The session provoked a contemplation of what constitutes good teaching and presented some ideas to challenge misconceptions. The role of ICT in schools was also introduced with some discussion about its role as a learning tool.
We were shown a video of some children in about year 4, who were presented with some objects and asked some questions about how these objects might change state. What struck me was how ‘hands-off’ the teacher was in this session, allowing time and space for children to respond to questions. It was fascinating to see how the children responded to one another and built on each other’s ideas. We discussed the role of teacher as facilitator and that good teaching was not just about being ‘the instructor’. I reflected that a good teacher responds positively to ideas raised in a discussion, even if these are inaccurate. Further skill lies in the ability to correct misconceptions and phrase a question which will help get the discussion back on track whilst keeping their own intervention to a minimum. The learning should be child-led with the teacher as skilled facilitator.
The role of ICT in schools was raised as a discussion point. I was interested to learn that attainment dipped in the first year following the introduction of whiteboards in all schools. In my own experience in classrooms I have seen that the children love to carry out interactive games on the whiteboard. Using them can help children to engage with what they are learning. They are useful tools to demonstrate something that could not otherwise be shown in a classroom. However, in my experience of observing how attracted children can be to using any technology that involves a colourful screen, there could be a danger that it could distract from the focus of the main aims of the lesson.
The lecturer had a video chat via Skype with some children aged about 9 or 10 from a local primary school. He asked them questions about using ICT and whether they thought it made learning easier. The children all agreed that it did, as if they wanted to find something out they could “just look it up on Google instead of looking in a book”. I felt that their responses demonstrated that their understanding of learning was more about finding out the correct answer to a question, rather than learning as a process which involves a range of activities. It struck me that when teaching, it would be important for me to discuss how the class had learned something, linking this to specific hands-on activities, discussions and research, to help them understand that learning is not just about getting the right answer. It is the teacher’s role to ensure the use of ICT forms just part of a varied toolkit of teaching methods and activities.
In the final part of the lecture we looked at how learning takes place in the early years. I reflected on how I had learned to ride a bike aged about 8 or 9. My goal was to stay upright for 10 or more seconds as I had been promised a financial reward if I managed it. It was clear to see the value of having time and space to practice, as well as the benefit of being given an incentive to achieve my goal. In our discussion we related our own reflections to the conditions required for learning to take place at all ages: playing and exploring, active learning and creating and thinking critically. We saw a video of a 7-month old girl, Jamie, exploring the objects in a treasure box and could see how her learning was enabled through the environment created for her. I reflected on how our role as teachers is about creating that environment for the children we will be teaching.
We were asked to reflect on how we would grow learning in the children we teach. I feel that I would do this through developing my observation and elicitation skills to understand the needs of the children. I will aim to adapt teaching methods to respond to the children and the situation. I am excited about developing a variety of techniques and tools to facilitate learning. I plan to develop the use of ICT as one of the important resources I can use, but that it should be used within the context of a range of teaching techniques.