Friday, May 6, 2011

What works for us, might not work for them

Us humans are a very stubborn species. We get tunnel-vision, we get stuck on ideas, we feel the need to be "in control",  we need to be right. I could go on and on here, but I think it is clear enough. We like doing things our own way.

This is just one reason why teaching and learning can be so difficult. For too long, teachers have communicated messages like "it is my way or the highway" or  "this is not a democracy, this is a dictatorship."  Teachers have been known to desperately hold on to their way of doing things. Therefore, to be successful in any given class you best conform to that teacher's way. Students, on the other hand, may have a whole different way of learning. This is becoming more and more true as our students' expertise and comfort level with technology rises.

This is why I believe it is so important to stay up to date on technology. To students, technology integration is second nature. This is how they grew up and were raised. They think of uses for technology that I can't imagine or fathom. Learning to them is a totally different experience than what it was for me.

And yet, I can't tell you how many times I don't use something just because it doesn't work for me. Or the opposite occurs as I stick on to some new edtech tool that simply isn't working for my students. For example, I don't get Prezi and every time I try to sit down and get better, I get bored an move on. It is a tool that didn't come to me, so I didn't pass it on to my students. What a mistake! A few months ago, I mentioned it to a student and now a large majority of my students use it and kick but with it.

Another example is Twitter. I love twitter and it has changed my professional life. I have pushed students to use it, but it hasn't taken off. Undeterred by this lack of success, I kept pounding that circle shape into that square hole. I set up hashtags for projects and hoped hoped hoped that they would use with research. I talked to my students and found out that they don't use twitter because they like Google Buzz. Well Google Buzz has some of the same qualities of Twitter, so let's try that to share resources.

The bottom line is that what works for us may not work for our students. What works for our students may not work for us. But if we both are open, communicate, and remain flexible we can always adapt to make things best for us all. That means we need to learn from one another and not be afraid to change. These are exciting times in education. We have tools to address individualized learning. We have tools to connect classrooms globally. We have tools to make learning ubiquitous with everyday life. The best thing we can do is realize that if we push "our way" over that of another and are unrelenting, we may miss some cool new things.


  1. Thank you for reflecting on your experiences! I am a freshman in college, in the engineering school looking forward to majoring in applied mathematics. I always turned away the thought of being a teacher but recently, it has become more difficult to ignore. I began an organization to expose and empower underprivileged middle school girls to and in science, technology, engineering, and math. I can definitely relate to the Buzz vs Twitter thing!

    Anyway, I hope you are encouraged to continue being an inspiration to your students and for those who have high aspirations.

  2. Thanks for the kind words! I too scoffed at the notion of being a teacher. Luckily, when push came to shove I did it. I have truly enjoyed it and love the profession I have chosen. Let me know about your org. I truly believe in the empowerment that education provides, especially to those under-privileged. But it can only empower if we step back and let the students take over. It is not empowering if it is simply regurgitated information and knowledge.