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Posts Tagged ‘teacher

This blog entry by David Geurin reminded me why I shudder when I hear these two words put together: Teacher and training.

My stance has not changed, when I was a professor and teacher educator then, and as a provider of professional development now for teachers, lecturers, instructors, and yes, trainers.
 

 
You can potty-train a child. You can train a dog to do tricks. You can train people in first aid, handling weapons, evacuation procedures, and other standard operating procedures. You do this to create what some like to call muscle memory. This is suitable for situations where compliance applies.

This is the opposite of what is required of the teacher today. Gone are the days of simply opening a textbook and reading from it. A robot can do that, which is why this projection predicts that teachers are less unlikely to be replaced by them.

That is, teachers who do not behave like robots and are not trained like them.

The problem with the word “training” is the need to standardise, and in the process, favour efficiency over effectiveness. Who knows what works best from one classroom to the next? If we want teachers to move away from the one-size-fits-all way of thinking, we should not be training them.

I prefer to use “professional development” and not as a mere substitute for “training”. I think of my workshop participants as professionals the same way different types of doctors and lawyers are professionals. Just like in those fields, the contexts, methods, and content areas are in a state of flux. This requires a constant state of development on how teachers need to think for themselves.

By comparison, training is relatively simple. Professional development is more complex because it is about shaping mindsets before attempting to change behaviours. If training can be thought of as “don’t think, just do”, professional development is more like “don’t just do, think”.

I get the sentiment and thinking behind such a statement. It is about getting educators who have the passion to teach and are able to leverage on technology to help their students learn meaningfully and effectively.

These are the sorts of educators we need, but what are types we get and grow?

We can certainly find several individuals who have the passion and a few with the innate talent to teach. But integrating technology is a learnt and transferred behaviour that takes time and trials, neither of which most teacher preparation programmes and full time jobs in schools provide.

So what is wrong with embracing “tech geeks” who can teach? Who is to say that their focus and ability only lies in the tech and not, say, the ability to use social learning strategies?

Which is harder: To learn pedagogy or to learn how to integrate technology?

That is a trick question. It is the premise on which the original statement might have been built on. It is also a false dichotomy because you cannot separate the two.

What we need is passionate do-ers who are willing to learn by failing forward. They can be “tech geeks” or “teaching geeks”, but they will go on similar journeys with their learners.

Later today I will conduct a presentation on educational crowdsourcing.

The praxis of educational crowdsourcing: Learner as content creator and learner as teacher

I was invited by a university to contribute to a seminar where one of the themes was to push the practice of collaboration.

I have opted to focus on how faculty might do this by positioning students as content creators and teachers. It is one of my teaching philosophies that students learn best when they take these roles.

During my presentation, I back up this stance by citing the theory and/or research behind such practice. I also share my own experiences doing these when I was a university academic.

Update: My Google Slides are at http://bit.ly/iits-praxis.

Last week I volunteered for a school’s career guidance event for students. The students chose who they wanted to interview in half-hour intervals and we shared our hearts out.

A teacher inserted himself into my group’s discussion. As we meandered from one topic to another, that teacher declared this about his students: “They prefer pen and paper.”

No, they do not. Students have been conditioned to accepting them. The Principal of Change articulated this in a recent blog entry:

many of our students are so used to “school” that something outside the lines of what they know terrifies them just as much as any adult. If school has become a “checklist” for our students (through doing rubrics, graduation requirements, etc.), learning that focuses on creation and powerful connections to learning, not only take more effort, but more time, which sometimes frustrates many students.

 

The problem with... by horrigans, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  horrigans 

 
There is an immediacy to paper which needs to be examined in more ways than one. If you have a notebook or scrap ready, there is quickness of use and illustration that is hard to beat. Some might also value the feel of paper as a form of immediate recognition.

But paper is also immediate in that what happens there immediately stops there. There is no hyperlinking or ease of editing, copying, and sharing. The affordances of paper, as wonderful as they are, also have limited pedagogy: Go where I say, stay where you are, write neatly, do not copy, do not share, etc.

Paper is comforting because it does not push pedagogy to new ground, so schools use a lot of it. Other than the newspaper industry, I do not know any other organization that relies on so much paper. OK, maybe the toilet paper industry.

Ultimately, schools justify the pen and paper mode of instruction because of the pen and paper exams. This is despite the increasingly non-pen and paper life and work that awaits learners when they move on.


Video source

Saying kids prefer pen and paper is like saying they would rather use encyclopedias instead of Google or Wikipedia. (BTW, they know the limitations of those tools better than teachers might expect).

Just ask enough of our kids the same questions the teens were asked in the video above. Their responses might not be as colourful as the ones in the video, but you are likely to get similar responses.

Like the video, you will get a few responses about paper-form books based on nostalgia and tactility. But these come from a place of honesty and passion, not from conditioning by a schooling system that refuses to change. These come from students who learn how to think by themselves instead of providing conditioned responses.

Do we assume nostalgia to be important enough not to change? Do teachers have a right to recreate their own world instead of preparing kids for theirs? I borrow another quote from The Principal of Change in the same blog entry:

if we do not challenge our students in the learning they do in school, what are we preparing them for? What mindset will we actually create in our students? It is important, if not crucial, to really listen and act upon student voice…

How much longer are we going to maintain conditions for “pen and paper” conditioned responses?

It is the end of Teacher Appreciation Week in the US of A. Here is HuffPo’s puff piece on it.

We are more, um, economical here in Singapore and mark the occasion for a day in September.

Here is an idea on how we might celebrate the next Teachers’ Day.


Video source

Regardless of country, all teachers should be able to vent what they really feel on that day and suffer no repercussions.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. About as wishful as us being collectively able to fully show our appreciation for the really caring teachers and impactful educators in our lives.

This is the sixth part of my week-long focused reflection on flipping.

Yesterday I explained that having students create or co-create content is a critical dimension in flipping because this is an active process of learning.  

Another active learning process is teaching and I include it as my third dimension of flipping. 

Why is it important for students to teach one another?

Teachers know how difficult it is to teach. Let us consider a basic example: One person trying to explain a concept to another person.

Using Bloom’s framework as a reference point, the person trying to explain a concept must be able to recall and comprehend that concept first. That person must combine that understanding with a degree of application to explain it to someone else. The explainer has to juggle these while getting visual, auditory, tactile, or other feedback from the listener. Processing this feedback will require analysis as well as an evaluation of noise vs signal. After deciding what is important to say and show, the explainer will need to synthesize something that makes sense to the listener.

In short, anyone who has to explain a concept to someone else has to constantly recall, process, and reprocess.

Teachers become content experts not primarily because they read up on that content or complete worksheets. They teach that content over and over again and get better at it. They develop deep knowledge of that content and some even fall in love with it, all because they teach it.

If you want students to understand something better, then get them to teach it.
 

Monarch School Mobile Stories by MACSD, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  MACSD 

 
Learning is messier than teaching. Some teachers forget that structured teaching does not always lead to learning. Formulaic teaching by a teacher can sometimes take out the discovery, joy, and necessary struggle of learning because the teacher over-simplifies and does the thinking for his/her students.

Leveraging on messiness of learning means applying Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance. In a nutshell, cognitive dissonance is mental unease or discomfort due to new information. For example, if you strongly believe that only teachers can be trusted to create content and teach it, what I am proposing about flipping will cause some cognitive dissonance.

When applied to flipping, using cognitive dissonance means strategically allowing learners to struggle with what they think they already know (or do not know) and letting them teach each other what they could know or should know.

For example, a group of learners might wrongly assume that all Muslims are terrorists. A teacher could tell them otherwise, but this is no guarantee that the learners will believe the teacher.

Instead, a teacher could get the learners to analyze and share with one another their findings from various sources of information, e.g., books, articles, interviews, videos, websites. While this does not guarantee a change in mindset, the students learn to think by thinking.

Didactic delivery is faster, but that does not mean that it is effective. If you want students to appreciate something better, get them to teach it.
 

DSC_0030 by Holtsman, on Flickr
Creative Commons  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Holtsman 

 
I wager that many teachers have experienced this scenario. They try explaining something ten times to Student A and s/he does not get it every time. Student B comes along and explains the same concept once and Student A has a eureka moment.

Students develop a language and understanding of their own that teachers sometimes cannot or do not tap into. As I summarized earlier, learners:

  • can find ways to make the content more relevant and exciting
  • are more creative with relating concepts or ideas
  • are closer to the “a-ha” moments and reach their peers in a more visceral way

If you want students to learn, get them to teach it.

 

 
Getting students to learn by teaching is not a new discovery. Dale first theorized something like this in 1949 and revised it in 1969. He posited that it was more effective to learn by doing concretely than by any other method.

A side note: Dale’s cone was more about the effectiveness of different media forms and experiences. Others after him repurposed it and added numbers to the levels to indicate effectiveness for learning. These numbers have little or no research merit.

If you are still not convinced about the effectiveness of learning-by-teaching, read my quick review of two studies that showed how students who expected to teach or had to teach performed better than those who did not.

There are other reasons why teachers should encourage their students to teach content, e.g., the audience effect (Google it or read my summary near the end of this reflection).

I have described four reasons for flipping who teaches: When students teach content, they have to learn it more deeply, they learn to think more critically, they teach in ways we cannot, and research says they learn better. If these are not good enough reasons to flip learning, I do not know what is.

When I facilitate workshops for teachers, I focus on large ideas that create dissonance. Minutiae are best left for conversations with individuals, teacher reflections, or purposeful accidents.

I find that break times and post-workshop chats are best for having deeper or more focused conversations. These allow me to address very specific needs or concerns that others are not interested in.

Time for reflections during or near the end of a workshop encourage teachers to think of actionable takeaways. Rather than leave this to chance, I use one-minute papers or exit tickets.

Purposeful accidents might happen if teachers are curious or observant enough. I typically model the use of multiple technology-mediated strategies. They range from simple timers to manage group work to creating my own wireless hotspot to using almost the entire suite of Google Edu Apps.

Until they ask, I do not tell teachers how I set Google timers, tether or use a mifi device, or embed Google Docs, Slides, Forms, and Spreadsheets (and other tools) into Google Site pages. Doing this helps me model how:

  1. pedagogies or strategies come first
  2. transparent technology needs to be
  3. to provide just-in-time information to learners

Without realizing it, my workshop participants learn not because I have taught them. They learn because they have caught behaviours and value systems I model.


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