Applying Learning to Teaching and Teaching to Learning

June 19, 2016
John Quinn

In a class session for my doctoral program over the weekend, the professors asked that we share our greatest learning moment from our first year in the program. In contemplating the question, I realized that the greatest learning moment came in recognizing how to bridge cognitive theory and practice within my own EdTechTeacher workshop design.

In a previous article, I explored five ways that I would change my upcoming iPads in the Elementary Classroom workshop. Having just led my first session of that re-designed workshop, I have new thoughts before the next iteration.

The need for experience

Too often, teachers lament that they “don’t know what they don’t know.” Few of us experienced elementary school with iPads or any other technology, and many of us remember school as a structured, teacher-led experience requiring us to memorize, repeat, and behave. From a cognitive perspective, learning occurs when we build new patterns from prior knowledge through active or vicarious experience, reflection and internalization, and opportunities to make new inferences based on past experiences (Bandura, 1986). This becomes difficult when we have nothing on which to construct new knowledge.

Last week, my workshop participants spent the first day engaged in purposeful play. I explained that I wanted them to have these types of learning experiences so that they would have prior knowledge on which to build new ideas. As they worked through a variety of activities designed to help build fluency with the technology as well as provide them with new experiences, I also asked them to reflect in a class journal set up with SeeSaw.

Though most of the participants enjoyed the opportunity to play and explore in a scaffolded manner, in the feedback from the workshop, one participant mentioned the need for me to pay more attention to andragogy – theories of adult learning. Particularly with technology, teachers are more likely to adopt new practices when they see an immediate benefit to themselves and their practice (Zhao et al., 2002). While I wanted the teachers to experience life as a student during that first day, in the next workshop I will provide a few more opportunities for them to use some of the tools from a teacher perspective.

Teachers (& Students) Need to be Comfortable

After extensive research into technology integration and adult learning, it became apparent that teacher comfort needed to become more of a priority. Teachers who feel comfortable with the tools will be more likely to use them in creative ways. Over the course of three days, we used a total of eight apps (Safari, Drive, Explain Everything, Book Creator, Popplet, Shadow Puppet Edu, and SeeSaw). Though we did explore a few web-based applications such as Padlet, we predominately focused on just those few creation apps. In a post-workshop survey, 87.5% of participants indicated that they felt more comfortable using iPads in their classroom.

Letting Go of Control

One of the challenges with student-centered learning is giving up the control and encouraging students to guide the process. As teachers, this feels disorienting. We wonder how we can ensure that students are gaining the skills that they need as well as how to keep them on task. To model what this could look like, the participants experienced a number of different challenges.

To read the rest of this article, published in Education Week, please click here.

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