I have had the privilege of playing around with different educational tech tools in schools over the past few months, and I am loving the experience as I get to learn something new each day. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in showing educational technology to students, is to only show them the basics of the tool and then let them lead the learning.
A perfect example happened when I was introducing using Green Screens with students just a few weeks ago.
We only had a few green surfaces to use as our background, and it was frustrating for students to have to wait around when they had great ideas brewing in their minds. Then, one student asked, “Mr. M? Can’t we just use the LCD projector and its screen as another green screen? Couldn’t we do an image search for “green screen” and project it?” Of course, she was absolutely right, but it was not even something I had considered. This student reminded me that as a teacher, I’m simply the lead learner in the class.
Finally, I was co-learning with students about Sphero and coding, and in my demo of the tool, I ensured that I had students coming up to show their peers how to use it. The first challenge I give students is driving Sphero from one paper to the next to get a feel for how it moves. In this class, I didn’t necessarily learn something new about a tech tool, but I did see a normally shy student become very excited about learning. She not only volunteered to try the challenge in front of her classmates, she got it on the first attempt. Her peers were so excited that she was able to do this, and you could see how proud she was after completing the challenge. This is just another benefit of letting the students lead the learning: they have more opportunities to lead and be proud of their accomplishments.
These are just a few of the experiences I’ve had in the new year that have reminded me that the role of the teacher has definitely changed in this modern world. Once we embrace our role as lead learners in the classroom, we open up opportunities for our students to take risks, be wrong and to learn from failure. If we only ever model ourselves as the fountain of knowledge at the front of the room, students will never want to question us or any other person in a position of power. In today’s hostile political climate and a world where tech moves faster than ever, we need to encourage our students to question ideas that are presented to them, feel safe to come up with original ideas and truly love learning. It is only by promoting a love of learning that we will create responsible citizens who respect the things that unite us and seek to understand what separates us.