Reboot to Encourage Wonder
“Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier.” Charles Kettering
Professor Michael Wesch reboots after hearing advice that his teaching isn’t working. This article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed speaks to me and not only for higher ed.
How many of us reboot what we are doing when we realize we are going down the wrong road? We are all guilty of continuing down the same road because it is easier than changing. Educators in all grades have worked for years developing lessons that we believe teach the concepts they want their students to learn. If one lesson didn’t work, then another did. It takes a lot of work to start over — reboot.
What that means for many teachers is to change the way they teach. This means letting go and using technology. Both of these concepts are scary for many teachers. Some are almost ready for retirement and just don’t want to reboot now. Some are resistant because they don’t want to believe that what they are teaching isn’t working. Let’s rethink why we went into the teaching profession. It’s really not about us. It’s all about the learners. If we continue to teach like we did years ago, we not only leave many of our learners behind, we do them a disservice. They won’t be prepared for their future.
In the article, Professor Wesch realizes that students can use technology to search for wonder.
“At its best, Mr. Wesch believes that interactive technology—and other methods to create more active experiences in the classroom—can be used to forge that kind of relationship between teachers and students where professors nurture rather than talk down to students.
In one of his courses, he teamed up with students to produce an ethnography of YouTube users. The project helped the students feel more like collaborators because the technology allowed them to immediately publish their work online.”
What does that mean? Talk down to students? I don’t think teachers think they are talking down to students if they are lecturing, giving feedback or grading papers. When you teach something you love, you think that your enthusiasm will be enough to excite your students. Times are different. You’ve heard “times are a changing.” Well, the future is here now. If you give control to your students to drive their learning, that doesn’t mean you are not teaching effectively. Lectures and direct instruction is one way to present information, but are you losing your students?
I remember sitting for hours and hours staring at my teachers’ backs. I zoned out. I doodled. I knew there had to be a better way for students like me. I learn best by doing. Now more students are like me and have gone way beyond me. They are tweeting, texting, and googling while in class. Mr. Wesch writes about using these tools to engage students.
What if you set up a backchannel chat or Twitter group to give you instant feedback? Ask a student to help you do this? If you ask students to blog, don’t correct their spelling. This is a great space to journal and publish their thoughts. You can learn from their posts. This is still scary for some teachers. Are these teachers resistant or just obstinate? What if they really believe what they are doing is making a difference?
Ask your students! Give them a survey or ask for feedback on how you teach and how they learn. It’s not just about you or the content anymore. It’s about learners being prepared for a career, the type of job that they love or pays them enough so they can live comfortably, or gives them the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. There are some learners who just want to learn because they are excited about something — passionate and interested to learn. They may want to take amazing photographs or understand astronomy because they always wanted to know about the stars.
What do you wonder about?
Just imagine a day in your class that you encouraged wonder! Take 20% of your time to let go and reboot your teaching so students wonder about something they are passionate about. Encourage students to use technology and teach you. I wonder what will happen to your students. Let me know.