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Challenging established learning orthodoxies May 31, 2008

Posted by davidit in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,

I have just read the following post from David Warlick’s blog and it strikes more than a passing resonance with me! How do we teach and how do we learn when it comes to working with peers and colleagues?

One of the banes of my life is getting staff to update their web pages. At the start of every term we have a series of staff meetings dedicated to allow the staff time to update their pages. Several of the staff on the Supertanker diligently bring along pad and paper to each and every one of these sessions each term and write down the exact same set of instructions to update their web pages. They reassure me that they need to do this as this is how they learn. However they do not seem to see the irony in their actions. If this were a valid learning method for them, then logically the notes would be taken once and then used on subsequent occasions as a reference manual. This is clearly not the case, as each session, each term starts with a brand new sheet of paper and a shiny new pen. This learning orthodoxy is further challenged as there does not seem to be, on behalf of my colleagues, any improvement in knowledge retention, we always have to start at the begining. We never start at just a few clicks along the continuum.

I always wonder just what happened to the reams of identical instructions that they have taken from past sessions? I also wonder at the complete waste of time that these instructions represent! They are obviously some kind of crutch, a panacea to get through the session but are not actually an aid to learning. We are obviously, teacher and student, stuck in a behavioral cycle that benefits no one. My questions now are these?

  • How do I encourage staff to throw away their crutches, roll their sleeves up and just play with the software?
  • How should I adapt my teaching style to encourage my colleagues to discard their paper and pencil learning orthodoxy in order for them to become masters of and not slaves to the software they have to use?

I have created all manner of instructions in pdf format, html format and have stored them on our Intranet for future reference. I have worked 1:1 with these staff, I have created ‘how to videos’ but to no avail, we make no progress. The whole cycle is a negative self fulfilling prophecy. My own teaching behavioral pattern is a sequential one, I can not see how else to teach a necessary, defined series of steps in any other way, other than sequential, yet clearly I am failing my students. At the same time my students and their learning orthodoxy, when applied to learning how to use software, is clearly not helping them.

To answer my own earlier question about the missing written notes; I suspect that rather like Zaphod Beeblebox’s illicit trade in stolen biros, the reams of instructions written by colleagues like mine on the Supertanker and others like them all over the planet end up as drafts for Computing for Dummies!



1. Helen Hardie - June 1, 2008

Oh, too true! I have just read your article and subsequently David Warlick’s. During the last 20 years of teaching, I have learnt most of my ICT skills through “play”. It does however, mean a commitment in time but as technologies advance rapidly, in my mind it is time well spent. What will happen to those who do not committ any time to “play” for developing their ICT skills – not just for updating web pages but for developing the skill of the children we teach?

2. David Warlick - June 1, 2008

For me, learning, reading, writing, cyphering (southern for math), all use to be work. with new ICTs, they’ve all become play for me. I love to write (my blog and books); to process numbers (1s and 0s embedded in images, sound, video; and learning isn’t just fun, it’s exciting.

Of all professions, perhaps teaching has embedded in its DNA as sense that learning, reading, writing, cyphering should be work. It’s a hard strand to change. It is so thrilling to work with a teacher who has just broken through that barrier. 🙂

— dave —

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