience students learn best by doing, rather than by watching.  As much as possible, I try to have students work as participants in a collaborative guided investigation, rather than relying on direct instruction.  William Glasser once famously said "We learn, …50% of what we see and hear, …80% of what we discuss and 95% of what we teach," modifying Edgar Dale "Cone of Learning." (Dale, 1969)  Hence, in my classroom I try and have the students do, discuss, or teach the material they are learning.  This style of instruction is aided by the powerful technological tools of today.

My strongest values in education are compassion for students, open-mindedness about what they are capable, and recognizing their differences.  Educational technology allows me to be more compassionate, in that I can differentiate a lesson better, understand my students through their work, and provide more opportunities for student voice.  One of the ways I provide this voice is using multimedia presentations and integrated technologies as summative of the students’ understanding.   These types of activities assist students in remembering what we have learned.

I have recently begun to move away from lecturing to students and have this experimented much more with student led research.  For example in my science 8 class each pair of students is researching one of the body’s systems, and presenting their work in the form of a website.  Other students will be responsible for reading this material, then summarizing it in a short audio podcast.  This way I will be attempting to improve the retention of the material, and moving ownership of the learning process to the students.

My personal theory is based a lot on Ausubel’s assimilation learning theory (Novak, 2007)which suggests that knowledge is retained and more useful when it comes from meaningful learning experiences rather than rote learning.  I try very hard not to rely on rote learning in my teaching for I know how quickly students forget the material once they no longer need it.  I also know that if you excite students about a subject, they will put tremendous effort into learning it, which greatly improves their retention.  One of the areas I have made the most change is recognizing that teaching specific content is less important than teaching the skills necessary to learn and retrieve that content.


Novak, J.D. (2007). Ausubel’s assimilation learning theory. In Custom course materials ETEC 512. Vancouver, BC: University of British Columbia, Bookstore. (Reprinted from Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations, pp. 49-78, 1998, Mahwah, NJ: Earlbaum).

Dale, E. (1969) Audiovisual Methods in Teaching – Third Edition, Published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, record retrieved from Eric database on October 18th, 2009