Sunday, June 24, 2007

Reconstruction of Learning Experiences

As a smart, clever, literate educator reading this blog, you, like me, are actively trying to reconstruct the learning experiences of students to equip them for a digital, flat future. Why else would you read this?

I heard something this week that disturbed me, and will probably disturb you as well.

A teacher had taken some seven year old computers out of 15 months of storage ("too old for the network, need to be thrown out"...said the tech guy). So rather than throw them out, the teacher (with permission) reformatted them, installed some freeware/open source programs suited to the subject being taught, put them into a cluster in the back corner of the room and put the students to productive work.

Sure they weren't on the network, and there was no Internet. If the students wanted to save work, then it had to be to a usb flash memory drive. But they were productive! They were engaged. The students loved it, the teacher loved it, the other faculty staff found the idea so interesting that some of them took old computers out of storage and did similar things.

It lasted almost one week. Old structures and mechanisms don't take lightly to change. The machines were taken back, and were made ready to go into a lab. (Strangely they were now good enough for the task.)

So whilst some of us move forward, and engage the kids with whatever means (support, technology, funding) are at our disposal, it appears that some teachers still face a mentality that wants to put control back into the domain of the "keeper of the keys" (or the digital Taliban if you will).

It's almost as if there are forces at work to actively stop the sort of engagement that Greg Whitby (winner of the bulletin smart 100 award) talks about.

From Greg:

we're not saying every child needs only a computer to learn: come in, open up it's laptop time … They still need time with real people, to learn gross motor skills, and to use a pen and pencil, and to read, or to sit in a corner with a book or outside under a tree, and interact with teachers, as a socialising agent.

"But they need time to work in cyberspace. The traditional response has been to put technology into a computer lab, but it clearly doesn't meet their needs, because then you are deconstructing their learning experience, and it's artificial."

Greg Blogs at BlueYonder and will be speaking at the NSW Computer Education Group annual conference on July 1st and 2nd


bluyonder said...

Mark we need more teachers like you. I think that we have to have whaat I call "curious" people in teaching. That is those who are prepared to ask the inquisitive questions which ultimately lead to changes and developments in the profession. Never before as the web 2.0 unfolds have we needd such inquiry. Then of course follows the action!

Mark said...

Thanks for that word of encouragement Greg. Questions...followed by action. if only it were as simple as asking the right questions. (Maybe I'm asking the wrong ones, or maybe I'm just impatient)