Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Resolve to be more Interested, less Interesting

The NAIS Annual Conference just took place in Philadelphia and we were once again amazed and overwhelmed by the brilliant speakers and rich, inspired dialogues with our colleagues. As I left by car for a weekend in Ottawa (another story), the many messages began to sift through my mind and resolved in one thought that has been raised to the level of "mantra" over the last few days. This came from Pat Bassett, outgoing NAIS President:

Resolve to be more interested, instead of trying so hard to be interesting.

His thought came in reference to what he's come to realize over the years, and I recognized it immediately as the natural evolution of my previous "mantra" from the Singapore schools: Teach less, learn more. 

Teach Less, Learn More - Exploration vs Explanation
I was inspired by Tom Daccord's reference at the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit to this goal for teachers in the Singapore school system. I realize that when I teach students or teachers to integrate technology into their schoolwork I have often started from a "I'm going to show you how to use this" stance. That approach puts me in front of the group, showing, demonstrating, and then turning it over to the class to try all those steps out. Inevitably I find students and teachers alike assume that they can only proceed to the next step with my permission, or they are defeated by the overwhelming prospect of tackling the project solo and never feel the confidence to work on it outside of my class.

This year, with iPads being used daily in classrooms, we changed our approach from showing and explaining apps and assigning specific apps to projects, to giving students (and teachers!) a dedicated time to explore and discover apps, share what they have learned with each other, and thus build a community of resources in every classroom. As students have explored the apps, we have all learned surprising things about them, which in turn, has helped teachers feel more confident about implementing them. When teachers build in the exploration time before a project is launched, it helps with iPad management, because students can openly share their enthusiasm, knowledge, and creative ideas in a free-wheeling format where sudden discoveries are encouraged. Once the apps are explored, many of our teachers have been willing to present the plan and purpose of the project, and let the students choose the app(s) to use to fit their own vision. Best of all, it is way more fun to explore and learn from each other than to be the fount of all knowledge!

Resolve to be more interested, less interesting
I love this transmutation of the previous idea. What if we, as teachers, spent less time sharing what we know and assuming that what we know is the most interesting thing our students (or colleagues, friends, family, etc!) will ever hear. What if class time was organized around learning from our students about their interests, letting them share what they are learning, with a focus on collaboratively discovering new information. What if we let students take charge of their learning in more ways than just which desk or table they work at? What if we spent more time learning from our colleagues, taking turns, and respecting each other's knowledge and experiences, across all the disciplines? What would it feel like to invest part of every day to actively listening, responding authentically, and using what we learned to create a richer teaching and learning experience for the whole school?

These thoughts are going to be rolling around in my head for a long time to come. I'm interested to hear what all of you are thinking!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful thought-provoking post - thank you!
    Just wanted to say I love your blog!