Monday, January 16, 2012

Teaching to learn

Learning is all about motivation. If you really want to learn something you will. If you don't want to learn you find excuses. This I think is particularly applicable to the use of the net in education. Today's web-based tools, communities and communication channels do not demand very much, if any, technical knowledge and if you really want to learn it's not so hard. However many teachers are reluctant to take the plunge and examine the opportunities for learning that open up once you attain a reasonable level of digital competence.

 CC BY Some rights reserved by cogdogblog
Two articles on this subject have caught my eye in the last few days. First one by Jim Salsich called Do Teachers Need to Relearn How to Learn? He sees a mismatch between our expectations that students are able to learn independently and teachers'ability to learn new tools for teaching. If we are not curious and interested in learning new ways to teach then how can we expect our students to show a curiosity for learning?

If we expect our students to use “critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making” (ISTE student nets 4) and “apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes” (ISTE student nets 1.a), shouldn’t we be able to do the same as teachers? If we can’t apply these skills in our own learning, how can we teach our students to use them?

So many teachers wait for training sessions to learn new net tools and applications but maybe the most important training is to learn how to be a self-directed learner, just as the students should be. If teachers are not interested in learning, experimenting and changing, how can they expect students to do so?

"Learners are no longer dependent on learning directly from an expert, the information is literally at their fingertips, they just need to know how to access it. And most important, learners of all ages need to be the drivers of their learning. Just like our students, teachers need to seek answers through active exploration. Again, if we are not independent learners, how can we expect our students to be?"

Steve Wheeler's excellent blog, Learning with 'e's, has a new post, We learn by teaching, where he elaborates on the idea that teaching is learning and that teachers may well learn as much as their students on a course.

The real magic occurs when we are all learning together, and I would like to argue that this should be the case in any learning environment. In his 1968 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire wrote 'Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.'

Of course we all have stressed schedules and it's hard to devote time to experimenting and exploring new web tools, but when there's a will there's a way. As Salisch writes in his post many of us have simply started exploring new possibilities on the net, not because of any training initiative at work or because the boss has told us but because we are simply curious and interested in testing new ideas. That is the driving force behind learning - for students and teachers alike.

1 comment: