Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Layers: Tools and Skills

I just read Jeff Utecht's new post called Technology: More than a tool, a new skill.

Utecht provides some great examples of how viewing technology as simply tools promotes this kind of substitutive use... quill, pencil, pen, word processor. Of course there's some tool based learning. The focus though, as Utecht lays out, should be on skills and learning.

So why don't we do this more often? What prevents us from focusing more on tools rather than discussing the skills and learning? 

When we talk about using technology in schools, in classes... that's where things seem to get messy. Fire up discussions on 1-1 computing, social media or the like, and people get defensive. It's a problem with many layers. I'll start with one thought here and post others in the coming weeks. 

Here's the first, a discussion thread that pops up often: Pedagogy. I'm guessing you've heard this before. 

'So and so is a great teacher. We're not going to tell them they have to use technology.' 

Some teachers are comfortable with technology and some not so much. That's as deep as many conversations go... when we simply talk about the tools themselves.

Here's some criteria for 'learning' I've laid out in quite a few presentations, a map of sorts I use in teaching and how help steer our Lab.

I'd like to think great teachers teach individuals rather than a seat in a class of curriculum. To be clear, bad teaching, exists with and without technology.

If the scope of learning has value in the slide above, then I'd pose that technology use can help explore the threads there in very diverse and creative ways. It does not need to dominate... it can provide opportunities. Especially on the creative front.

It can be student centric. A teacher doesn't have to be an expert at video editing to incorporate video into classes. They could allow students who are comfortable in that medium the chance to create work that way though. Ask a student to submit work to you in any form they choose. I told a friend recently... who has basically no computer skill...
Focus on content. Allow students to design creatively. Tell them they can use audio, video, visual presentations... and see what happens. Encourage them to help each other with their technical problems. Make sure their work is not tool centric, rather that they focus on content. See what happens.
It's messy learning. It explores failure, learning how to fail, and reinventing ideas. This approach challenges pedagogy and the idea of the teacher centric, stand and deliver model classroom. My friend told me the flexibility opened up doors in his classroom he'd never thought of. The work was far more creative that he'd hoped and he learned a great deal more about the students individually. He focused on content. His students focused on creativity. We discussed Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, where students land, challenging them to create, make the experience individualized...

Of course there are other ways to lead / mentor this, varying degrees, considerations technically, but it's an example of creativity and approach.

Here's a great quote I love from Gary Stager that eloquently summarizes thoughts on pedagogy:
"Less us, more them."
I like the simplicity of it Stager's words there. It's a great motto to have I think as you explore work with students.

I'll add thoughts to other layers in the puzzle soon.


No comments:

Post a Comment