Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Ask a student, how does your teacher learn?

CJ Westerberg, March 15, 2012 6:43 PM


"They (educators) need to be able to model
their own learning process for their students.
Ask just about any student how much her teacher knows,
and you'll get a quick answer. Ask a student how her teacher learns, and you'll likely get a confused look. This must change
. . ."

-Will Richardson

"Buckle Up"
We are in for a ride.

An important, must-read, Investing in Teachers as Learners, by Will Richardson via Edweek.   (Bold our emphasis).    Excerpts:

"Today, if you have access to the Internet, you will find teachers in every Web portal - to the tune of 2 billion right now to 5 billion by the end of the decade. They encompass every passion and every interest. With the enormous wealth of content online already . . .
. . . .It's a shift to a highly personalized, do-it-yourself education, a process that will continue to grow as we get better at pulling information and people from the Web to ourselves.
Buckle up.

Being able to design your own education, however, isn't easy by any stretch. In fact, it's a highly complex intellectual and emotional task. How do we sift through the oceans of information online to find the most relevant, trustworthy content for our studies? How do we find, vet, connect with, and learn from all of these great potential teachers? How do we develop the attention skills for learning in networks online and the reflection skills to assess our own progress? It's hard work. And our kids aren't getting much of this how-to instruction in their schools.

First and foremost, schools want our kids to be knowers, not learners. You can see that in nearly every aspect of our system, which remains content-driven both in pedagogy and assessment. It's a structure that was built for a different era, one that is awfully hard to "reform" to serve our students today. There is now too much for any one person to know, and what we do know is changing at a ridiculous rate. And all the important qualities of learning- self-direction,initiative, creativity, and problem-solving - are just too hard for us to assess in a cheap, timely way. We're hanging on to a system that is struggling to remain relevant in the face of on-demand learning.

If my kids have access to smarter, more experienced experts and more relevant learning opportunities online than in the classroom,
 they should be getting connected to those opportunities.

So what does this mean for "teaching" as we know it? Well, it
means the days of the adult in the room being the all-knowing
expert and arbiter of knowledge are pretty much over - as they
should be. If our kids have online access to smarter, more
experienced experts and more relevant learning opportunities
than in the classroom, they should be getting connected to those opportunities. But it also means that we need to consider the
online content our kids are connecting to (now that we have
access to so much), and that they should have access to more
than one teacher.

This is not to suggest that the content in our classrooms is no
longer important, or that the adult in the room isn't still a critical
part of our kids' learning or their social and emotional development.
I want my kids to be in places where they are cared for, where
they are supported and encouraged by people whom they look
up to, respect, and trust. There is no question that "teachers"
still have a lot to offer my children. But those "teachers" now need
to be experts at only one thing, and that is learning. They need to know how to help kids become those self-directed, literate learners who can ask meaningful questions, probe difficult problems,
separate good information from bad, connect safely to strangers online, and interact with them on an ongoing basis. And, most importantly, our educators need to be able to do this themselves.

They need to be able to model their own learning process for their students. Ask just about any student how much her teacher knows, and you'll get a quick answer. Ask a student how her teacher learns, and you'll likely get a confused look. This must change
. . . ."

Bio:  Will Richardson has been writing about the intersection of online social networks and learning for almost 10 years at weblogg-ed.com. He is the co-founder of Powerful Learning Practice (plpnetwork.com), a national advisory board member for the George Lucas Educational Foundation, and a co-author of the forthcoming New Learning, New Schools: Shaping the Future of Education With Learning Networks (Solution Tree Press, May 2011).

Orig. Published The Daily Riff January 24, 2011
  • Jcbjr

    Absolutely agree with these thoughts. Education is not about remembering (beyond core knowledge that is); it's about learning. I've always found I was much more effective at facilitating learning when the students considered / saw me as a learner too. I once presented a paper titled "I don't want to fly in that airplane if you designed it from memory.". And that's true: get the best information and use it properly!

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