Alexandria Online

Monday, May 10, 2010

Changing the Classroom or Not

It's amazing how strongly classroom practice resists change. Larry Cuban's book, How Teachers Taught, will convince you of that in just the introduction. There is something irresistable and safe about standing in the front of the room and establishing and maintaining authority for 40 minutes to an hour. Science labs have broken that mold; elementary school homerooms tend to have stations and small group tables; and in computer labs students often get the chance to do what they have longed to do for centuries: turn their backs on their teachers. But whole-class teacher-led instruction still dominates.

Online learning materials, cloudbooks, will not per se change the dynamic inside the classroom. But what is likely to accompany the emergence of the cloudbook is ubiquitous computing: one-to-one laptop programs for kids. And that has a shot at changing things, because it makes every room into a potential lab. When there are plenty of computers around, kids tend to create collaborative projects with them which they store on the network.

But beware: parents and students may not recognize this as teaching. It may be too noisy and chaotic for their expectations. I have gotten complaints from parents and student for teaching this way. They expected to be shown exactly how to do all the problems. They didn't want to figure them out for themselves. My class was too much like a "study hall."

So once we teachers get the courage to make the change to project-based teaching -- if indeed that is what we want to do -- we have to convince the rest of our constituency to take the leap with us.

1 comment:

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