I can remember my earliest education classes focused on transforming education from a one to many “banking” model to a student-centered approach. From where I sit, 16 years later, this is still a major challenge. We must disrupt the traditional knowledge economy in our classrooms.
Even some models of “individualized” instruction ask students to learn and remember more than explore and express. While these models have the students doing activities tailored to them, the student experience is just a more finely-tuned and high-tech approach to classic teacher-centered instruction.
A student-centered learning experience empowers the student to use what they know and inspires them to learn more. A student-centered classroom has many invitations for students to share what they know with their peers.
When I left the English classroom to teach elementary technology, the greatest surprise was how being a “visiting teacher” allowed me to model pedagogical practices and then discuss the lesson with the classroom teacher.
Acknowledge Their Knowledge
The first “Explore Kodable” lesson I ran in a Kindergarten class, showed me the power of changing the knowledge economy. I had the students paired up because paired programming is a great way to build communication skills. The teacher asked a student to work on his own. She told me about the struggles with sharing and listening. This was pretty early in the year and the teacher sounded like this student had already been a great deal of work.
The class began with a quick lesson. With all the kids sitting in front of me, I played a level and talked about what I was doing. Students returned to their seats and we got them coding. Kodable is an awesome leveled app, so once the students have a basic understanding they can work through the levels of increasing difficulty until they get stuck.
When the students got stuck they would raise their hand and I would come over to talk them through the thought process needed to solve the problem. Often this means just asking “And what do you want it to do next?” As the classroom teacher and I were helping students we noticed the solo student was completely on task and having great success.
Empower Students to Help Each Other
There were several students in the class who were struggling with iPad ipad interface and trying to figure out how hard to click as well as the students who had reached a high enough level that they needed help solving the challenge. With the need for help so, great I asked the solo student if he could take a break and help some of the students near him.
He was happy to help and for the next 10 minutes worked with many of his classmates before asking if he could go back to playing. After this, many of the students helped each other without being asked.
As the year progressed, I saw an improvement in the relationships between the students and with the classroom teacher. Once this solo student had a chance to help his classmates and contribute to the community, his relationship with his peers changed.
I have seen this time and again when I bring in something the kids can master: coding, Minecraft, puppets, 3D printing, and I use that medium to have them express what they know about the content, the learning is better.
Develop Comfort with Discomfort
When I talk to teachers about using programming apps in class they are usually nervous because they don't know everything about the apps. As teachers, we have been trained to know our content and never be wrong. But when we bring new modes of learning into the room we can't know everything. This is the moment we can really change the knowledge economy. When I run a lesson in Minecraft, my kids know a great deal more than I do and I let them teach me.
If you want to change the level of engagement in your class, if you want kids working to get TO your class instead of just THROUGH your class, find something they can teach you. Learn together and do something that matters to them. Put the focus of the class on their interests and abilities, and make it meaningful to the whole class. Maybe you will build something out of LEGO, or learn to build a game in scratch together.
As teachers, we can dictate where the value lies in the knowledge economy, don't let it be on your desk or in a book. Put the value in what the kids discover, and design learning experiences that allow them to develop their own stake in the knowledge economy. However you do it, find a way to bring their interests and skills into the class, and take the time to learn from them. In the process, you can teach them how to work with others, and how to share what they know.
How do you shift the focus of your lessons? How can teachers alter the knowledge economy in their classrooms everyday?