Letting students direct their own learning using technology is a scary thing. It means handing over the reins to the students. Doug Lawslo replied recently to a post called “Struggling with educators’ lack of technology fluency” on the dangerously irrelevant blog. He said “The basic issue isn’t about technology, its about power. My purpose is to help them learn, not to teach. If that means I let a student lead, I lead, or we all learn together. Stop worrying so much about teaching and start thinking about learning.” (dangerouslyirrelevant.com, Oct. 20, 2012).
My reply to Doug was this: When we think about all the information and learning tools that are out there we teachers seem like such a small piece of the puzzle; Especially if we think of ourselves as information deliverers. But that is not what we need to be today! We need to be facilitators that inspire our students to do more than they thought they could do. It is our job to push them to where they feel a bit uncomfortable and help them get over that obstacle.
I loved Doug’s example about having the students learn the technology first! I actually did the same thing with Motion Detectors in my Physics class. I knew that they would be able to figure it out and I learned so much from them.
In all honesty, sometimes I struggle with the loss of power in my classroom, because sometimes it translates into loss of control and management of the situation. But, I just chalk it up to growing pains and I’m learning a lot about how to let the kids go, but still keep things organized and manageable in the classroom. Sometimes when I walk down the hallways of my school and see other teachers with quiet students working quietly in rows of desks I start to wonder if I’m doing something wrong. But reading the research and blogs of other teachers and schools using technology help me to persevere and continue to grow as a 21st Century teacher.
Access to technology is not the only challenge that exists in Education today. Resistance to change amoung my students is a barrier that also needs to be overcome. Quite often they just want me to dish out what they need to know so then they can dish it right back to me and get their good marks. They often do not want the challenge of problem solving and creative thinking that usually goes hand in hand with inquiry based and problem-based learning. Keith Rispin refers to the same phenomena in his blog, http://www.keithrispin.com/editorial/is-our-education-system-mired-in-its-mythology/ (Sept 6, 2012): “They [the students] are as stuck in the teacher centered model as the rest of us.”
Unfortunately, I think students see school as something to endure and get over with as easily as possible. Then, the real learning can happen after; when they have completed this institution that society says you must go through. Students know how to learn on their own. I have watched my own children Google sometimes very difficult strategies for completing their video games. I have seen students on their own time endlessly using technology to learn about the best vehicle or how the universe works. Notice, that none of what I have mentioned here is in traditional school curriculum.
Clearly students have these skills to learn independently using technology. Why do they seem to be so resistant to transferring this to school? For some answers to this, check out the following link: http://trice25.edublogs.org/2011/01/10/what-to-do-when-students-resist-inquiry/
But, I guess it does make sense. Problem solving and critical thinking are actually pretty hard. When I consider my role to one of the challenger and the facilitator, it is my job to arrange to make students feel slightly uncomfortable (not too much, though, or they will just give up!). In this discomfort they will have to grow and that, my friends, is what education should be all about.
My vision of education for the future includes students who see school as a growth opportunity; a place where they solve problems that are relevant to them and that are current; A place where they are allowed to use technology in as many forms as they know how. School is a collaborative, interesting and sometime fun place to be. School is more than just boring hoops to be jumped to get to a better position in life.