Education : The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing (part 2)

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By adubuquoy@image7.fr June 30, 2023

What should educational continuity look like when there is no school?

To a motivated, respected teacher who is capable of animating a distance course in an intuitive way by not reproducing the traditional model of the course “one against many” but of the course “each with everyone”;

To mobilized and united families pooling digital resources and educational attention;

To children who seize the chance to learn with others in an interactive way;

To an education system that accepts to assess differently;

To digital solutions that are designed by and with teacher to replicate an innovative educational experience, not a pale copy of a shared workspace specific to companies’ meetings.

The importance of social learning

Learning is nowadays increasingly seen as a mix of formal and informal experiences. What we call “social learning” refers to the degree of interaction between learners of different levels of competence. Learning from the others, learning with the others are fundamental elements of the learning experience and essential for students to get full ownership of what they learn.

But we will all agree that concentration on tasks, quality of dialog between students and teachers, students mental health, are essential indicators to design successful (and pleasant) learning paths.

This is what I call the “Art of interaction” i.e. the capacity of teachers and students to engage into a continuous and granular conversation about learning.

How do we move forward?

Do you remember Mary Poppins? How many teachers dream to have her magical powers when they face a sleepy classroom at a distance on a gloomy Monday morning!

The success and sustainability of innovative online learning solutions rely on the capacity to engage learners in a continuous way, over a course period or over a school year. More committed learners means more interactions, more knowledge.

One of teacher’s main challenge is to propose learning experiences that allow genuine student engagement.

In a classroom, the learning process is usually driven by the teacher. The teacher designs the lesson, defines the learning objectives, is in charge of student assessment. Often the result is a top down process that leaves a number of students “off the road”.

There is no magical solution to raise student engagement. Alternative school models haven’t proved significantly more efficient than “traditional” ones. A democratic school for instance where students have an equal say than teachers is no guarantee of student engagement.

The success depends on the degree of ownership that can be gained at the student level, i.e. if they are fully part of the learning process. Participation is a critical point in the classroom daily routine.

Participation in the classroom

Roger Hart wrote: “Only through direct participation can children develop a genuine appreciation of democracy and a sense of their own competence and responsibility to participate.”

Fully participatory classrooms are the one that are built in interaction and embed participation whatever the topic, the moment, the setting. The pedagogical concept behind interaction has therefore to be very refined and it has nothing to do with technology.

I will argue that the bricoleur-teacher stimulates creativity in the classroom in a much more powerful and sustainable way than through the use of technology alone. Our teacher-bricoleur knows  the importance of teacher-student relationships, confirmed by John Hattie  to explain student achievement. Classroom discussion, reciprocal teaching, jigsaw method, feedback intervention are some of the techniques and tools with the highest probability of success while online and digital tools have among the lowest.

Jim Groom, in his evocation of The Glass Bees, reminds us that “teaching and learning are not done by technology, but rather people thinking and working together”.

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