First Thoughts on Teaching and Learning – my responses to this session

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.

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2 thoughts on “First Thoughts on Teaching and Learning – my responses to this session

  1. khandscomb1

    You have raised many interesting topics of discussion which I also found to be the most prominent areas of the lecture. However, it was the role of ICT in schools which resonated with me most. You’re mention of the fall in achievement following the installation of interactive whiteboards grasped my attention, as it leads me to ask ‘why?’ I too, saw children seemingly engaging with the IWB in an active and enjoyable way, but I now question whether they were always truly aware of the significance of the activity they were participating in.

    I completely agree with your statement “It is the teachers’ role to ensure the use of ICT forms just part of a varied toolkit of teaching methods and activities”. Other resources are essential in consolidating learning within a variety of contexts. Whilst learning games and activities on the IWB (and other devices) present a fun and interactive avenue into accessing certain areas of the curriculum, in my experience children often struggle to identify the skills and knowledge they are gaining when it has not been explicitly defined for them. A very simple example might be a student using the popular ‘Buried Treasure’ game, without understanding what relation it has to their wider learning. If they fail to relate this interactive phonics activity to their own, discrete phonics learning in class or the words they see in books, then the participative nature of the game has not added anything to their knowledge. They may see the game only in the context of an ICT lesson, or purely a game, failing to link this limited perception to other curriculum areas. If, however, the implications of the game on their other learning were clarified before, during and after participation, this pupil may get more meaning out of the activity.

    This suggests to me that the use of technology within the classroom must be carefully deliberated and clearly targeted to address a specific skill set or topic. Again, this focus must be clearly ascertained and reiterated throughout a lesson, like you mentioned when you described how you would “discuss how the class had learned something”. Otherwise knowledge and learning processes may be taken for granted and remain unrecognised. Like other lessons, this could even include an initial learning objective; in this way students can feel secure about what they are expected to gain from an ICT based activity.

    Additionally, in Key Stage 2 I have noticed the attitudes surrounding ICT in the classroom to be less productive. Some children see certain ICT activities as a chance for a ‘doss’, to deviate from the lesson priorities where possible – this may result from the increasing use of technology at home for recreation purposes. In some schools I have also seen technology used for the sake of it – often to prove devices are being used in class to maintain a level of ICT funding. In these circumstances the aim of a lesson may be clouded by the association of ICT with non-meaningful activity, or even tenuous links to a topic. The comprehensive vetting of sites which are accessible to pupils often solves this, as pages which may be child-appropriate, but lacking in any learning potential, can be blocked from the school intranet and only websites approved to be useful may be opened. In this way, ICT can be viewed as a valuable lesson for children and meaningful activities can be identified across a school and prioritised.
    Of course, the attitudes of the school children contacted via skype were extremely interesting to listen to. The emphasis on “quick and easy” knowledge was something I also picked up on and found particularly troubling. It’s interesting how you write “their understanding of learning was more about finding the correct answer to a question” as I feel this (not surprisingly) reflects the fast-paced, short-cut orientated society in which many children are surrounded by today.

    Is “quick and easy” knowledge necessarily a bad thing though?

    Over-reliance on technology may not an effective way of preparing children for future life. Most people have found that technology often fails and if we have foster a generation completely dependent on technology, then we have not been successful in priming them for these kinds of eventualities. Although, in this age of technology must form a major part of children’s education. There is no use in debating the importance of ICT when it is already a dominating factor in everyday life; one which all children must be made proficient in in order to operate effectively in future life.

    Reply
  2. kayleighpemberton

    My thoughts on “First Thoughts on Teaching and Learning- my responses to this session” and 2 thoughts on “First Thoughts on Teaching and Learning – my responses to this session”

    Emma, I completely agree with the point you made about an effective teacher ‘facilitating’ learning rather than ‘instructing’ it. Watching the video of the year 4 children, I was struck by the richness of the conversation the children were having and how by the teacher taking such a ‘hands off’ approach to teaching, the children were able to openly share, explore and develop their own ideas through talk.

    I agree with you about the importance of giving children time and space to develop their own thoughts and not focusing on ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers Emma. Katie- I too found it particularly noteworthy (and rather worrying!) that the children on Skype saw technology as a way of accessing ‘answers’ almost instantaneously. Looking back on the video call, I too wondered whether their view that technology has the benefit of providing ‘quick answers’ perhaps reflects their own ideas that effective teaching and learning is all about having the ‘right’ answers?

    In regards to the use of technology in classrooms, I too think that ICT should be seen as just one of a variety of ‘tools’ to be used to compliment teaching, and should not be over-relied on. We live in a world dominated by technology, so to deny technology a place within the classroom would be to grossly neglect the context within which children are growing up and fail to equip children with the necessary skills required for the future. I agree with you Katie, that many older children see technology lessons as being ‘a doss’ and believe it makes learning ‘easier’ as it requires ‘no thought processes’. This worries me! I feel that although the use of games such as ‘Treasure Chest’ to promote learning in phonics may not be any more effective at enhancing understanding and promoting effective learning, it serves to provide children with copious OTHER learning opportunities that technology does not- such as opportunities to develop speech, language and social skills such as pronunciation, turn taking, negotiation, perspective taking and collaboration through interaction with others. Learning is transactional. Technology, largely, is not. The most notable comment I recall from the lecture was the idea that as a teacher YOU are the most valuable resource in your classroom. Technology cannot provide children with necessary skills to function effectively in society that as a role model, you can.

    Incorporating the use of technology into lessons CAN enhance learning and provide children with a wealth of knowledge BUT how and when we use it depends on what we as teachers will consider the most important goal of teaching and learning to be- vast amounts of subject knowledge obtained by looking at a computer screen or deeper understanding obtained through hands on experience of exploring and actively engaging with peers and the subject in the classroom?

    Reply

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