Forget your teaching for a minute – What are the STUDENTS doing?

For a moment, I want to reframe the conversation about instruction. Suppose you’ve got a bit of content the students need to learn. Often, teachers think, “How do I need to teach this?” This a fine question, but I’d like to suggest, perhaps, a better one.

What should the students be doing to learn this bit of content? (You see the difference?)

Episode #7 of “Instructional Tech in Under 3 Minutes” shares Nearpod, which is a tool that gives teachers options and puts them in a position to ask the question “What should my students be doing to learn this?” (Nearpod isn’t the only such tool. It’s just a nice choice that is free, device-agnostic and pretty easy to use.)

A while back, the National Institute of Health published a paper discussing some of the pros and cons of “Wired” Children –That is, children who have a lot of screen and device time.

This matters to education. Our classrooms are becoming increasingly wired. And while the conclusions in the article are definitely not conclusive, a few trends bubble to the top and one of them is simple:

With tech, thought energy is best spent focusing on what the young people are DOING with the tech rather than the form of the tech itself. Chromebooks vs. iPad, Google vs. Microsoft, Kahoot vs. Quizizz… these are the wrong questions. Rather, ask: What should the students be DOING with the tech to maximize learning?

It reminds me of some advice a dietician gave me once. She rhetorically asked me, “What’s the best diet?” And then, after a pause, she answered “The one you’ll stick with.”

This is a similar thought process to the explicit instruction vs. inquiry debate that I’ve discussed several times before. It’s the wrong approach to consider which of those teaching methods is “better.” What are the students doing?

If you’re inquiry exploration has the students spinning their wheels, you may need to explicitly instruct them. If your explicit instruction turns your students into a passive audience, then they need to explore some stuff. Some content is tough and they won’t be able to explore it very well without some instruction. But lectures are boring, so the students need to be active participants in the explicit instruction. (And no… taking notes doesn’t count.)

Nearpod is one tool that gives you options. It can add explicit instruction to inquiry explorations. OR, if you’d prefer, it adds explorations into direct instruction.

Either way, it is a tool that gives you a chance to answer the question: In order to maximize the learning in during this time, what should the students be doing?

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