Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Learning--- More Compelling Than the Tools Themselves?

Will's post, Owning the Teaching ... and the Learning, has fostered quite a conversation in the comments. That conversation really struck a chord with me, brought back lots of memories and spurred me on to thinking! He writes:

I hate to generalize, but the thing that seems to be missing from most of my conversations with classroom teachers and administrators is a willingness to even try to re-envision their own learning, not just their students. .....

But I’m still bothered by the fact that very, very rarely do I see new pedagogies to go along with them that prepare students for the creation of their own learning networks. That allow them to take some ownership (or at least envision the possibility of it) over their learning. That help them learn self-direction and get them to stop waiting for someone else to initiate the learning. And even rarer is to find one of those teachers exploring his or her own learning through the tools. ...

Many of our kids are already doing this without us. Many of them have much more of a clue of what it means to learn using these tools than we do. Imagine if we could teach them to leverage their connections even more powerfully, if we could show them how powerful they are in our own learning. That we are not just engaged teachers but engaged learners. That we’re not afraid of what’s ahead because we know how to learn. ......

He concludes:

"And I’m wondering, like the survey question from a few days ago, what classrooms might look like 10 years from now, if they will be fundamentally different from what they are today."
And in the comments were many references to teaching and learning the "tools", the technology. The comments that resonated the most for me were more about the "learning" and suggested paths for moving forward :

Teachers and especially administrators and politicos are not going to sanction doing something differently unless you can prove that it works on more than a one classroom model. Brian Crosby

We should be moving towards creating a few schools that demonstrate the true potential of collaborative, digital learning. Mike Guerena

We need more models showing this “stuff” in action. We need classrooms that are models, places that people can visit, CDs filled with videos of lessons and projects in action. We need model networks of kids and teachers working in these ways and collaborating in their learning over the distances…. People need to relaize that it is about learning and how learning can be and needs to be different. Clarence Fisher

This post really resonates with me. Maybe it’s time to build the school of tomorrow, instead of waiting for the school of yesterday to catch up. Bud Hunt

We do need those multiple examples of those model classrooms! And I'm wondering if a virtual school might be a perfect venue to share the excitement of active, engaged students. It surely would make it easier for all of us to visit and to learn! And I'm wondering if the name of such a school should really suggest its purpose--- showcasing exemplary, extraordinary engaged learning rather than the future. --- but I'm digressing here from my original intention for this post.

I am thinking more and more that conversations whose focus is meaningful, engaged learning, and how people learn—those conversations and deeper understandings may encourage educators to consider and adapt their pedagogy to scaffolding learning experiences for all that by their very nature utilize these “tools” that many now leave behind.

Some years ago, I was fortunate to design, develop and teach a new career tech program for high school students who were interested in education as a career path. The pedagogy for that course design was built largely upon my learning from 3 sources:

Carroll, T. G. (2000). If we didn’t have the schools we have today, would we create the schools we have today? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 1(1), 117-140.

How People Learn
by John Bransford et all
For these purposes specifically Chapter Two:

Meaningful Engaged Learning from NCREL

Now none of these is new, but I’m feeling they each lend voice to adapting to a pedagogy of learning which engages all. A reading of the paper suggests a model classroom of expert and novice learners, not teacher and learners. It speaks to the notion of life long learning, and of active engaged learning. Bransford, in research based How People Learn, notes the specific characteristics of expert and novice learners. These plus indicators of meaningful, engaged learning informed my design and scaffolding of learning experiences. I was incredibly excited and frightened at the prospect of such a learning environment. Some pretty incredible learning for both expert and novice learners transpired. Family circumstances led me to retire, but I shall always cherish and never forget the excitement, the rush from learning with my students.

It strikes me as strange that now when I share the program with others I talk about the technology--- the video conferencing, the laptops, the online course—when it was the pedagogy that fostered the learning. And I'm focusing on the tools???

I’m wondering then, if conversations surrounding the NCREL indicators, Bransford’s work, and Carroll’s paper could lead to “the classrooms our children deserve”. Can that dialogue, along with the models of excellence, be more persuasive and compelling?

1 comment:

jfccrunner said...


I really appreciated your thoughtful comments on my blog-even more inspiration to keep blogging! I checked out Kathy Cassidy's classroom blog and was very intrigued! Not only was it a fabulous example of seeing children that young make use of blogging, but it was also helpful to see their patterns as they are learning to read and write!

Also, I enjoyed your most recent blog entry. You mentioned a "virtual school"- what exactly would this look like? It sounds like an interesting concept.