For years, educational technologists have been staunch supporters of technology in the classroom–WITH the stipulation that teacher training also be part of the process. In other words, HAVING the technology in the schools is great, but knowing how to INTEGRATE it is an essential and key component.
However, maybe we have stressed this so much that teachers have unrealistic expectations about their required technology skills. For instance, teachers may feel they need to have a complete understanding of a technology tool and all of its possible uses in the classroom BEFORE they even start using it. The emphasis has been on teacher training or “methods,” a way of pre-planning instruction in order to improve efficiency, save time, and of course, teach to the standards.
In Brian Christian’s book, The Most Human Human: What Talking With Computers Teaches Us About What it Means to Be Alive, he talks about method and method’s opposite, which he defines as “judgment,” “discovery,” and “figuring out.”
It occurred to me that what educational technologists might be innocently promoting in the schools is method over discovery, through our insistence that technology training precede and orchestrate the learning experience. We strive for mastery and closure in lessons–not continued questioning and exploration. I argue we should be fighting for authenticity in learning–the ability to sort things out according to our own interests and needs.
The term method itself is problematic because it suggests the notion of repetition and predictability–a method that anyone can apply. Method implies also mastery and closure, both of which are detrimental to invention. (Josue Harari & David Bell, introduction to Hermes, by Michel Serres)
Maybe instead of planning for every step in the educational process, we should encourage teachers and students to experiment, giving them more autonomy and responsibility to make decisions. The unpredictability of this type of learning involves aspects that are an everyday part of life, but not so much in school. Dealing with unknowns are how we learn–and in the process students and teachers will then become the experts, the people who have solved some of the problems.
Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m not promoting we completely eliminate teacher and student technology training. What I am advocating, however, is the need to include the unpredictable, the undiscovered, the human element that is often missing from a completely planned unit of instruction. Let us then:
- Allow students and teachers to use technology in ways they hadn’t thought of.
- Encourage creativity and risk-taking.
- Learn from each other. And in the process, construct a more meaningful learning environment.
What are your thoughts? Are you allowed to create a discovery-based lesson in your classroom using technology? Do your students act as teachers in your class? How might new technology tools in your classroom change how you do things? What other questions do you have? Please post your comments below and thanks for reading.