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Monday, December 19, 2005

Teach Students to Teach Themselves



I have been reading a recent post by Dave on 2cents worth about what has honestly changed in education. This confirms the basic premise of the technology curriculum we've built at our school. Dave says,

"Our Tools are Changing — Technology is changing at dizzying rates, which is part of the reason for the preceding elements of change, but also a good reason why we should be focused on the information and not the technology. We can’t keep up with making the technology the curriculum. All we can do is prepare our students to teach themselves. It’s the only way to keep up. "

One of the primary strategies that I use in my classroom is that of what I call the student-teaching method. If we are in Microsoft Word, I assign the lessons to groups. Each group's job is to work ahead and do the lesson and I grade their work. They then are responsible for presenting and instructing the class (I fill in the gaps, make points, etc.) assist the class in the work (along with me as part of their team) and pre-grade the work -- giving the work back to the student if they haven't mastered the skill and helping them master the skill before it goes to me.

I explain it to my students this way -- "the technology I teach you will be outdated in two years but if I can teach you to be unafraid of the technology, learn the technology with the tools at hand, and teach others -- I have taught you a skill that will prevent you from being obsolete for the rest of your life."

For, I could take the easy way -- I could hold their hand -- spell out the curriculum 1.2.3. click steps and when a new software package comes out - they are lost. Or, I can teach them how to learn. I can teach them the structure of application software. I can involve them in the teaching process. That is when they learn.

Some teachers do not like this method. They think it gives up some of their credibility as the sole information giver. I want to do what works best. This strategy takes a little longer. It takes training. But once you get rolling -- you are really going! The teacher is still essential in filling in gaps, keeping the class on track, and ensuring mastery.

However, I agree with Dave that we often are so focused on the technology that we forget to teach them how to teach themselves.

That is what the goal of my classroom is and always has been. To enable students as self- and peer-teachers. That is where true synergy and technology empowerment come from.

Some schools have adapted this and no longer teach technology -- big mistake! One must be immersed in it and it must be demystified. When it is done so properly, you have transformed the student into an active self-motivated learner.

Teach students to teach themselves -- the core of the technology classroom!
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