I really enjoyed watching sci fi movies and shows when I was a kid, especially Star Trek and the Jetsons. It’s funny now to see how many of the “futuristic” fictions we saw on those are actually real now. People carrying around hand held computers for communication and information sharing; medical diagnosis and treatments using technology from a distant; travel to other planets; vacuuming robots (I so want one of those!). One thing, though, that hasn’t really caught on as much is some of the learning environments for students. I remember seeing on one of those sci fi shows students learning in individual pods, looking at a screen and having knowledge flashed in front of them to absorb/learn.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that this particular advancement never materialized.
Learning today isn’t really about the absorption of knowledge we can passively learn from an outside source. Learning is about knowledge that we collectively create. Knowledge that you just get is easily retrieved from those ubiquitous handheld devices instantly. Creating knowledge takes a lot more effort.
Students can’t learn in a bubble. For true learning to occur, we need students, teachers, parents, outside supporters and other stakeholders to all join in the conversation, ask hard questions and dig for deeper understanding and application. I think it is really hard to do well. This week, through a wide variety of events, I learned different things to consider to help make this learning easier or better.
Relationships come first
Students, teachers, parents, administrators, school personnel…none of these groups will learn well unless time, work, and thought has gone into developing strong relationships. We need to see these relationships as something that is crucial to invest in. Not once or twice, but continuously.
Milestones can be achieved, but learning never ends
This year in our school we have been exploring the role of student inquiry. It has been really exciting to see how teachers and students have approached this. One of the biggest struggles we have collectively had is the conflict of process vs product. Teachers,,parents and students have long looked to learning products to measure success. Tests, projects, culminating tasks, essays, exams…all products. But inquiry, by its very nature requires us to focus much more on the learning achieved through the process. Reflecting on the journey – and learning how to use that for assessment and evaluation – needs to be something we continue to strive for.
Talk is cheap. So we can afford to do more.
In my first year as a kindergarten teacher, I was in the unfortunate position to be in a classroom in the basement of a school. The only class in the basement. Since travelling up the stairs with 25 4 & 5 year olds was challenging, I spent a lot of time in that room without any other adult to talk to. My administrator didn’t come down there once that whole year. No one did. In contrast, I taught K at another school on the alternate days in a vibrant building with a grade team partner right across the hall, and with lots of colleagues who talked,shared and visited my room. In one school, I felt like I was making progress and learning about how to be a kindergarten teacher. In the other, I just felt abandoned. My teaching suffered. We need that collegial talk to keep us thinking, trying, sharing and learning.
I’m glad our students get to learn in a social environment. I hope those students absorbing knowledge in isolation remains science fiction for a long time.