Sunday, 28 August 2011

New school year - new approaches under construction

Pheww, it's been a while since I've posted anything here, for a variety of reasons. Mostly it's because of a loaded spring term with this, that and the other. I should know better to learn to say 'no' at times! I tend to pile on extra work and responsibilites, without thinking of the inevitable consequences, ie. tiredness, exhaustion and no time or energy for the so much needed reflection.

But all that aside, it's the beginning of the school year, in which our first-graders will shift into 1:1 laptop learning. Two weeks back at school, and no sign of the shiny new tools yet! Also, a brand-new learning management system was to be implemented for the teachers during the summer break, to facilitate the transition into some kind of blended learning/teaching. But even that is still in the development phases, and not ready to use! It will probably be rather chaotic, introducing such big changes in the middle of a grading period, when everybody has already started off as usual. Oh well! When would anything go according to schedule in schools? What's more, the new media class, which is being constructed by covering our mostly unused inside yard, is still heavily under construction. And on top of everything, we don't even have working air-conditioning at the moment, and are suffering from the last heatwaves of the summer. Business as usual, in a school environment, I guess! 

This space will, hopefully soon, be a new-style learning environment, not a standard boxy classroom

Nevertheless, I am quite excited about the changes the 1:1 environment will bring. I can feel some anxiety building amongst colleagues, though. Just today, there was talk in the staff room about doing a student poll to ask them how much and how exactly they would like to start using ICT in their learning. Although I am all for involving student in the decision-making as much as possible, I don't think following their preferences should be the sole guideline for designing new learning/teaching approaches. We teachers, as adults and educational experts, should have some initial direction in mind, shouldn't we? Many students tend to be rather conservative, and don't like to be shaken off their comfort zones (just as many of us teachers are, too). What if such a poll indicated that the majority of students are not that keen on using ICT at all? Would be abandon the whole thing then?

Last spring, some of my students reflected on their learning in their English essays, and I copied two revealing paragraphs:
I am a bit worried about the fact that next autumn every first-grade student in our high school will get their own computer and that the teaching will eventually be moved to the internet. Today's youngsters, including me, are already spending too much time online, so what will be the consequences of internet education? Will we forget individuals?
Here in our school we students use mini-laptops to "study" although what we really do is update our facebook. What kind of education is that?
Valid questions but also an indication of how much learning, UNlearning and rethinking lies ahead, for both us teachers and the students.

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