5 December 2011

The Changing Chessboard of Classsrooms

‘I declare it’s marked out just like a large chess-board!’ Alice said at last. ‘There ought to be some men moving about somewhere - and so there are!’ she added in a tone of delight, and her heart began to beat quick with excitement as she went on. ‘It’s a great game of chess that’s being played - all over the world – if this is the world at all, you know oh, what fun it is! How I wish I was one of them! I wouldn’t mind being a pawn, if only I might join – though of course I should like to be a queen, best.’

 Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll

Chessboards and classrooms is a theme that lingers with me. Roles of learners, teachers and the curriculum are determining players on the educational chessboard.   Classrooms are spaces of interaction, relying heavily on communication and the value of  how roles are established, recognized and maintained by the classroom members. The existing tensions between the roles, both in terms of internal and social worlds, offers one a perception of the classroom dynamics as a game of chess, where roles are constantly interacting and in search of power. Nevertheless, roles change - not only in time, but through time.  

Any classroom, whether language or a content area, does not exist on its own. Classrooms are related to a much wider society and the cultural paradigms which they embrace. Today, with the presence of digital education taking a more regular role in classrooms, learners, teachers  and the curriculum are required to have different roles while playing out to a different set of dynamics. 

Empowering students is not just a phenomena of today; learner autonomy is not an educator's vision only of today either. These beliefs have been part of my teaching practice for many, many years - as they have been of colleagues all over the world. The ease of how this may be introduced and implemented in classrooms has changed. The fact that a connected classroom may interact on a global scale -  in real-time - will necessarily alter roles and concepts of learning power, influence autonomy and freedom of choice. 

If there is an acknowledgement that roles of teachers and learners have indeed changed, that educational paradigms are quickly trying to adapt to new literacies,  learners' expectations and needs, how is the curriculum changing?

 Who changes the curriculum?

And what implications are there for assessment within a game of digital chess?

These are some questions which often cross my mind when I look into classrooms - mine and of others. 

I began this post focusing on the classroom with its main players - learners, teachers and the curriculum. Moving slightly away from the desk, from the desktop and board, there are other changes to consider as well. A teacher may have an academic portfolio, publications of various types (a book, journal article, newsletter etc) as well as perform different academic roles. Today, those more traditional roles have changed too,  as educators are increasingly taking a role in social media, whether blogging, tweeting or being involved in socio-professional networks. 

All these activities outside classrooms have extended a teacher's role. Though this post is not meant to be an explanation of why educators should blog, I'd like to point out an article by Dean Shareski, How to Make Better Teachers, where Shareski discusses and raises interesting reasons why a teacher should be encouraged to blog. And like most other activities that teachers are engaged in, there comes varying degrees of responsibility as Clive Shepherd recently referred to his blog.

Without realizing it, today I stumbled across the news  that CristinaSkyBox had been nominated for the Best Ed Tech/Resource Sharing Blog 2011  and for the Best Teacher Blog 2011. For a blog which is barely over one year around the blogosphere, I only have visitors and readers to thank for having been nominated.

Others who may possibly not have known of the Edublog Awards Blog, I strongly encourage you  to take a look and delight in the great resource of bloggers that share, reflect and create their everyday practices.

Classrooms and chessboards change.

How do you perceive these changes today?

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