So I was reading through this week’s readings (I didn’t bother with the video; the house is very noisy this evening – was it good?) and – as recommended – I had a good old think about where the web might be going in terms of its impact on teaching, learning, and education.
I thought about my own students; the ones who love to talk and take control of our group blog, the ones who engage sporadically, and the ones who you never hear a peep out of. And I thought about this course and wondered how many of us are ‘velcro’ students – competitive, perhaps a little controlling, liking to be ‘involved’. Probably quite a lot of us. Some of us will write posts and lead discussions that capture people’s imaginations and go a little bit ‘viral’. Some of us will put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do this and cave under our own expectations.
I saw a documentary earlier with Dylan William (of Black & William fame); it was part of the BBC’s School Season and showed how a variety of different formative assessment techniques can be used to increase classroom engagement (& learning). One of the techniques he was asking teachers to try was a ‘no hands up’ rule; students were selected at random to answer questions rather than asking for volunteers to answer. This strategy resulted in some interesting feedback from students, who had previously only been used to speaking up if they knew the answer. Those who didn’t often volunteer a response not only found that they were forced to be more attentive, but they also became more accustomed to offering up an incorrect response. The stigma of not knowing the answer began to fade.
The most interesting interaction was that between the teachers, Dylan William and the handful of keener students who until recently had provided the responses to class questions. These students felt frustrated; they wanted to demonstrate their understanding, they wanted to be rewarded for their attentiveness and they were bored waiting for others to ‘get it’ when they got it ages ago. The teachers sympathised with the keen students. Some felt they were being prevented from rewarding the best students for their hard work, or, worse, holding them back.
Dylan explained that the reason the keen students were frustrated was because they were used to running the show; they were used to controlling the pace of the learning experience and used to having positive attention focused on them. Sure enough, as the teachers developed more eloquent ‘no hands up’ strategies, the more vocal students began to realise that their perspective was changing; they were learning to listen.
Reflecting on this made me think about similarities and differences with my own learning context (my PLE). Yes, I can choose who to listen to and who to respond to, but they have to put their hand up first (that’s a metaphor). And chances are I might not hear what they have to say unless they have the necessary connections and clout in order to shine out through a dozen tweets.
For all its developments, will Web X.0 remain like the classroom before Dylan William walked in the door? Dominated by those with confidence in their own opinion, the time and inclination to put it out there, and the approval of the wise crowd? Or will we see a dawning of the new age, a virtual ‘no hands up’ rule that results in everyone offering themselves and their thoughts equally, with no fear of being ‘wrong’? Now, that would be a change