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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

KTB: Thinking (Metaphorically) About the Classroom Forum

Comments are posted in the order in which they are received, with earlier postings appearing first below on this page. To see the latest postings, click on "Go to last comment" below.

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Welcome to (an on-going on-line discussion of) Sex
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2004-08-31 10:53:49
Link to this Comment: 10706

Welcome, colleagues. Gus and I are very glad to find all of us here, and very much looking forward to seeing where we can go FROM here, where we can get to by semester's end....

Let's begin, shall we, by telling one another a few brief stories? You'll see, among Thursday's reading assignments, my own (repeatedly revised) metaphor for the classroom. Tell us, in response,

Looking forward both to your initial thoughts and ...

what will emerge as we share them with one another.
Anne (for me and Gus)

running the gamut
Name: Nancy
Date: 2004-09-01 21:08:12
Link to this Comment: 10714

My own academic experience has been a gradual move towards thinking of learning not only for my own benefit, but for the benefit of the others as well.

High school teachers, frustrated with hammering comma uses into the brains of uncooperative, unmotivated 15-18 year-olds, rewarded my class participation. It was an easy enough situation in which to excel. I could come up with the answers, and they were so eager to have someone volunteer "between items in a list" that I was offered plentiful amounts of positive feedback. The bank was my model at this point. I categorized and compartmentalized and could rapid-fire back the difference between consonance and assonance.

I came to college more or less believing that learning was about somehow guessing the answers that the teachers knew before they asked the questions. Coming from this point, of thinking of the classroom as a foray into mind-reading, college classes seemed out of my comprehension. It took almost a year before I could begin to stop viewing the classroom as a place to come, sit, and get answers. I didn't think I had the power to affect anyone else's education. The notion that keeping my thoughts to myself was a 'selfish' move still forces my brain to do a mental double-take.

I would like to say that I have come farther in my shift in pedagogical thinking. The truth is, sometimes I feel uncooperative and unmotivated. Sometimes I feel angry and question why I am in college. Sometimes I wonder why I spend so much time talking about things that don't really have any effect on the world. And then someone begins thinking aloud and I can't help but go along for the ride.

Name: Sierra
Date: 2004-09-01 22:55:54
Link to this Comment: 10716

I think of the classroom much like a playing field. Each aspect of the game has it's own counterpart in the classroom.

The ball is much like the discussion that occurs in the classroom, passed from player to player-- or student to student. As with most playing fields there are the star players and even the ball hog. These students tend to dominate discussion often keeping it from the weaker or more tentative players.

The coach--the professor--teaches the skills required for the game and guides the players through the game. There is often the offense and the defense in the classroom--one player carrying the ball and another taking it away in the opposite direction.

Then there are the players on the bench. These are the silent members of the classroom. This is where I spend most of my time. I am the quiet observer of the game. Often thankful for the chance to sit out and watch the play of the game, other times eager to take to the field to show my skills no matter how good they may be.

We all come to the game with different experiences, different abilities. But we all have the opportunity to practice and to play. As we practice we become better at handling the ball and we become more comfortable with the play. While it is impossible to make each player equal, the coach and the players can work together to strengthen each player and somewhat level the playing field.

Verdict Please
Name: LB
Date: 2004-09-01 23:38:33
Link to this Comment: 10717

A courtroom. So it's not the real or ideal classroom in all settings, but it's the one in which I feel most comfortable and satiated. We go to a liberal arts college, right? Therefore answers are only labeled as "correct" or "incorrect" in the math and sciences and even then the outcome is debatable. The debate I can handle--the swift argument of one's points with credible or at least reasonable evidence to back it up.

It's the lack of conclusion that is most unsettling in most classrooms. Sometimes doesn't it help to have a definite answer that you can point to and say "Here, this is what I learned in school today." That's where the courtroom plays in--the purpose of a courtroom is to house a trial in which a verdict is reached. The beauty of the metaphor is that trials make their own deadlines--we are not limited to a single class meeting if more evidence is necessary. And the actors are not limited to a single role.

Students are the attorneys while presenting a new idea and the witnesses when adding additional comments to someone else's thought.
The professors are counsellors just as much as the students, but they have the advantage of playing the dual role of judge--only in terms of establishing order and conduct in the courtroom--not for making the final decision. Students and professor make up the jury in terms of deciding "What's the value of our discussion and how can we apply it to life OUTSIDE the classroom?" Let's all have a say in the verdict, but let's at least reach one according to the aforementioned suggestion.

metaphors of a class
Name: bryn (bree
Date: 2004-09-02 00:44:37
Link to this Comment: 10718

Having grown up in a family consisting mainly of educators, I have always had mixed feelings of the classroom and in fact still do. I never really liked school, but always felt ashamed because I always felt that I must like it due to my family. I once read a quote by Joseph Addison, an English essayist, that I, though reluctantly, agree with, "What a sculptor is to a block of marble, education is to the human soul." I agree with this quote in the sense that teachers and classrooms have always been quoted as 'shaping the minds of students' yet I am reluctant to agree because I am uncomfortable with the reality of it. What then, is to make of the student and teacher? In his quote he portrays the educator, classroom, etc as a sculptor, having control and power over the marble (the student). Yet the student is portrayed as being both malleable and dense, in every sense of the word. This metaphor, at least in my experiences, has always proven to be true. I, the student, have never been more than putty in the class's hands; pessimistic, but sadly true. However, I hope that I will not have to refer back to this metaphor, when this class is over and I am asked what I thought of it. I am not saying that this is the metaphor in which to describe this particular course because I have yet to know, but I can say with confidence, that if this course is in any way an imitation of, or at least similar to others past, then I will be very dissapointed with the truth of such a metaphor. Yet I hope to use the dinner party metaphor in which by semester's end, I will have been well fed and in good company. Until then the only metaphor that I can leave you with is that the classroom for me has always been like a sculptor who, although tries, rarely succeeds into turning my soul of 'marble' into something as wonderful as a sculpture.

An International Conference
Name: Beth
Date: 2004-09-02 01:47:22
Link to this Comment: 10719

When asked to think of a metaphor that I would use to describe the classroom, the one that I came up with had a lot to do with the first class and what we talked about in that time period. I would like this class to be like the ideal international conference.

The students represent ambassadors from many different countries, each a reflection of our own experiences. We are not always going to be able to know exactly where the other is coming from, but we remain openminded and understanding of difference. The professors are organizing the conference, ready to steer us back on track but with no definite agenda. There is no absolute authority, no one voice more knowledgeable than anyone else.

Ideally, everyone should feel that the classroom is a safe space. I want to feel comfortable, to be able to say what's on my mind without worrying whether or not it's right or wrong, popular or unpopular.

There may not be a definitive conclusion. I don't see all the problems of the world being solved through one class. The goal for me in the classroom is to get me to think, to make me aware, and to communicate.

The Symphony that Could Be
Name: Gilda Rodr
Date: 2004-09-02 01:56:29
Link to this Comment: 10720

As much as I enjoy learning, I think my classroom experience has been far from ideal. I like to think of it as an orchestra with very talented players. The director signals for us to start playing, but no one does, so I take that as my cue to play a violin solo. When I finish, I wait for the rest of the orchestra to start playing together, but they almost never do. I sit through a series of solos (and maybe a couple of duets) from a small number of instruments, including my own, waiting for the moment where everyone else will join in. The director, sometimes patient, oftentimes frustrated, waves her wand, encouraging the whole orchestra to make music together. And when (and if) we all DO play together, it sounds a thousand times better than the best solo ever could.

Sailing through open waters
Name: Sara Ansel
Date: 2004-09-02 10:04:54
Link to this Comment: 10722

Sailing. In my mind, a classroom functions as a sailboat does. I see a sailboat floating safely, comfortably upon the sea, perhaps rocking from the movements of the water below but always remaining above the water line. The hands on board may scurry to adjust to the shifting vessel under their feet but their true function never waivers - to prepare the boat to catch the optimal wind. And when the sails billow out and the hands on board have accomplished their initial desire, they must keep the vessel moving at the optimal speed, allowing the movement from the air to turn their vessel from a lumbering floating dock, to a sleek knife cutting through the waves. I see sea as the curriculum the professors have prepared - something that keeps the students afloat in the academic world. The vessel is nothing but the coming together of all the hands on deck - a common intellect perhaps. But the most important aspect is the wind. The wind is the only thing that urges the minds to billow out and move forward. I see the wind as the professor who pushes beyond the initial want of the hands on deck - to keep the ship from sinking - and who inspires the class to go beyond their comfort zones and original concepts of a classroom dynamic. This is what a feminist classroom strives for perhaps.

The Jungle
Name: Claire
Date: 2004-09-02 10:41:59
Link to this Comment: 10723

To me, the classroom is like a jungle. I am wary of entering it, unsure of what I might find. I could run across a tropical flower that intrigues me and would mesmerize me for days on end, or I could walk endlessly in circles, trying to find my way to where I want to be, never actually getting anywhere. I see myself as a peacock in the jungle, most of the time happy to strut around observing the other animals in the jungle, watching their actions and learning about them by doing so. However, if one of those animals comes to close to my territory (issues that I am very passionate about) my tail will come out in full bloom, displaying all my intricacies of opinion.

As in a jungle, the classroom contains many different types of animals. In some classrooms, particularly lecture classes, the professors take on the persona of a lion, becoming "king of the jungle;" dictating how the jungle is run. In discussion based classes all types of animals are present. There are the little snakes that wriggle along the jungle floor, happy to go unnoticed. There are the beautiful birds that make a large flourish every time they land and take off, and do so often. Worst of all there is sometime an anaconda, one person in the classroom that makes the class unfriendly to all.

The jungle, like the classroom, is full of surprises and is ever changing. One day could be beautiful with everyone living and working harmoniously, and the very next day there could be complete turmoil and unrest.

Name: David Litt
Date: 2004-09-02 11:06:24
Link to this Comment: 10724

I have had the luck and pleasure of have fantastic experinces in the classroom, for the most part. All of my teachers in HS and a few at Haverford so far have been proponents of 'Engaged Pedagogy.'
Because of these experiences, I imagine a classroom to be somewhat like a Bee Hive. If you ever read ZooBooks as a child you know what I am talking about but for those of you who didn't, I will brefily explain. Bees in a hive do a series of dances in order to communicate and exchange information about pollen (among other things) and then they leave the hive and retrieve pollen. I see the classroom in this sort of way because we all approach the class knowing something of the subject but ready to learn new concepts and notions of the subject. terms of the meataphor I would see the students as bees who knew a few nice plants where there was some pollen and the teachers as those bees that had extensive, yet not complete, knowledge of pollen locations. Once we have gathered and exchanged information, we all leave the classroom and incorporate and synthesize our knowledge into our lives and return with new experinces and deeper understanding of the subject (aka pollen). In this metaphor, there is an imbalance of knowledge but not in power. We are all in this pollen/infomation gathereing business together and we can all inform each other of our own knowledge and experinces. And in the end, we put all of our information/pollen and produce undererstanding, in much the same way Bees refine pollen into honey...well with hopefully less vomitting.

losing it and finding it
Name: gus s
Date: 2004-09-02 11:36:20
Link to this Comment: 10725

When I was a kid, I saw a production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" where the orchestra conductor got so wrapped up in what was going on on stage that he jumped up and started fighting pirates with his baton. . . it was a really funny slapstick moment for a preteen, and probably not for most adults, but it exemplifies something I often feel when I'm teaching--that I lose myself in what students are saying (a potentially great thing) and drift away from the over-riding, guiding, authoritative position I'm supposed to have (a potentially bad thing). I remember feeling this way as a student, too--I was so fascinated by everything other people were saying that I didn't have the energy or mental space to formulate anything of my own to say. That felt pretty crappy then, actually--and I hated my perennial reputation as a "shy" or "quiet" student. but I think I eventually learned that getting lost was important, was the only thing that enabled *finding* anything surprising and new. And that being quiet was not as bad as refusing to lose yourself in the fray, just stating what you already knew, loudly, again and again. So now that I'm a teacher I can't stay *so* quiet. Instead I try to conduct from a semi-visible position like the orchestra pit--sometimes I jump on stage, flail around a bit, then I either jump or fall back into the pit, where my copy of the score is. . .

Dance room
Name: Rebecca Ma
Date: 2004-09-02 12:05:38
Link to this Comment: 10726

If the space of the classroom could be physically transformed into an entity that encompassed all of its complexities, subtleties and contradictions, then I imagine it as a dance room full of dancers moving to different music playing silently and simultaneously. The students move according to various kinds of music that play within their own minds and occasionally coordinate their movements with others who, for a moment, seem to be able to hear the silent music of peers. Sometimes teacher or students are onstage, as described by Tompkins, to show other dancers how well they can perform; while at other times the same dancers are offstage. A few individual or groups of dancers refuse to dance. The complexities behind of their lack of movement are dances and performances in and of themselves. The resistance to dance expresses a rule about the dance that always exists internally to the dance. In particular, the resistance does not always signify that the process or the ends of the dance are not important, but that the meaning of the dance is being contested, it structure being challenged.

Jazz Ensemble
Name: Deborah
Date: 2004-09-02 12:12:59
Link to this Comment: 10727

Thinking about this question, and having had the (dubious?) pleasure of teaching different classes myself, I have been trying to articulate a metaphore that works for all aspects of a classroom yet takes into account individual differences. The aspect of performance also influenced my thinking. For me, a jazz ensemble is a perfect metephore for the classroom. The teacher is the percussionist...keeping the beat, providing and guiding a rhythm for the rest of the ensemble, occationally performing a solo act, but always throwing the thread of sound and song to others. Sometimes all the guidence that is needed is a whisper or low, barely heard beat with a few soft hisses...other times a swingin' rhythm to excite and motivate the rest of the enesemble--the class-- is what is used. I think of the class as making up the rest of the ensemble, coming and going for each performance, with no two performances or even rehearsals being alike. I am a person who speaks often and comfortably in class...I don't feel or think of myself as a "hero" or an "oppresser" of the more reticent speakers in a class...I see myself as a trumpet, brassy but too the point...singing out the overall melody of the class. Some students make valid, consistant points throughout a semester...they are basses, keeping the class on track with an undercurrent of thrumming sanity and calmness. Depending on personality, intent and intensity, different classmembers could be represented by soleful clarinets, spunky and edgy guitars, mood-swinging pianos, gestureful trombones. Different peices, like different topics in class, can be slow, minor, sad or restful. Other topics create fast paced rhythms and rousing choruses. Even if an instrument is not played in every song, it does not negate the power and importance of that instrument...especially for the songs it does or can play in. It is through our collaberation with each other and playing off everyone in the classroom that a class can soar or fall. I agree with the assessment in BellHooks, "Excitement is generated through collective effort". A jazz ensemble feeds and plays off each other with a gamut of moods and innuendos, fun and melencoly. I do see teachers and students performing with and for each other, but all as active participants, not as innactive audiences. To take the metaphore further, I see the audience of our jazz ensembe as the administrators, parents, and individual expectations that react to and look over our jazz performance. They will either become wildly excited, snapping their fingers, tapping toes, nodding heads, or getting up and dancing, swaying with the emotions of high and low energy songs. I can't wait to make beautiful music later today in class ;-)

Classroom as Play
Name: Arielle Ab
Date: 2004-09-02 14:10:08
Link to this Comment: 10728

When asked to formulate a metaphor that most accurately represents the classroom to me I came up with several ideas, orphanage, sham, bar, etc. The one however that seemed to most accurately reflect how I currently feel about the classroom is a play.

The director – professor- tells us when to speak, move, gesture, interact with each other. The director directs her play – conducts her classroom- as she sees fit. She has an idea of how the rehearsals will go, how the actors will learn to work together for group scenes and alone for solo dialogues. Her job is to direct us, the actors –students- to see that we perform to our optimum, grow as actors, and overall be the best in the business. We all benefit that way. People continue to invest in the director. With every successful play –class- actors refine their skills. If we receive raving reviews –high GPA/degrees- we are offered better roles –job/higher education letters of acceptance-. Clearly, we students are actors in this metaphor. Some of us have more visible talent than others. The understudies are the quiet students that are present but not the most visible contributor to the class though they may work as hard or harder as any. Everyone has made the cut – been accepted- has some talent and spark that the casting director – admissions office- saw as being an asset to the play and theatrical community -class/ community and college-. Everyone is responsible for knowing their lines – doing their homework and research-and if they don’t then improvisation must be exceptional to escape the director’s wrath/disappointment. Lastly, for the time being anyway, when a play has come to it’s successful (hopefully) conclusion – finals- the set is struck down- notebooks recycled/papers filed away (in some cases burned)- and all look to the future for the next act.

a three-ring sales convention
Name: Chelsea
Date: 2004-09-02 14:29:42
Link to this Comment: 10729

Ok. Thinking of a metaphor for the classroom is bit too easy. Or rather, so easy it becomes difficult. my first thought (instinctive, apparently) was a womb. And then I actually thought about it. sure, we could be massive of unborn somethings inside of a cultural mother, feeding off what we as a culture consumes, but it just doesn't seem to be quite right.

As I read "shuddering without end," I began to recognize many grainuals of truth and shades of gray that I had observed for myself but never owned or become truly aware of. class IS a bit like spectacle, there is a lot of performance, a lot of tension, a lot of competition- and I'm not sure anyone can claim to know with whom. This lead me to the idea of three-ringed circus. Along with the categorizing exercise we did in class on tuesday, maybe we are all buying into one act in the larger circus and therefore competing with each other for attention from the audience, but also in desperate need of each other in order to retain that audience. In some cases I think the audience is the professor, and in some cases it could equally be the outside world and society in general as we strive for recognition. This is particularly pertinent in classes that utilize serendip or programs like it, as the thoughts of individual voices truly do become public property and public space.


I'll see your metaphor, and raise you...
Name: Jessie
Date: 2004-09-03 15:15:24
Link to this Comment: 10764

I have two main concerns in creating a metaphor for a classroom. First, I find it difficult to assign roles without also connoting hierarchy. It’s hard to designate someone as “loving the food” without also naming a category of people who “hate the food.” You can’t have the “star players” without also having the non-star players, implicitly less talented. Moreover, the “star” role always seems to go to the most talented vocalist/speaker in class. The less-valued roles go to quiet students. This implies that if you’re not talking, you’re not contributing anything to the class and you’re not engaged in the course. I don’t necessarily agree with this. I also believe that it’s possible to say something that doesn’t add much to the course even without dominating class discussion, for example, by going off on a personal anecdote that’s not meaningful to other students.
My metaphor compares the classroom to a poker game. The cards are your thoughts and ideas, the chips are what you communicate to the table. Everyone has to ante up, simply by being present. Then everyone has a chance to “fold” and watch the game, “call” and go with the flow, or “raise” the stakes. Throughout the game, you rearrange your cards/thoughts, recieve new ones, and learn what other people hold. You win, not by putting all your chips on the table, but by developing your hand. The professor could be the player who doubles as dealer – tossing new cards at you and having the ability, perhaps, to stack the deck a little. The difference between poker and a classroom, however, is that in poker, you can only win if someone else loses. In a classroom, everyone has the opportunity to walk away from the table with more than she started, so long as she's examined her cards and improved her hand.

rowing and musical chairs
Name: Jana McGow
Date: 2004-09-06 12:42:19
Link to this Comment: 10781

In the classes I have attended over the years, I'm not sure there has really been one particular model. Larger classes seem to put more pressure on the professor to carry more of the weight, while smaller classes usually require more from the students.

However, I guess one metaphor that might be useful to look at is a rowboat. I liked the sailboat idea someone else had, but in the rowboat the students are the rowers and the professor is the Coxswain. People at the front talk more and can steer the class, while those at the back can put the breaks on if they want. If everyone rows, we get to our destination more quickly. We can still get to our destination if a couple people don't row, but it will take much longer. If no one rows, we don't sink, but we don't really go forward either, and the wind could push us farther back from where we started. I'd like to think of the work the students do not just in terms of talking, but also the posting and writing papers etc. Some students are better in one medium than another.

Also, i like the molding of the soul idea, but for the classroom maybe like musical chairs. I think that loud students can learn a lot from being encouraged to listen more, and quiet students can learn a lot from being forced to talk more. We all have strengths we bring, but we all need to change positions sometimes to learn and grow even more.

Name: Mar
Date: 2004-09-06 15:08:14
Link to this Comment: 10784

I always viewed the ideal classroom as a dance. It would be a traditional dance - perhaps a waltz. Much of what a dancer does is independent of what anyone else is doing: one must know when to bow or curtsy, when to spin, how to move one's feet, and when to stop, without shadowing another dancer. So must a student work independently, studying and working with the material on his or her own. Sometimes dances, such as a tango, require a partner, just as the class might fall into groups or pairs with whom the students might work. In some dances, all of the dancers on the floor must move together and in coordination or else the dance falls apart. In the classroom, there are times in which everyone must work together in order to learn the material.

In the formal dance analogy, the professor or teacher takes the place of the music, directing the students (dancers) in their movements without always telling them exactly what to do. Intially, when learning to dance, students will need a great deal of direction, but as they gain experience, sometimes the only need to hear the tune to understand what to do.

Name: Mo Convery
Date: 2004-09-07 14:10:34
Link to this Comment: 10797

When I look back at the majority of classes I have taken during college, I would compare them to a radio talk show. In this case the professer is the radio DJ and the students are the audience. The DJ's main job is to create a theme for the show, iniate conversation, screen calls and most of all, have the last say in the conversation at hand. The DJ has the choice of who to let on the air, how long to allow them to speak, and sets a standard reaction to the caller's comments. On the other hand, the audience drives the show. It is the audiences oppinions that the DJ goes off of, it is their emotion and response that sparks further conversation. As in class, there are memeber of the audience that prefer to just listen while others wait until their chance to speak. However, in the end it is the DJ that controls the show.

Swim Class
Name: Marissa Ch
Date: 2004-09-20 00:48:50
Link to this Comment: 10878

I imagine the classroom to be a sort of swim class. The teachers are the swim instructors and we, the students, are learing how to swim in a "pool of knowledge". I feel like in the past, my swim instructors have just thrown me a lifesaver. They taught that in order to survive I must depend on this lifesaver and not on myself-if you study and memorize these things you will pass. How is that really teaching me anything? I found my swim lessons change when I entered college. My precious lifesaver was taken away and,at first, I was drowning and gasping for air. Now, I am taught not just how to survive, but also how to master the art of swimming.

Name: Mar
Date: 2004-12-09 23:46:37
Link to this Comment: 11926

In most classrooms there seems to be a hierarchy, and for the sake of a simple analogy I will liken it to that of a wolf pack. The teacher would take the place of the alpha - in charge and leading the pack, or class. Then there are the betas, those students who tend to lead discussion but are subordinate to the teacher, the alpha. The heirarchy progresses downward each student taking her place until the last, the one who perhaps has least to say or is least interested in the class as a whole.

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