Its very easy to write about education. We’ve all got an opinion about policy and practice. What’s harder is to actually put it all into practice. When I started my blog back in 2007, I remember writing about the things I did in my classroom. Much of this involved Glow of course; I was a Glow mentor in an ‘early adopter’ local authority. It was and is very easy to become ‘pigeon-holed’ and I did and still do write a lot about Glow ( and I’m a part of the group scoping out it’s long term future) but….. there was other stuff too. About pedagogical shift alignment with societal and cultural shifts not always being concomitant. There was stuff about policy,or the perceived lack of joined up thinking by the existing education hierarchy both in Scotland and further afield.
Thinking back though, a lot of what I enjoyed in my classroom were the interactions with the kids who’d work *with* me to find solutions to problems, often involving the use of technology to do things in different or better ways. We often discovered new things we could do with the developing technology, which lead to some very exciting times in my lab (I am a science teacher, after all).
As we managed to get more technology into the lab (I had my PC linked up to a MM projector,as well as a Microscope camera, Visualiser, XBox and Wii.We had Nintendo DS’s, hand-held voting sets and Netbooks too). Most of my teaching involved using questions, as you’d expect, but deeper ‘Catalytic’ style questions where we also had to consider not just what was the right answer (shallow) but why this was so, and why the wrong answers were wrong. I worked with a final year Psychology student to develop this particular pedagogy, which was very much self-directed as far as the kids were concerned, but the questions were designed so that the learning outcomes from the curriculum would all be covered and exceeded. It was easy stuff to search online for the answers to the easy questions, but the real deep retentive learning came from discovering why some answers were correct and others were wrong, and then working out how to present this information to the rest of us in the class.
My teaching ended up using this approach. My own views on teaching and pedagogy came from this much more messy heutagogical approach which we discovered together (me and the kids) was far more engaging and relevant. It transferred ownership of knowledge and empowered us all to become better learners.
Social media was a perfect fit with this style of learning activity. After getting round corporate filtering, we were able to use blogs and twitter to inform and share what we were doing. And when I see work going on in classrooms today taking this use of technology to new heights, creating and sharing and doing new things we would have loved back in my classroom during the noughties,I can’t help but produce a wry smile.
Technology and social media have disrupted classrooms like never before, mainly because of the pace of change and the cultural shift it has engendered. I feel quite fortunate that my classes and I were able to benefit from web 2.0 using it to transform classroom activity and learning. Today’s classrooms can benefit from web 3.0…the creative web. I see this when I’m lucky enough to be in schools (which isn’t enough, unfortunately so I’d love some invites! ). I’m speaking at African Education Week this month whilst I’m in the country about the social web and how it’s disruptive to classroom practice. Thats a good thing, in my view. Anything which is able to disrupt an existing model is good, because if its able to be disrupted…it needs disrupting. I’ve expanded on this in an interview I did for the organisers of the conference.
But good teachers will always take advantage of whatever high-tech or low-tech they feel will enhance learning in their classrooms, and beyond. One of the most enduring legacies from the web 2.0 years has been the large number of great blogs written by teachers in which they share their experiences. One of the best is from Kenny Pieper, an English teacher working in Scotland. It’s a wonderful and uplifting testament to the power of education and learning, led from the front, the middle,and sometimes, the back by an inspiring teacher committed to his students and to education in its widest possible sense. I’m very proud to say I’ve shared a few drinks with him (and with others) and been able to put the world to rights over some very fine beers…teachmeet in its purest original form I guess! Kenny’s latest post is a great example of shifting pedagogy to suit the circumstances. Some other great stuff is to be found over at Pedagoo.
Its easy to write about education. Putting that writing into practice is what *teaching* is really all about.