08 January 2008

Learning Dynamics

This is a five star teaching day ... serious learning going on in my class.

One twenty minute exercise we are doing is based on reviewing key concepts, about 15 of them, that we covered last semester. To do it we are using paired groups, a white board, a marker, and an eraser. The instructions are to build a concept map with the 15 words. How do those words relate to each other - what are their associations? Students have 15-20 minutes to work through it and then we review the words and their work.

I am seeing students build their knowledge using the understanding uncovered in their discussions while making the maps. They are researching notes, comparing, contrasting, and arguing ...... lots of thinking going on. This is why I got into teaching – to see learning and thinking skills in action.

I'm not after the "right answer" …. I am after the right word association and the opportunity to work one on one with some of the students who are still struggling with the ideas. Much of this exercise I'm acting as a resource on this aspect or that; for the most part students are configuring and discussing on their own.

Before I got into teaching, I was never a big fan of believing that technology can do much to help students learn. Over the last few years that idea of mine is morphing due to what I’ve seen in today’s type of dynamic learning situation. I'm not saying teachers will be replaced by computers.

And, I think computers can be a productive tool in many significant ways. One is that they can act to reduce the information gap - they become the technical resource for students leaning fundamental concepts. Yet, in order to do that the computer will have to be more than a read and watch mechanism..... it’ll need some serious interaction … a certain level dynamicness to it in order to hold students attention .... the computer will need the same dynamicness offered up when the students are working, in person, through a problem or situation with a class peer …. as in the case with my class today.

The science of education has changing requirements as the needs of our civilization grow. I hope that the politicians come to terms with that and fund the appropriate programs to maximize the opportunity for young people.

No comments: