Lately, I have had the good fortune to carry on conversations about subjects I love. Yesterday I joined a master gardener’s class and found myself in garden nerd heaven. I can’t remember the last time I have had the opportunity to talk gardening with knowledgeable people who are passionate about growing plants, food, weeds, and bugs. I was intoxicated with excitement as I drove home thinking about all of the great things to come. This afternoon I spoke with my son, GOAT 2, on the phone for 90 minutes about education and technology and now I’m all charged up again. We are both passionate about what is going right and what is going wrong in education and how we can improve a student’s experience in the classroom and thereby increase the likelihood of success.
This all translates into thoughts about the new semester that starts tomorrow. One of the things that I try to avoid in class is straight lecture. As a technology teacher, my instruction generally consists of an explanation about what the students are about to do, a few instructions or a demonstration, and then I “release the hounds” to set to the task. Because I teach in a computer lab, I have the luxury of partnering with a bunch of instant project simulators with screens. I have set things up so that students can easily access the necessary tools to complete their creations. I am able to walk around and facilitate, answering questions, guiding research, and generally encouraging students to push themselves into new learning.
This semester I will be out of the lab so it can be used for test practice and testing. (Let’s leave that for another post.) As I prepare to teach technology with one computer, I know my teaching beliefs are about to be tested. I have decided to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate to my students the difference between lecture and dialogue and how we can successfully avoid the former and enjoy the latter. I want to ensure that my students are engaged in my lessons the same way I was engaged in my conversations with the gardeners and GOAT 2. I want to ask the right questions to help them understand and I want them to feel free to ask questions of me and each other to clarify instructions, to enable precise learning, and to inspire leaps of faith and big ideas. In other words, I want them to talk more than I do. I want them to carry on a dialogue, to have conversations and to be engaged with their lessons.
My methods are vague at present and based on the way I teach with computers: give the necessary information and then “release the hounds” to complete the job. This will be my challenge and it begins tomorrow. I need to make some scribble drawings now to prepare. The results, whether glory or gore, will be reported next.