Learning and Teaching

I’ve been working with different Social Media in my SMiELT workshop, and I’ve been constantly asked how to use those tools for teaching EFL. I’ve been unable to answer that question. I AM unable. The thing is I’m on holidays, I’m not teaching at the moment. I’m not in contact with students. I simply cannot think of activities for anyone. I need real students for inspiration, I need real objectives, a real context. Moreover, I need to use the tools for some time.

I haven’t got much experience using web tools in my classes, but I’ve got some. If this happens to me, I can understand how difficult it must be for teachers who have never used blogs or wikis or podcasts or social bookmarking to see the value in those tools.

Some months ago I participated in an online workshop on ICT for teachers (as a teacher, don’t laugh). One of the things I constantly stressed was the what for, they wanted to know the how. I got mad, kept my hands off the keyboard and my mouth off the mic, and got mad alone, disconnected. Now I understand them. How could they see the value of a tool they had never used?

Some tools cover needs you had before they existed. For example, I’ve always asked my students to rewrite, I think it’s impossible to write something valuable without editing and reediting. Consequently, when I discovered wikis, I immediately got hooked on them. They also allowed me to to something I couldn’t do in paper: I could write suggestions without messing the students writings, the discussion page was an extra I only saw when I started to use wikis with my students.

However, this is not the same for every application, how can you imagine the value of twitter before using it? or Delicious? or Facebook? The possibilities they offer are as new as the applications are.

For years we have remarked that education should be student centered. What if education becomes learning centered. (just as Diego Leal cleverly points out somewhere in this post in Spanish).

It’s difficult for me to see which activities my prospective students could get engaged with by using Social Media. It’s easy and obvious how I –as a learner– can benefit from Social Media. Our students are learners, just as we are.

To teachers who are starting:

  • learn how to use the tools quickly, learn on your own, new tools are developed constantly, you cannot have someone tutoring you all the time.
  • use those tools to learn. Think of yourself as a learner, not a teacher; because if you cannot forget you are teacher, your students run a serious risk:
I found this video through Jose Luis, (Twitter, one day I might love you). It shows one of my nightmares.

By the way, didn’t we become teachers because we loved learning?

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6 Responses to “Learning and Teaching”

  1. Great post. Lots of food for thought I would say.

    Everything and-therefore-nothing to say- Couldn’t understand your feelings any more …

    There is an interesting link suggested in SMiELT08 Dekita site that is worth reading. Has a lot to do with exploring on your own and going out and face reality.
    Let me quote the last paragraph

    “How can teachers appreciate the magnitude, the networking, the collegiality of the teachers already online, the sharing and the whole deal if some schmuck does the hard yards for them? How can they be totally committed to creating a unique learning opportunity for their students if they themselves haven’t invested some virtual blood, sweat and tears?”

    This is the link to the whole post: http://gwegner.edublogs.org/2007/12/22/parable-20/

  2. Gabriela,

    YES! We became teachers because we love learning – I completely agree with you because that’s what it has been for me 🙂

    I am of the same opinion, “However, this is not the same for every application, how can you imagine the value of twitter before using it? or Delicious? or Facebook? The possibilities they offer are as new as the applications are.”

    I also agree that WE should use the tools first and explore the possibilities that they bring before we use them with our students! I NEED to convince myself FIRST of the usefulness of a tool before I actually introduce it to my students 🙂

  3. Hi there, Gabriela!

    Thanks to Google, I just found your post. I wanted to mention that, to me, the most clear justification about this appropriation of technology for personal use is the one that I remember hearing from Stephen Downes and Nancy White: the importance of demonstration and modeling practice.

    I really believe that we, as teachers, teach much more with our behavior than with our discourse. Then, if using technology is not part of our behavior, that will represent a huge gap between us and our students. In fact, that is the digital native/immigrant gap that we got used to mention so much.

    Discovering how technology can help me (as a person) turns out to be a critical task. And only when I learn how to use Twitter, Delicious and Facebook (or anything else) to enhance my personal learning environment, I’ll be able to demonstrate those opportunities to my students.

    Like you said (and @arthus expressed very clearly in a recent post), we need to recognize ourselves as learners. I really believe that’s step one.

    The video is very funny, and real at the same time. But as years go by, I’m wondering if it’s really a question of methodology. Now, I think it has to do more with an understanding of the purpose of education, and the recognition that people can learn by themselves. As long as the methodology (whatever you call it) keeps placing the teacher in the center, in the front, or as the unique responsible for the design of learning experiences, we’ll keep seeing the same classrooms we have been seeing so far…

    Of course, this is a subject that deserves a lot more of discussion, but I just wanted to share some thoughts triggered by your post.

    By the way, thank you for stopping by over my blog. It’s very nice to see it makes sense to someone else than me. 😉

    Best,

    Diego

  4. Hello, Gabriela

    I’ve found you through Comment Challenge and I’m glad I did!
    I would like to say I’ve just started to join this endless web-quest, I feel like someone discovering a brand new world; my students are 10 to 11 years old, I take them with me in that quest, we are developing several different experiences at the same time, and we always act and feel as learners. I never study some new tool in depth; I just confirm it is safe to their age and I immediately pass it to them: “- Take a look at this, how could it be useful? How must we change our mental habits so that it gets useful?”
    We are also trying the Moodle platform in our School: there are creative things only teachers are supposed to do, but we have opened “students rooms” where they are given all the “powers” and they surely get enthusiastic about it.
    I’ll come back to learn more from you, thank you.

  5. I agree with you, the feeling is that of discovering a brand new world, constantly renewing itself.
    I had a quick look at your wiki,I see it’s in Portuguese, which is quite transparent for us Spanish speakers.
    http://sqip.pbwiki.com/
    (I’ve copied to url cause the link in your comment is broken).

    Thanks a lot for visiting.

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