Saturday, November 04, 2006

How we learn; how we teach

I spend a little time every day surfing the web for information about the things that interest me. I use Bloglines and Google Reader to help me sort through the hundreds of news, blog, website, and picture posts. I like Bloglines better than the Google Reader, but I use both as each has certain good characteristics.

Yesterday, I read this post on Weblogg-ed about learning and the use of new technologies. Will Richardson wrote
I’ve been growing more frustrated lately and I’m feeling more pessimistic about the prospects for any serious change in how we as an education system see teaching and learning, and I think I’ve figured out why. I hate to generalize, but the thing that seems to be missing from most of my conversations with classroom teachers and administrators is a willingness to even try to re-envision their own learning, not just their students. Many will say that they understand to varying degrees the changes that are occurring, that the Web is in many ways rewriting the rules of communication and socialization, that the world our students enter when they leave us will be much different from the ones we ourselves were prepared for. But it feels like there is this unspoken belief among most that we can deal with these changes without changing ourselves. And that’s is a huge problem.

Lots of teachers I talk to want blogs and podcasts and wikis. Without question, there are thousands of teachers, tens of thousands in fact, who are already using the tools with their students. I see new examples every day. But I’m still bothered by the fact that very, very rarely do I see new pedagogies to go along with them that prepare students for the creation of their own learning networks. That allow them to take some ownership (or at least envision the possibility of it) over their learning. That help them learn self-direction and get them to stop waiting for someone else to initiate the learning. And even rarer is to find one of those teachers exploring his or her own learning through the tools.
This was all interesting, and important, but it was the next paragraph that struck me:
More than anything else, I think, teaching is modeling. As a writing teacher, I wrote with my students. As a journalism teacher, I wrote for publication with my students. As a literature teacher, I practiced and modeled reading for my students. Modeling is teaching, and never has that been made more apparent to me than when my own children act out and reflect my own bad behavior back to me. (It happens more than I like to admit.) My own kids, it has become clear, learn less when I talk, more when I do. And so it is with me.
Teaching is modeling. Much like Ted Sizer's "teacher as coach" metaphor, but I like Richardson's image as it dictates that the teacher do. In the classroom, we must model all the behaviors we want our students to adopt, and appropriate use of technology is one of those things we must model.

Another notion that grabs me about this post is that as a teacher, I must always be learning and must be always on the lookout for new, innovative, and better ways of doing things. And, that goes for parenting, too. Actually, I think that goes for life in general.

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