Another dot in the blogosphere?

It’s context, not isolation

Posted on: October 27, 2009

I found this Vimeo video from a ReadWriteWeb article, You Can’t Squeeze Knowledge From a Pixel.

Video source

It has little to do with education. However, it reminded me of something I try to emphasize in the ICT course that I facilitate and am now harping on in the EdPsyII course. What makes learning meaningful is context, not isolation.

I think that teachers or curriculum planners often remove context and complexity from a problem because they think that learners cannot handle the cognitive load. As a result, the problem is simplified into what seems like more manageable chunks, but it is devoid of context. Another result is that the issues that contribute to that problem get compartmentalized and isolated from one another.

For example, the complex skill of integrating technology in education might require content knowledge, technology skills and pedagogical approaches to be blended into a coherent whole. But we tend to teach these separately because each component is so complex.

I think doing this is acceptable as long as learners get to synthesize in context. So instead of simply asking my trainees to plan for technology integration (and thus show me head knowledge), I ask them to actually teach that topic via a demonstration. I also get them to sell their ideas via a walkabout format of presentation. They are teachers after all and designing, implementing, reflecting and strategizing is their context.

In new version of the EdPsychII course that I facilitate, I notice the broad topics of classroom management and inclusiveness again broken down into parts. There is the potential the pieces to remain disjointed.

To counter that, I am requiring all five of my classes to choose a subtopic and start writing about them from the first week of class. They will not only gain expertise in one area and teach their peers about their topic, they will also be able to critically examine a particular week’s topic from their lens. (We are using a Google wiki and Google Docs to do this.)

For example, classroom rules and routines are normally an individual teacher’s domain. However, they could also think about how their individual biases (personal pedagogies) and how school or cultural norms (collaboration and support) shape what they how they do this.

Facilitating this process is not easy. Learning this way is not easy either. But I think this approach will promote both creative and critical thinking. I also think that my trainees will be better teachers as they will think and act more collaboratively and systemically rather than individually.

But that is only what I think. The next few weeks are about putting these principles into play. Let the fun begin!

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