Monday, 11 June 2007

What I want to learn during this summer holiday

Oh, how transient the beauty of the Finnish summer…Just three days ago I took these pictures of our midsummer rosebushes in our garden…

… and look at them today!

Only a faint memory of their sweet scent lingers around now. ‘Gather ye rosebuds while ye may’, enjoy every fleeting moment – this is what the scattered petals are telling me.
Other than gardening, today I have plunged into the fascinating world of e-learning. Even though I have always considered myself to be more or less up-to-date with what’s going on in education at large, surfing the net has made me blush with shame. I am so totally ignorant of the new pedagogy that’s developing thanks to all the new technologies. Class blogs, e-portfolios, wikis, podcasting… Wow, I never realized what so many teachers around the world are doing! “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach”, rings in my head. How about making teachers into doers? I want to join these enthusiastic pioneers who are shifting the paradigm from traditional frontal lecture classrooms into buzzing hives of collaboration. Or so I imagine…

I have long sensed that what is still being done in many (probably most?) classrooms doesn’t reach a lot of the young students any more. They live in a fast-paced, second by second adjustable digital communication culture, and we still make them sit in neat rows of desks in class and expect them to get excited by a textbook, pen and paper and our old, already smudged, OHP transparencies. Duh! I’ve known for some time that I will have to change my classroom practices drastically to turn the attention to student learning from what I, as a teacher, should be telling them. It was ten years ago, while working as a Fulbright grantee in the States, that I first learned about Gardner’s ‘Multiple Intelligences’. Then it went on to Goleman’s ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and just today I read about ‘collective intelligence’. Definitely something to look into this summer.

Still, I’m not for technology for technology’s sake. Often teachers start with ‘emperor’s news clothes’, transforming their old transparencies into PowerPoint slides, while retaining the old lecture model. Good luck to them, I guess. You’ve got to start somewhere. It’s probably true that institutional cultures such as those of education take a long time to change.

How about the facilities and software at schools? What if I get all into these new ways of learning during this summer holiday only to find out in August that our school district policy won’t allow me to install or use the required tools? Wouldn’t be the first time… After all, I can’t even use the net on my own laptop at school. And it will be years before my school will provide teachers with their own work laptops. Oh well, I’d better let go of this pessimism and just enjoy learning all this new exciting stuff.

Most of all, I am hoping to come across blogs of like-minded and more experienced teachers from around the world to guide me in this jungle of new-fangled learning.

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