You Want Me to Be LESS Human?

The high schools in my county are undergoing a full 1:1 implementation next school year. The lower grade levels are already 1:1.  You want me to be LESS human?  Isn’t that a common concern when teachers are suddenly facing a huge influx of devices?  I see it on teachers’ faces and you can likely hear it in the hallways after faculty meetings.  It’s a common misconception and one that needs addressed via high quality learning experiences for teachers.

I like taking the example Sal Khan, of Khan Academy, gives us in a popular Youtube video.  He explains that even he wouldn’t want his own children sitting in front of a computer all day with little support from a teacher.  It’s true, Khan Academy does offer that experience to children in third world countries who lack the support of a trained professional.  But, the benefit of blending instruction through the use of technology is really about making teachers more human.

I often use myself as an example.  Years ago I spent x number of minutes each week calling out correct answers to homework.  I used the trade & grade method.  I passed out red pens, called out answers to homework problems, had the students right a percentage on the top of the paper, turn it in, input grades, and begin class. Even if I gave homework twice a week, that’s still a large chunk of time that really isn’t very valuable. I replaced that time with a lot more time spent down on a knee with groups of students or one student working directly with them as they worked out problems. A lot of my whole-group instruction (I used to have students take notes, replaced that too) became more effective small group instruction.  It’s amazing how much better students listen if you’re instructing a group of 5 rather than a group of 25.

Here’s a great workshop for teachers: “Close your eyes and visualize a snapshot of time in your class in any given week. I want that snapshot to be the time that you would consider the HIGHEST quality in terms of learning. If you could press pause at any given moment, what would your moment be?” What follows is an excellent discussion.  Ask teachers to describe that moment in detail.  What is the teacher doing?  What are the students doing?  What does the room sound like?  Who is speaking most?  You can even follow that conversation with “what would your worst moment be?” and discuss that. Blended learning is really all about making teachers MORE human, not LESS human. Standing up front of a class reading a powerpoint while students are passively writing down notes isn’t high quality time in terms of learning. It MAY be necessary but it’s not high quality. Blended learning is taking the highest quality time and making more of it.

Finally, professional learning should really focus on driving instructional time up Bloom’s ladder.  Replacing low quality time with students should yield more frequent learning in the upper levels of Bloom’s, something I found very difficult prior to blending effectively. – Derek

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