Knowledge Seeker

Educators as Knowledge Seekers

If you had told our ancestors that in the 21st century all of the information ever known to man would be available in a hand-held device that fits in your pocket, they would never have believed you. Actually, you probably wouldn’t have to go back more than a couple of generations for them to think this idea was something out of a science fiction novel. But this is our current reality, and in fact, the data generated every day on the web is increasing so much by the day that it’s almost enough to make your head explode.

As mentioned in my last post, critical consumption is a key component of the creative process, but what does this mean for us as researchers. How are we, as educators, navigating this flood of information and seeking out only what is best and/or most relevant for our students and ourselves? What opportunities are we giving our students to be knowledge seekers? And what do we want students to do with all this knowledge? The answers to these questions are complex and multifaceted, but I’ll do my best to unpack these.

Knowledge Seekers choose to Seek Knowledge

One of the most important things I want my students and fellow educators to know about me is that I don’t have all the answers. And if we’re being honest here, sometimes I wonder how I’m even qualified to be a teacher with as much as I don’t know. But with this understanding that I am not the knower of all things, I think it’s perhaps more important that my students and fellow educators know that I will always choose to seek more knowledge. And I’m not alone in this. I’d say that most of the world’s best teachers choose to seek knowledge. When I teach, this is what drives me.

https://skipwalter.net/2012/01/05/the-four-boxes-of-knowing/
Photo: Skip Walter  https://skipwalter.net/2012/01/05/the-four-boxes-of-knowing/
knowledge seekers consult trusted sources

Luckily for us, knowledge can be sought out in a lot of different ways these days. As an educator and a knowledge seeker, I think it’s important that we find trusted sources for acquiring skills and information and that we show our students how to do the same. Education is a shared experience, and when it comes to seeking knowledge about teaching and learning, I find it’s best to consult the experts. Now, these are often ‘experts’ in pedagogical theory and practice within their fields, but sometimes they are simply people who are sharing their varied learning experience with others. For me, this happens on Twitter, through podcasts and educator websites, and can also be found in textbooks, online course and in rich Professional Development sessions. In my work with students, part of my role is to introduce them to sources that they can consult to seek knowledge, and another part is to teach them how to be discerning of credible sources in their search for knowledge. Common Sense Media has played a big role in shaping the digital citizenship curriculum and approach we use at my school, and their lessons on News & Media Literacy are fantastic. Other great resources include the #digcit and #iste hashtags on Twitter.

knowledge seekers Fail forward

We know that learning is a process and that nobody becomes an expert by only doing things once, but it’s always good to remind ourselves and our students that the path to knowledge is often paved with failed attempts and semi-successes. This week’s TED Talk by Diana Laufenberg highlighted the importance of letting students fail as part of the learning process. As educators, it is our duty to celebrate mistakes and failures in an effort to normalize and de-stigmatize them. This is not easy for most of us, as educators or simply humans. We don’t like being wrong. We don’t like failure. We don’t like to not be good at things. But it’s only when we embrace these experiences and give them the value they deserve that we can move forward from them. In my class, I take every opportunity I can to share my mistakes and failures with students because I believe it will help them relate to others. Sometimes we incorporate this into a morning meeting or number talk. Other times, it’s in the form of a provocation for a learning task. Here’s one of the most recent examples I’ve brought into the classroom and staff meeting to discuss the idea of failing forward:

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knowledge seekers reflect on their learning

The final thought of today’s post is one about reflection. This, for me, is quite possibly the most important component of the learning process. For without continual reflection, how will we know we have learned? How can we make sense of our knowledge and apply it? Are we ready to do something with this newly acquired knowledge? Perhaps this has been on the brain lately because we are moving away from a skills-focused approach to a more learner-centered philosophy of teaching through inquiry at my school. Much of my work in with the curriculum team this year has been to explore inquiry models and help develop one that fits our community and context. A large part of this journey has brought me to Kath Murdoch’s inquiry cycle which places reflection at the center of understanding.

Photo: Taryn Bond Clegg

So as I wrap up this week’s reflection about being a researcher, educator, student empowerer and knowledge seeker, I think it’s a fitting time to pose one last question to all my fellow educators; How does being a knowledge seeker impact your practice?

4 Replies to “Knowledge Seeker”

  1. Thanks for this post Ms. Reyna. I appreciated and can relate to when you ponder if you are qualified to teach. I also sometimes feel a case of imposter’s syndrome when I am in the classroom as the amount of information on pedagogy is also hard to keep up with. I believe that this is such an important realization that we need to model for our students, that we don’t have all the answers and how can we seek out the information they need together.

    The graphic you inserted under this section reminded me of a quote by Isaac Newton in which he says “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean”. We need to understand that we don’t really know that much to be able to become knowledge seekers. Knowing that we know nothing is something that even goes back further than Newton. Even Plato when referring to Socrates talked about this. I guess that since people started thinking deeply about the nature of knowledge they found it important to reflect on how they know nothing (a metaphor for saying there is still so much to learn?). Do we need to admit to knowing nothing like a first step to wondering and gaining wisdom?

    Thanks for the tips and handles to check out, I have used a few common sense media resources in the past and the one that always stuck with me was the “Rings of responsibility”. It is so important for students when seeking out knowledge that they are responsible towards themselves, their families, and the world in general.

  2. I agree with Flynn’s assessment about teachers and the imposter syndrome. As teachers, don’t we all feel that way? It seems impossible for us to “experts” in every area that we teach. I especially feel that way with technology. I always love telling the students when I’m showing them a new app that I’m not an expert in any way and that if they learn something new that I haven’t showed them, please come teach me. I also ask students what they think they are experts in and will have other students refer to them when they have a problem or question. With young children, lessons like this must be explicit but it shows that I am not the holder of all information and that they can also have ownership. I think it’s so important, crucial even to showcase teachers are seekers of knowledge to drive home the idea that learning is a lifelong affair. We don’t just grow up and stop learning and we, as teachers, are still learning along with our students.

    I agree that failure and mistakes need to be celebrated. I always point out when I make mistakes and the students loves to point it as much I do. There is actually a Museum of Failure in Shanghai right now and I’m telling every teacher that I know in hopes they will take their students there. Without failure, how will we know what is success?

    I like the connection you made with Kath Murdoch and the importance of reflection. It is central to the inquiry cycle because without looking back, we can’t move forward. When I first started teaching, I found it quite hard to have the time to be reflective. However, with the PYP model, reflection is so important and taking that time to reflect on the UOI and documenting that right into the planners makes it much easier for the next year. When I think about how being a knowledge seeker impacts my practice, I think about how no two units… or even lessons are ever the same. We’re always learning from our previous lessons and building on it. We’re continually growing and seeking new ways to teach or new materials to use and share.

  3. Hi Reyna,

    Your comments and visual about knowledge seeking reminded me of a Ted-Ed video I’d seen – “Why incompetent people think they’re amazing” – link to youtube.com

    This video discusses the Dunning Kruger effect, a cognitive bias in which people lacking in ability/expertise in a certain area tend to overestimate their abilities. Whereas, those with a moderate level of ability/expertise have less confidence as they know enough to know there’s a lot they don’t know. I think it’s important that our students realize that we as teachers don’t know everything and that that is okay! I, like you, find that I have the same wonderings…the more I learn, the more I wonder, do I really know enough??

    I liked your emphasis on the idea of failing forward. I agree with you about the importance of celebrating mistakes. In the elementary school I work in, “fails” have come to be known as “first attempts in learning.” This is a commonly used expression by both students and teachers which has helped students to understand that mistakes are a part of learning.

    We have also done a lot of work in growth mindset over the past few years. For those not familiar, Jo Boaler’s “Week of Inspirational Math”, is a great way to start any school year! One of the videos included in this resource discusses the idea that mistakes are so important in learning that our brains actually learn from them even when we don’t know we’ve made them! (She discusses this in this article: link to youcubed.org)

    Thanks for sharing! I really enjoyed reading through your post!

    Caitlin

  4. I totally agree with you that as 21st-century educators we are becoming active knowledge seekers than teachers as we move away from textbook learning to inquiry-based learning. This is the trend at my school as well since the last year. We adopted the Teachers College, Writing workshop model for the last three years while the school adopted the Reading Workshop model two years ago. In addition, the middle school also adopted the C3 standards in Social Studies that are totally based on inquiry-based learning. This has meant that as a teacher we have a lot of leeway in planning our units but there is a fair amount of research that is needed to plan, implement and then evaluate students.
    And yes, as I research I realize how little I know and how much more I have to learn. However, like you, I also like to learn and get excited to find out about new apps, programs and teaching methodology that I do not know.
    It is also of paramount importance to impart learning to students that is relevant to their world and equips them to keep on learning as a student.

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