Monday, September 11, 2006

21st century teaching: Learning how to let go

I am revisiting some ideas to do with 1-to-1 learning, disruptive technologies, social networking and flat classrooms. When I blogged about social networking in the classroom recently I should have included some of Wesley Fryer's recent blog postings as I have an afinity with what he is saying. He discusses the 'Case for Instant Messaging in the Classroom', and says:

"What should instructional technology leaders say to administrators and teachers who want to shut down ALL network access to instant messaging? I think this situation should be an opportunity for students to learn and practice contextually appropriate technology use… but the tendency is for pro-IM voices to be drowned out by digital immigrant teachers shouting, “Shut them down! Shut them all down!”

Wesley's podcast on 'Safe Digital Social Networking' introduces the session with:

"
Schools must be proactive, rather than merely defensive, in helping students acquire the skills of digital citizenship needed today and in the future. Simply banning read/write web tools on school networks is an inadequate response: Educators must strive to learn alongside students and parents how these technologies can be safely and powerfully used to communicate and collaborate."

More recently he talks about 'School reform vision needed' and says in response to the "Saying no to school laptops" article:

"The technology immersed environment is likely to be more inherently engaging, because of the engaging content and communicative potential which the laptop contains and promises."

Wow, yes, of course we are on the right track with our 1-to-1 laptop and handheld programs! However, why is it that many teachers are finding refuge in remaining a digital immigrant? I believe it is their inability to 'let go' in the classroom. It is their well developed sense of 'them' being the most important item in the room for each student and without 'them' there the student could not possibly learn.
We need to run 'how to let go' professional development for teachers. Perhaps if we left a handful of teachers (immigrant status) in a room of, say 20, students with laptops researching WWII, doing IM and blogging at same time (yes my students multi-task) for, say 3 hours, would they come out twitching? cured? inspired? exhausted? Isn't that how we feel each day in the 21st century classroom, those of us who are trying/allowing/getting away with to develop learner self-awareness, learner-centred and communication focused environments?

Of course I still feel put out when trying to speak to a group of students about a new topic/online tool/assignment etc and I find some of them are using their laptop and chatting to students in other classes...how could they not be 100% focused on me, me, me? Yes I do take it personally, but in terms of 'what have I done wrong', not 'what have they done wrong'. OK, they may be breaking a 'school guideline for network use' and I should possibly be implementing disciplinary action (sigh) , but what is wrong with my action in the classroom that lets them stray to disruptive and distractive behaviour? How can I improve my own 'teaching'?

I have no real answers to any of this except to reiterate....we need to learn how to 'let go' of 20th century classroom ideals and move into the 21st century with fresh approaches or what we do as a teacher will become irrelevant.

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1 comment:

pete whitfield said...

This is so stimulating - I am going through a battle with my institution (16+ learners in the UK) about communities of inquiry. We have moodle but I want my learners to have more.
But at home, I have started blogging with my boy. He is six. What advice would the experienced bloggers have to help me stimulate him?
His site is
www.dominicwhitfield.co.uk