Teaching Today from our pasts #openspokes

This week our Open Spokes Fellowship discusses a series of questions. I add but a few ideas to those of my colleagues who are so much wiser than I. Today, I answer thus:

How do you reconcile the fact that you are trying to teach in a way that you weren’t taught?

In my last years of becoming a teacher, my experience at Eastern Washington University included mostly courses that expected dialogue  research, and analysis with a self-chosen project that included work with children, peer feedback, and reflection to demonstrate attaining the goals of each course. Therefore, I was guided then in social learning in project-based understanding.

Do you believe that students are fundamentally different now than they were when you were in school?

I don’t think fundamentally that students are different now, it’s just that our expectations, pace, and access have add new dimensions.

Like Erin said, expectations for students are overwhelming, both in options for planning their futures and in school requirements  How do we help students handle these stressors and discover their talents and best options for each while still completing mandates in curriculum and testing?

Linked to this is the pace of living, learning, and connecting, which is instant, or nearly so. Therefore, our actions have also become more instant and perhaps less focused. With so much information and activity surrounding, consuming us, how do we search out, analyze, and make good, educated, unbiased choices? How do we expand our talents and focus them to make our worlds better?

Finally, access is the vehicle for all the pace. However  access is not yet universal and we must help make it so. The students usually can find access, but in school limited access prevents schools from guiding a positive and productive presence within this access. Students carry their need for information and a tendency for drama into their access; the expectation is that they will be wise in these choices. How will we ensure and guide all in opportunity and as participating citizens? Access allows us to do this better than ever before, and students expect that access in school.

Therefore, students are not fundamentally different, but now have the world at the touch of screen, which offers infinite options, but overwhelms the decisions. To function today, the pace needs balance so that careful understanding of knowledge and productive participation becomes a way of life that leads to joyful, informed, participative futures. Equity in acces through guided and encouraged participation brings us togterher and allows individual success. Students are not fundamentally different, but they expect that the pace and access are part of their learning process.

What is it that you think we know now about how students learn that we didn’t know then?

We know now that students process information in different ways, and that motivation to learn is key. We know that we learn best in chunks with time for practice and connecting to what we know. We know that context is everything, and revising perceptions takes time and time and time. We know that feeling safe encourages learning, but that some struggle is needed to remember the learning. We know that movement and breaks and plenty of sleep with good nutrition promotes deep, connectd learning. We know that learning is driven by interest and need, and that we are always learning.

Why is it that so many people who were “good at playing school” become teachers of students who are not?

Perhaps people who “do school” became teachers because school is safe and comfortable for them, and they want to inspire others to feel that joy of learning. So many learners do not “do school” because of expectations, pace, and access. Students have much to explore and do so based on their interests. They sit at school in desks unmotivated by the requirements and wanting to be connected, accesssing that which appeals to them, because they can. Learners aren’t different than before, just connected more.


But students aren’t learning with this access, they’re living through it. It’s another way of processing that teachers and learners are both striving to understand. The tools and connections offer opportunities we’ve never had before, opportunities that change the way “formal schooling” is delivered; that’s what frustrates kids. It frustrates teachers wishing to change because access to the Internet and it’s resources in information, experts, and connections, and access to devices are limited in most schools. We’re at a crossroads whereby learners expect personalized, connected learning based on their interests and concerns. Teachers struggle to motivate without the technology and the freedom to provide that learning environment.