Another dot in the blogosphere?

Motivate, monitor, mediate

Posted on: November 6, 2015

I was tempted to share a piece I drafted a while ago on the various Cs of educational technology. You know, the usual communication, collaboration, connection, etc. But I thought that others had already been there and done that better than I could.

I thought about what I have observed teachers trying to do and also what they might strive to do. At the moment I have three Ms: Motivate, monitor, mediate.

iPads arrive in 4th grade... by timlauer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  timlauer 

When technology became more common in modern classrooms, some teachers rationalised that it was a way to motivate learners. Today teachers still think and say that, except the word now is “engage” (but here are reasons why engagement is not enough).

Technologies like mobile phones and laptops certainly motivate, but only in certain contexts. Outside the classroom, learners have free play with them. For example, they can watch the videos of YouTubers they subscribe to. If they wish, they can post or respond to comments about the video.

In the classroom, the teacher selects a video and typically leads the questioning or a discussion. Learners might be interested initially, but over time they realise they do not have the same level of choice and ownership. Such a motivational strategy gets old very quickly.

Since the rise of the learning management system (LMS), teachers have used technology to monitor their learners. This type of technology not only helps teachers assign work to their students online, it might provide answers to this question: How do I know they have done what I told them to do? This is still a common concern.

I am sure that teachers would like an LMS to also automatically mark (grade) student work. With the exception of more objective multiple choice-type tasks, the technologies in this collective is not quite there yet. This M-word does not make the grade yet.

A more important and powerful strategy is leveraging on technology to mediate learning. This strategy requires teachers to design student-centred learning experiences in which students learn with and from technology.

The teacher builds bridges, scaffolds problems, or creates links with the technology. Mediating technology connects students with content repositories, knowledgeable others (this includes the teacher), and spaces to explore and create. Ideally, such technology becomes as transparent as the older technology of the pencil and paper so that it enables learning instead of distracting from it.

The teacher needs to use mediating strategies as well. Whether the strategy is flipped, game-based, or social media-enabled, the teacher needs to become a small but critical part of complex learning experiences.

The teacher who mediates learning with technology need not be the only one to look for content because it is so readily available. Instead, the teacher needs to help learners see or do what they cannot. The teacher needs to be the meddler-in-the-middle. For example, the teacher needs to help learners search for and evaluate content. This not only helps with the learning of content, but also with critical thinking skills and digital literacies.

Many teachers still cannot see themselves doing this because they have never been taught this way and they might not think this is feasible. They might not realise this is how we currently learn after we are out of school. We learn without curricula or tests. We learn when the situation demands it. We learn all this with the help of technology that connects.

Today I conduct my third workshop on technology-mediated pedagogies at a school. It is my way of meddling with old mindsets, modelling a more progressive approach, and reaching teachers one person at a time.

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