Throughout history, the most progressive and innovative changes have been those that have elicited the most thought, provoked the most discussion and stimulated the most queries. Promoting prosperity in interactive teaching and learning can sometimes cause trepidation but such a ‘wobbly’ reaction is a positive step. Growth and success in implementing interactive, technological change in schools does not come with ease; it comes from having the courage to think deeper, solve with more determination and be inventive and progressive.
The Wobble Zone
To promote deeper thinking and problem solving in the twenty-first century interactive classroom, I often draw on James Nottingham’s ‘Learning Pit’* concept. This concept, which I have nicknamed the ‘wobble zone’ is based upon the premise that often for growth to occur, elements worsen before they improve. The ‘pit’ feeling at the bottom of your stomach, when you are being confronted, challenged and scrutinised for the decisions you make and the thinking you create, should not be one of trepidation but of possibility. Each decision you are faced with, being ‘wobbly’ or out of your comfort zone, is a positive. This can be from a leadership perspective (making decisions about what, how, and why interactive technological purchases are made) and from a teaching and learning perspective (correlating and supporting pedagogical change).
Concept: The key concept is to promote interactive learning throughout an entire organisation, by ‘all’ teachers, ‘all’ of the time.
Challenge: Challenging teachers, students and leaders to think deeper, more purposefully, critically, and creatively when making technological choices, is essential in improving student achievement levels, thinking strategies, and problem solving mechanisms.
Construct: Co-construct a clear understanding, and subsequent vocabulary, of what it means to maximise the use of interactive technologies within all educational environments. Although at times the path may alter, the end result is still what was first conceptualised.
Reflect: To feel as though the journey is both worthwhile and successful, constant reflection is required by all stakeholders. The most powerful way to evaluate success is by reflecting on the journey travelled and the path ahead. Obtaining multiple forms of reflection provides a wider perspective.
Promoting educational prosperity and stimulating deeper thinking is the responsibility of all stakeholders: teachers, students, peers, school leaders, parents, and families. It is a naïve approach for technology understanding and usage to lie purely on the shoulders of the teacher and school. All investors in the education of the child need to be accountable for their learning, particularly when involving interactive technologies. Although the current and future generations of learners are far more diverse than those of the past, it is still important for the family unit to take an active role. When children view technology as a supported entity of their educational journey, they will be more confident and natural technology users in all educational environments – from the classroom, to the home, to the global community.
Digital Natives Versus Teachers
It is often deemed that the current generation of learners are ‘digital natives’ and that their technological understanding and problem solving comes naturally. Although there are numerous examples where this is true, there are definitely pockets of children who either do not have ready access to such advancements or are ‘falling through the cracks’ in the system.. A learned individual has often reminded me of his firm opinion that ‘teachers held him back’ in his education. Are teachers who are not tech savvy ‘holding back’ students? All too often I visit educational environments where the majority of teachers are anxious about using interactive technologies. One of the largest areas of need in schools is in the professional learning provided for all teachers in the use of technology. The days of teachers teaching in isolation should be well and truly over. If this is still evident in the teaching environment, it should be set as a priority for the leadership team to scrutinise why it is happening and to eliminate it. Such teaching isolation is now being superseded by technological inaccessibility or segregation.
In classrooms of the past, a common game played was ‘times-tables races’. This game was loved my many where answers were liberally shouted out with great gusto, with a rhythmic stamping of the feet to match such enthusiasm. Skip ahead a couple of generations, now being a teacher myself, I have pondered on the aim of such a game. Surely it was to improve the speed and accuracy of automatic number facts. But for who? Everyone, or merely the most efficient? The students who required the most practice were often eliminated first from the game – this seems ironic wouldn’t you think?
Equate this to the technological situation in schools today. It is a common occurrence that decisions are made to purchase only the number of technological items that the organisation can afford. This makes sense, but it is the next step that flabbergasts me: the technology is often then placed in the classrooms of technologically savvy individuals. You may be saying, ‘Well of course,’ but then what happens? The technologically challenged can only watch from the sidelines. It is as though they have been eliminated from the game but they are the ones who require the most practice, experience, and confidence. How do you promote prosperity when faced with such situations?
Maximise The Technology Available
If the current educational environment can only afford a limited amount of interactive technologies, then how as a collective, can the majority, or all staff, maximise access? The answer is to think outside the box and timetable the ‘interactive rooms’ as though they are a specialist setup. Think of a school timetable as a representation of all learning; from homeroom, core business and specialists to technological opportunities and possibilities that further inquiry and problem solving.
Increase Professional Expectation
Another component of this dilemma is when the technology is available in the classroom environment but only selected teachers maximise its use. It is an incredible waste to have technology sitting at the front of the classroom, not being turned on or merely being used as an expensive chalk board or glorified overhead projector. If the technology is available, teachers should be using it and in turn, students should not feel that as they move classrooms, the interactive technology implemented differs according to which teacher they have.
To promote technological prosperity, leadership should include, as part of professional expectations, a minimum amount of teaching and learning time that needs to take place within an interactive setting. Of course professional support in the form of coaching is required so as to promote interactive learning as an enjoyable and successful endeavour.
Consider Alternate Measures
To maximise the availability of interactive technologies to all teachers all the time requires a large financial investment. This may not be a viable option for all organisations, so leasing is an alternate measure worth delving into. If you truly yearn to make a paradigm shift in interactive learning, all teachers and students need to be on the ‘same page’, all of the time.
Invest In Further Technologies
How do you know that students have learnt what you have taught them? This is one of the simplest yet most important questions that educational practitioners should continually ask themselves. To answer this question while furthering the value of interactive learning, use a student response system (SRS). This allows the teacher to test the audience’s responses to questions using a variety of formats, including numeric and text data. The teacher provides immediate feedback and in turn makes an accurate assessment of the progress of an individual student. By creating groups, the teacher can monitor the results over a given period, to monitor whether learning has moved from short term to long term memory.
Recently, when reading a series of articles based on the premise that ‘IWB Suck’, it became quite apparent to me that although very few pedagogical points were valid, such as that the IWB does not make you a better practitioner, the idea that educationalists are not intelligent enough to differentiate between what is a useful interactive tool and how best to use this tool to improve one’s practice, left me astounded. The key to promoting prosperity in the interactive journey is a clear investment of time, problem solving, ‘rich’ dialogue and professional learning, so that the decisions made are for the right reasons, at the right time and supported by the right people.
*You can read more about James Nottingham’s work at:
Latest posts by Monique Corcoran (see all)
- The Wobble Zone - July 25, 2012
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