Thursday, January 2, 2014

Making a Shift

        Students are so used to us giving them step-by-step instructions for everything we have them do, that they don't know how to act when they are given a little educational freedom.  When we are having conversations at home and someone doesn't know the answer to something, one of my kids will immediately pull out an iPad, Touch, or iPhone and Google it.  I can almost guarantee you, however, that in the classroom those same kids will sit there and wait to be told.  Why? Because that's what they've been taught to do.  My kids typically don't get into trouble at school for doing something that they aren't supposed to do, because they are rule followers.  And so far, the rule has been that you wait to learn something when the teacher tells you it's time to learn...and you learn it in the way that the teacher guides you to learn it.  

        Taking a traditional classroom and turning it into a student-centered one is not going to be an overnight process for the students or the teachers.  Just as kids are trained to wait for the teacher's instructions, teachers feel that they always have to instruct.  I'm not sure what the overall answer is, but using baby steps, teachers have to learn to loosen the reins, and kids have to learn to grab hold of them.  Maybe we should begin by assigning one open-ended project a nine weeks.  This project might have a general question attached to it, but the final product will be determined by the student.  Maybe we daily/weekly pose some type of question and challenge kids to find a fact to support their answer on the internet.  Maybe we give kids an argument, and they have to find one piece of reliable information to support their own point of view...then find a piece to support the opposing side.  These activities aren't totally student-centered, but in order to get kids to automatically look for their own answers using technology, we have to first encourage them to use it for something besides an electronic worksheet.