I could start my workshops by showing teachers how to find and do everything. I could lead them through a step-by-step, do-what-I-do tutorial of various apps —“point here, click there”—and teachers could simply watch what I do and then repeat what I do. But the problem with that approach is, by the end of the workshop, it creates a culture of dependency. The instructor ends up the center of the learning, not the students, and disseminates information to a mostly passive audience. I’m simply not empowering them to learn if I’m at the center of learning.
The culmination of my quest for more powerful learning grounded in theory and research came when recently I conducted an experiment in pushing constructionism into the digital age.
Constructionism is based on two types of construction. First, it asserts that learning is an active process, in which people actively construct knowledge from their experience in the world. People don’t get ideas; they make them. This aspect of construction comes from the constructivist theory of knowledge development by Jean Piaget. To Piaget’s concept, Papert added another type of construction, arguing that people construct new knowledge with particular effectiveness when they are engaged in constructing personally meaningful products.
Imagine my surprise and joy when I realized that I had arrived at constructionism prior to knowing that such a theory even existed. I believe that thousands of other educators are unknowingly working within the constructionist paradigm as well. Although many within the Maker movement are aware that it has it’s roots in constructionism, the movement is gaining impressive momentum without the majority of Makers realizing that there is a strong theoretical foundation behind their work.
After I came to understand this connection between my practices and the supporting theoretical framework I was better able to focus and refine my practice. Even more importantly, I felt more confident and powerful in forging ahead with further experiments in the learning situations I design for my learners.
As I prepare a presentation on 21st Century Skills, I find myself dealing with having to first be clear on what they are NOT. Only because for many, the term "21st Century" is synonymous with technology. In this post, I won't get into the details of why it's not.
What I would like to share is my realization that terrible times lie ahead for bad teachers. Conversely, there has never been a more exciting time for a good educator than today and the near future!
In order to make a statement like that, I owe it to my readers to give my definition of each type of teacher.
Do not want to learn new things.
Have "the book" lead instruction and feel the need to always stick to it.
Are comfortable doing the same lessons (the same way) year after year.
Never step out of their comfort zone.
Live in their own bubble and do not see the need to live outside of it.
Only teach facts and assess the ability to memorize those facts ("Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer, deserves to be." -David Thornburg).
Design tests to be easily gradeable.
Think that all progress in education are "fads."
Do not learn new things... oops, I already wrote that! It bears repeating because SOOOO much can be learned from other colleagues!
Care whether their students find the learning relative.
Are ALWAYS looking for new ways to engage their students.
Embrace quality professional development as often as they can.
Learn from and share with other educators.
Have gotten this far into this post and are nodding their heads ;-)
My hopes are that we QUICKLY get to the point where teachers who do not inspire and engage will be seen as employees who are simply not doing their jobs and be let go. Or, they may move to schools that don't "get it" (yet) and find a safe haven there for now. Either way, it's time for ALL teachers to pick a side. And yes, there's plenty of room on the "good side" for bad teachers to make the change. Here's hoping!
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