We are always talking about moving kids along, scaffolding them to achieve at a higher level, taking them out of their comfort zone, and always striving to move from “Teacher does, students watch” through to “We do” and finally “Students do, teacher watches”.
This process is well known in educational systems all over the world, albeit under different names, e.g. it is also known as Inquiry based learning, or the E5, Constructivist learning or moving through the Zone of Proximinal Development. It is also known as going from LOTS (Lower Order Thinking Skills) to HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) in the Blooms levels of thinking, and it can also be viewed as using White hat thinking through to Green hat thinking (De Bono).
Of course, all of these teaching and learning philosophies, or streams of thought, have been researched, and have scientific grounds. However, in the minds of most teachers, the philosophies only refer to Pedagogy (Young people learning and the teaching of young people ). We tend to forget about Andragogy (Adult learning and the teaching of adults).
I wonder about whether we as teachers set the same goals for ourselves. Do we want to push past our levels of comfort? Do we want to be scaffolded (or go and find scaffolds for ourselves) to move to higher levels and better outcomes? Do we want to feel challenged? Are we willing to use ‘experts’ to support us through the Zone of Proximal Development from watching the expert, doing with the expert and finally becoming the expert?
When we relate these questions to using E-Learning and ICT applications in our curriculum development and teaching, we need to determine whether we are willing to use students as the experts to teach us? Are we willing to be out of our comfort zone in front of our students, until we have tried and tried again to succeed? Will we persist with E-Learning in our classrooms until we finally reach that “A-Ha” moment when we ‘get it’ in terms of an ICT application?
If we are not willing to go through this process ourselves, especially with relation to E-learning and ICT in our classrooms, how can we expect our students to be happy when they are ”scaffolded”, “moved on” and ecouraged to “try and try again”….?
I recently listened to an interview with a fourteen year old student as the guest speaker. She claims that teachers only teach ICT to the level where the teachers feel comfortable, and then the teachers stop teaching ICT. As young people today have skills well above the ICT skills of most of their teachers, they are effectively ‘undertaught’ by the teachers in terms of ICT skills.
Teachers may stop teaching with ICT when they start moving out of their comfort zone, but if this student is not aware that the teacher may be learning to use ICT behind the scenes, it means she does not see the teacher going through the agonizing process of trying new things, finding ways to improve his/her skills, of practicing the new technology. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for the students to see some of the struggles the teacher is having when learning something new, so the students could realize that learning is a slow process – even for teachers? In my experience, students are happy to help teachers with ICT. The teacher only has to ask, or in some cases, the teacher only has to look like he/she is struggling…
Whose level of comfort is important in our classrooms: The teachers’ comfort or the students’ comfort? If teachers refuse to move past their own levels of comfort in front of their students, are we in fact robbing students of the opportunity to see that true learning, and the art of improving yourself, is a life-long task?
This is a real issue. Perhaps we should listen to this student’s message, and remember the real satisfaction when we finally succeeded at something we had to work really hard at…won’t it be great if we could move ourselves along this E-Learning journey with the support of our students?
Here is the interview (see sound player beneath the photo). Her name is Edith, a fourteen year old girl in England, and she explains her thoughts and frustrations with ICT in schools: