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Monday, August 30, 2010

We Teach as We are Taught

As schools adapt to new technologies and hardware and software, curriculum changes need to reflect more than just the inclusion of technology; changes needs to impact methodology, approach and instructional activities. Yet, even today, instructional methodologies are heavily influenced by the instructional models and cultural influences of teachers and administrators, not the students. Much of the culture surrounding schools is based on the ideas, culture and influences of teachers and administrators during their formative years. As Knowles (1992) indicates, formative experiences of pre-service and beginning teachers influence the ways in which they think about teaching and, subsequently their actions in the classroom. This means we we need to change how we conduct pre-service teacher training.

Teachers and professors (who often don't have formal instruction on how to teach) teach in ways similar to how they experienced teaching during their own schooling and hold beliefs based on those experiences (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Thompson, 1992). Today’s educators grew up in a technological culture considerably different than the culture of their students and they often have trouble leveraging the tools of the current culture. It can be difficult for educators to adapt to technological influences which they have not, themselves, experienced during their formative years.

Instructors tend to teach in the same style and format in which they have been taught. For the current generation of educators, this included a linear step-by-step approach with little technology in the classroom. In terms of pedagogy, much of the efforts during the current generation of teacher’s formative years were focused on the students as empty vessels to be filled with the wisdom of the instructor. Students were placed into rows of seats and the teacher in the front of the room held all of the knowledge and presented to students who were assigned to memorize and repeat the information provided to them by their teachers.

In terms of technology, computers and even calculators were not available for some of the educational life of a few current teachers. Some current teachers even remember using slide rules instead of calculators. Affordable hand held calculators didn’t become widely available until the late 1970’s and in many cultures and countries not until much later than the 1970’s. While educational reforms since those formative years have had some impact, the overall effective has not been as widespread as hoped.

As a result the instructional paradigms employed for education across the globe have not fully embraced technologies of video games, Internet, social media or mobile devices or the associated teaching methodologies that must accompany the technology tools. Many educators are still not familiar with the opportunities afforded by technology mediated methodologies and many curriculums do not leverage the digital connectedness of students. The result is that technology tools do not get fully employed into the educational curriculum and an exploratory, constructivist approach is not widely adopted.

The basic instructional paradigm for teaching students has not adapted to the explosive use of technology among the culture of today's students. That is not to say that technology tools haven’t been introduced to schools, they have. But simply adding computers to a traditional classroom without a corresponding change in instructional delivery or strategy doesn’t work. It highlights the disconnection between how today's students leverage technology for their day-to-day communications and interactions with the limited use of the technology within academic environments. And adding technology hardware is not enough, the next wave in education is to leverage the connectivity of the third millennials and their aptitude for creating content to share with others via web-based networking tools.

Borko, H., & Putnam, R. (1996). Learning to teach. In R. Calfee & D. Berliner (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 673-725). New York: Macmillan.

Knowles, G. J. (1992). Models for understanding pre-service and beginning teachers' biographies: Illustrations from case studies. In I. F. Goodson (Ed.). Studying teachers’ lives (pp. 99-152). New York: Teachers College Press.

Thompson, A. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and conceptions: A synthesis of the research. In D. Grouws (Ed.), Handbook of research in mathematics teaching and learning. (p. 127 - 146). New York: MacMillan.

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