Our life looks trivial, and we shun to record it. – Emerson

Month: April 2014

#ocTEL Big and Little Questions

This is our first “assignment” in ocTEL. Simon Hawksey asks us to

reflect on your work experience and ambitions for developing your teaching.

  • Can you identify the most important question about TEL that matters to you?
  • Or alternatively do you have a cluster of issues? Or perhaps you’re ‘just browsing’?

Some people are discussing this here.

The most important question I have about Technology Enhanced Learning is about how technology transforms teaching and learning?   I don’t mean that technology directs or determines change, but I do believe that tools change the way we work and see the world – and I’m defining technology very broadly.

2001 Bone to Space

Technology has always had a transformative impact on human cultures and societies.  I became involved in TEL because I was interested in teaching and learning, not because I was interested in technology, and I’ve continued with it because I have found that it did change the way I saw learning and teaching.

I teach English Second Language in an academic bridge program. Our administrators have always been interested in appearing to be “cutting edge” so they provided us with a minimum amount of support: WiFi connectivity and email for students and faculty, Internet wired classrooms with LED projectors and “SmartBoards” (TM) installed. The stuff has been poorly maintained —  the photo-op is now over — and most regard WiFi as something to keep students busy between classes, but it is there anyway, for anyone to use. I have used it.

One thing I’ve learned from this is that I cannot and should not plan what students will learn and I should not be saying things like “students need” this and that. I’ve learned to provide tools and opportunities and then watch and listen. It’s changed my own practice and helped me become a co-learner with them. Others continue their control culture, deciding what students should do at every step… these are “accountable” and “responsible” teachers, unlike me.

I see it changing students too. It changes the way they interact with one another, how they use the space, how they use the material, how they relate to me. They begin to take possession of all these things, and to self-direct, to a large degree. They co-opt me into their subversive activities, learning whatever they feel they need despite what is handed down to them in the syllabus. They do this without commenting. They are not noticed anyway. They reward me by doing well on their common assessments. I’ve learned that the best way to support their learning is to stay out of the way most of the time. This gives me a lot of time to see who needs extra “help” and then to help them. Usually this just means talking to them, showing some interest, showing some support.

This is totally unlike anything I could have imagined happening. I started out with it just as a way to make it easier to handle classroom management tasks, to free me fro the photocopier, to free them from carrying books and papers, but so much more has happened.

So, now I sit quietly in staff meetings and listen to others talking endlessly about control issues – never about teaching or learning, never about students…

TEL will alienate you too, eject you from your control culture, show you that you are more like your students than you had ever suspected.