When thinking about teaching, many of us conjure images of a wise sage standing in front of a group of youngsters, dispensing knowledge as eager students absorb new enlightenment. In fact, Webster defines teach as “to cause to know something,” or “to impart the knowledge of.” Unfortunately, the model of many modern classrooms continues to follow the industrial-based model of the last century: students sitting in neat rows as a teacher hands out knowledge (and not a few worksheets in the process.)
In case you haven’t noticed, the times are a-changin.’
Schools used to be a place where parents sent their kids to learn stuff. Now they are places where we facilitate learning.
Several factors create this huge paradigm shift, but one of the most powerful influences is the rise of technology. Students simply learn from a wide variety of sources besides school. The schoolteacher’s voice is only one of countless voices sharing new information constantly.
Do you realize that the graduating class of 2012 is the first batch of “Internet Explorer® Seniors?” That is, they are the first group of students who were born after the popular web browser was released to graduate from high school. They know no other environment besides a wired world.
My grandson’s first word was “da-da.” His second was “omputer.” Ethan is four now, and it no longer impresses him that I have a computer, an iPhone, a Blackberry, an iPad, or any other technological gadget. It’s simply the world he knows. I can count on him navigating through the icons on my laptop quicker than I can. He and the other children of his generation are growing up bilingual. They communicate in their native language and in technology-ish.
What does that mean for us in schools? First we recognize the evolving landscape, welcome it, celebrate it, and make adjustments in our approach. We don’t want to echo the wise words of Dilbert: “Change is good. You go first.” We want to be on the front edge of the change, integrating technology and a new learning paradigm into our school culture.
Second, we establish meaningful relationships with students. Many students no longer respect us simply because we are teachers and contain knowledge they need to have. They respond to us because we respect them, demonstrate our concern for their entire well-being, and personalize their learning. In short, we show that we like them and are happy to have them in our class!
Third, we make the learning relevant to our students. With the wealth of technology at their fingertips, kids can easily turn off the voices that don’t interest them or the ones that don’t seem applicable to their life situations. They can just as easily tune us out.
Finally, learning must be fun. That doesn’t mean we need to put on a circus act with every lesson. But a teacher’s natural curiosity and love for learning new things exudes to students. Remember that we facilitate the learning, guiding students to explore and recognize the wonder of learning.