December 1, 2007

How selfish are you?

This post was last updated on September 5th, 2011 at 11:05 am

Once again a tweet inspired me. This time it’s Mark Wagner at a conference presentation in California:

Will Richardson’s been talking for a while about having teachers examine their learning. Not necessarily their professional development but their personal learning. For many reasons, this is a major challenge. For people that are in the business of learning, it can be really difficult to engage in this discussion at times. Perhaps because of the busyness, the daily grind, the pressure of teaching, teachers have a difficult time recognizing the need to learn beyond the subject areas and pedagogies they spend much of their day grappling with.

So I understand the frustration and in a sense, ground breaking idea of teachers thinking about personal learning. Without this discussion, our ideas of learning are inevitably confined to the structures and traditions of school. Thinking about the last time you planned a trip, researched a political candidate, compared vehicles you wanted to purchase or tried to learn a new instrument.  What did that look like?

I wonder if these two ideas are somewhat at odds?

  • “Teachers do not need to learn the technology in order for kids to use them.”
  • “Teachers need to model effective use of technology”

Will may not have said it explicitly but the personal learning he talks about involves using the tools of today to maximize learning. Connecting with experts, social networking, publishing ideas are all part of what effective learning looks like. While more and more teachers get this, they really don’t get it for themselves. They want their kids to blog, but they don’t. They want their kids to connect with others but they don’t. They want kids to use all kids of technologies, but they don’t.

I never was all that impressed with Physical Education teachers who were out of shape. It didn’t make sense. They are supposed to be advocates for healthy lifestyles and need to model that. Fortunately most do and those are the ones that will likely have the most impact on kids. Come to think of it, that’d be an interesting piece of research.

If learning is personal, there has to be an element of selfishness. Teachers aren’t very selfish in this area. I’ve posted the Big Ideas of Digital Learning on our school district’s website. I use Will’s Ten Things we May Need to Unlearn idea:

We need to unlearn the notion that our students don’t need to see and understand how we ourselves learn.

That’s way harder than it sounds. Silent reading advocates always demand teachers read with their kids. I was one of those guilty of grading papers or planning when I should have been reading. I guess I just didn’t think it was all that important. I was wrong.

I’ve always been an advocate for teachers to take stuff home and personalize it. That’s how I learned. That’s why today I have a hard time separating professional and personal learning. If I learn a new technique in videography, I play with and use it with my friends or family. It’s not long before eventually I bring it to teachers and students as a new tool.

If you’re a classroom teacher, tell me how do you show your kids how you learn?

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