Friday, October 26, 2007

When we get in the way......

Who has the key?
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=414993708&size=s by spiralz

What happens when we get out of the way. The ThinWall classroom was using Moodle to create chat groups for the students. Moodle is a great tool and it has served our school well in a variety of circumstances. However in this case the students were finding it cumbersome. For some reason the chats would drop participants or just would not work smoothly. We expect some minor difficulties and we checked settings and tweaked the system but it was beginning to effect the conversation and thus the learning. Clarence suggested we switch to MSN Messenger since his kids all had accounts and then require them to email us transcripts of their chats. Here is where it gets interesting.

I okayed the switch , asked for a code of conduct and directions regarding the transcripts and we went to check with our students to see if the had MSN. Surprisingly only seven did. So now the tech coordinator and myself were considering what we would do. Should the kids set up MSN accounts ? What was involved? Although both he and I had accounts it had been a long time since we set them up so we had to check out what the kids would need to do. The problem here is we had not asked the right questions and we had not listened to the kids. We spent at least 30 minutes working on a solution before we went back and asked the kids what IM they used. It turns out that our kids use Yahoo Messenger. Now what? Someone suggested looking at Meebo which we did... but then I actually talked with the students rather than just getting one reply and running off to find a solution.

As soon as the kids understood the issue that in Snow Lake the kids were using MSN and in LA they were using Yahoo they told us that it was no problem the two platforms could communicate with each other. They knew how to add MSN people to their Yahoo chats...problem solved. Or was it?

I think the hidden problem is that we get in the way. In an effort to be the teacher we do not allow the students to navigate through the tools. We forget to listen and be learners ourselves. It is important that we teach safe and ethical behavior and monitor the way they use the tools as well as helping them see the power the tools have to help them learn. It is good that we show them new things like voicethread and that we make the tools available to them. But we also need to allow them to find solutions and use the tools that work for them. Last night before we even had officially switched from Moodle one of the groups switched on their own and emailed the transcript of their chat to Clarence

In the beginning the students were hesitant they did not know how it would work to learn in a connected network. Some of the tools we pointed them to were new to them . All of what we were doing was a new way to approach school. Now I think they get it. They see the potential and want to move ahead and so we can point out tools and we can guide the learning but we are ready to listen and to let them find the right tool for the job. Hmmm …..if I am not worrying about the tools I can focus on planning the learning.

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3 comments:

Rick Biche said...

It is so hard sometimes to remember to step back and let the kids guide. I am not sure that it is just a result of many years of being the "knowledgeable teacher" but perhaps just because we care and want to help, to make things work. If you are the type that steps up when things need to be done, perhaps that is what can get in the way. I went through a similar learning experience myself yesterday. It is nice to have humbling reminders now and then.
Wonderful reflection on practice!

B.Davis said...

I loved this post- too often we spoon feed our kids- especially with new Web 2.0 tools- maybe we come up with the problem and they need to find the tools to complete the task- instead of the other way around.

I linked to you on my blog- www.professionalexplorations.blogspot.com

Brad

Barbara said...

Dear Rick and Brad,
Thanks for adding to the conversation. Brad i think you hit the nail on the head...school too often is about spoon feeding- which is a hard habit to break. I agree wholeheartedly..lets give them the problem and let them suggest the tools.