Six months into the year 2013 and I should be rejoicing with positive progression in my teaching.
The month of June, and I should be declaring all my successes as an educator.
As I stumble across the writings of others, I rejoice in their achievements and successes in their classrooms. These blog entries remind me that successful classrooms are indeed possible. I have experienced them as well.
Which brings me to my past 6 months, for which I will neither highlight successes nor achievements. Teaching does not imply learning. Learning, does not necessarily need teaching. Ideally, I would wish they were inherently linked, but reality is different. A lot of learning takes place outside the classroom, without teaching. And there are always stories of success and failures over a period of six months. Neither will leave an infinitive mark on the world. Nevertheless I can not help but reflect on the inherent tensions in educational practices and how they may influence stories of success and failure.
Over the past six months I have taught F2F in two very different contexts - my regular HigherEd context and as an EdTech voluntary trainer in a developing country. Despite the many differences in each context, two facts grimly remain on my mind:
1 - digital devices, whether desktops, laptops or iPads will not guarantee learning nor ensure motivation;
2 - there needs to be learner responsibility in the learning process.
Increasingly teachers come under fire for using or not using digital tech. Despite already being the year 2013, discourse on "21st Century Learning" still is debated and promoted. Time to move on. Time to understand that bringing digital devices into classrooms is not the magic cure to all the incoherences and tensions in education. Time to understand that yes, digital tools need to be introduced in context and have as much underlying pedagogical purposes in the classroom, as the bits of paper which were used before.
Except now we have a difference: whereas in the past, those strips and bits of paper were strewn all over the floor and the teacher would painfully have to collect them, spend endless time organising them back into envelopes and filing them, today, digital tools allow learners to display their work to all, without the teacher-centredness of distributing and collecting bits of paper. In such a context, the thinking and development of ideas and projects goes deeper - not merely a quick consumption of a game which will lie forgotten on the classroom floor.
The degree of learning is deeper as the degree of risk is higher.
This applies to both teachers and students. Learning cannot be regarded as sitting back and waiting for the edutertainment to begin. Yes, there is uncertainty in learning, for learning is a messy process, a chaotic experience. However, for learning to take place, whether with teaching or without, one needs to take those steps in uncertainty. Responsibility is critical, otherwise, one remains in the edutertainment zone, mindless and inconsequential.
This is not to say that engaging and fun activities should not be introduced the teacher - by no means. Creative use of images, stories, mini presentations, mini research projects and so many other activities all have a place in classrooms (many mentioned in this blog). Yet learning takes practice, risk taking is inherent in learning and learner responsibility needs to be part of the process.
In the popplet above, I include a visual on Social and Emotional Learning, which can be understood as:
There will always be different learning styles among a group of learners. Educators themselves may demonstrate and model in different ways, hoping to meet the varied learning styles. None of this will matter much without learner training in SEL.
As my semester finally draws closer to its end, I reflect on my own risks, my own uncertainties and learning process as an educator.
One thing remains certain in my mind: the need to constantly connect reflection and practice, connecting practice to reflection.
And the need to connect learners - whether they be teachers or students - to how they best can learn for themselves. Whether by whetting their curiosity or opening up different corridors of learning experiences, accepting that risk and uncertainty is part of learning should be calmly accepted.
How do you view uncertainty in learning?