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Posts Tagged ‘teaching

As good as Mashable might be for creating awareness on different aspects of life, I question the wisdom of relying on it for “apps to help you learn something new”.

I am not saying that the ten apps it suggested are not effective. Apps for learning are a dime as dozen, so it might help to get a recommendation on which one to use. However, I question the specificity of this ask.

The apps need to have a very specific focus, e.g., a particular language, playing the guitar, financial investments. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the learner has a clear desire and need to use it.

Such apps take a long time to develop and need constant updating. When educators first learn about mobile apps, they tend to approach them from content fields: Is there an app for ABC? How might we develop an app for XYZ? They do not realise the amount of time, effort, talent, and money it takes to get one such app off the ground, much less maintaining it.

For educators who do not code or have their own startups, I suggest switching from this narrow and content-specific view to a broader one. Look at what generic apps like YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter might offer. These involve content curation and creation by them and/or their students. They also require blended approaches of using these apps with existing environments, methods, and resources. This is a lower entry barrier to app-enabled or app-assisted learning.

You can learn how to teach (or how not to) from critical observation and reflection. Take this basic lesson for instance: Simply repeating the same thing is not teaching and does not guarantee learning.

Late last year I collected my iMac from a repair store. To make sure that it was working, the customer service representative (CSR) plugged it in with a generic power cable. My iMac did something it had never done before — its fan blew so hard and loudly as if to take flight.
 

 
Worried about my Mac, I asked the CSR why it was doing that. She replied that the generic cable was responsible. I asked why the cable could cause the fan to blow so hard and she repeated the answer.

I was on tender hooks while my Mac howled to complete its start up. After shutting it down, I asked for a proper cable instead. This time it started up like it normally would — quietly. Again I asked why the fan blew so hard with the previous cable and the CSR repeated her answer.

Her reply was not helpful because she did not actually answer my question or ease my worry. I also did not learn why that cable could make a normally quiet Mac so noisy.

I need to remind myself that some novice instructors think that simply repeating the same answers or actions is teaching. It is not if it does not result in meaningful learning. These instructors are likely just repeating what they have seen or experienced, so it is important to make them aware of this and to model alternative strategies.

On reflection, the CSR might have been responding superficially because my question was superficial. A more precise question might have been: Why did a generic cable cause the computer fan to blow so hard while the branded cable did not? Again the strategy applies. Create awareness of the need for better questions and model how to ask them.

If there is just one thing I wish all teachers and educators internalised, it is this finding by John Hattie:

… the evidence is that the biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers.

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge. London and New York.

This book was not available in a local library. I could only find a non-borrowable reference in a restricted library near me, but Google Books has this snippet.

Hattie quote source.

If we internalise this, it creates a shift in mindset and practice that separates schooling from education, and teachers from educators.

I have a one-word response to this Chronicle article — amen!

I also have a longer response.

I wish there was “teaching online” when I started teaching 30 years ago. Back then I was a military instructor and then a classroom teacher. Trainers and teachers were gauged largely by how much they knew, how well they explained, and how likeable they were.

I barely knew a thing about pedagogy or educational psychology. It was only after I left and pursued higher degrees that I realised that I had to become an educator.

My studies gave me labels for what I might have practiced blindly before, and highlighted gaps in what I knew. But it was only when I was a distance and online educator while I pursued a Masters in Educational Technology and then a Ph.D. in Instructional Systems Technology that I learnt to put everything into practice.

So, yes, online teaching throws you deeper than into the deep end. But it also forces you to rethink what you know and do. It can make you a better teacher. Better still, it might transform you into an educator as you learn how to be a learner first.

The title of my reflection today might read like an oxymoron, but you would be surprised how many novice teachers and new professors do not distinguish the two.

What sparked this reminder? A tweet from Alec Couros.

Teaching (however it is conducted) does not guarantee learning (however it is measured). This does not discount the importance of good teaching; it emphasises how other factors influence learning.

Bearing this in mind, we might realise not to use teaching as a shield against change.

The danger of lectures...

If students are to learn, they must be actively and meaningfully involved.

Learning is not a spectator sport.

One active learning strategy is to get learners to peer teach.

To teach is the learn twice.

As teachers provide these learning opportunities to their students, they need to recognise that an expert’s knowledge and experience allows them to see how separate pieces fit together. Novices to the game do not.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

Teaching is not learning and does not guarantee that learning happens. The first thing teachers forget is what it is like to struggle with learning. It takes empathy, humility, and an open mindset to unlearn that.

Recently I had the opportunity to provide my perspective on a policy and administrative design (PAD) of university courses. I call it a PAD because the pedagogy and learning design seemed secondary.

Consider two institutes of higher learning (IHLs). IHL A is more typical in that it offers 24 hours of class contact time over 12 weeks (i.e., 2-hour classes); IHL B offers 24 hours of class time over 6 weeks (i.e., a truncated semester with 4-hour classes).

Despite the stress place on learners in IHL B, its leaders rationalise that the number of teaching or contact hours from the truncated semester is effectively the same as a typical semester.

How? If you factor in public holidays, semester breaks, exams weeks, and other calendar interruptions, you might get similar numbers of contact time. If you design a curriculum on a spreadsheet, you might buy in to that argument.
 

 
Now consider some nuance by focusing on learning. Learning is like baking cookies. You might need to leave them in the oven for 15 minutes at 180°C. If you play the numbers game, you argue that you can bake the cookies in 7.5 minutes at 360°C.

However, you cannot bake cookies faster by simply increasing the temperature. You will burn them because rushing the physics affects the chemistry of baking.

Learning also takes time. Teaching might enable learning as does time allocated for learning. Teaching ability and time during and between classes are within the control of designers of courses. If we rely more on PAD and not on what research and practice tell us, we risk burning out our learners.

Students will still learn, but they will feel the heat of being rushed and overloaded. Assignments and assessments become even more dreaded deadlines (emphasis on dead). Left unchecked, the learning that happens, if any at all, becomes strategic and superficial instead of reflective and deep.

You need only take a few minutes to observe how kids and some young adults use their bags and other property to reserve tables in food courts or fast food joints. So I wonder if parents or schools have not taught kids to value their belongings.

I resumed my teaching semester at a local university recently. During lunch, an undergrad sharing my table left his iPhone X in his place. If he had done this anywhere else in the world, he would be an ex-iPhone owner.

Maybe I am just getting old and judgemental. But maybe I am right and should offer what I once taught were unnecessary life lessons.

Then again, maybe I do not need to teach anything for someone else to learn. Experiencing loss is a harsh but effective lesson.


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