Tech Salad

With Crunchy Bits and Bytes

Standing Back

This week has been one of the most successful I’ve had in school recently, despite being out for two days.

On Wednesday and Thursday I was in Mr. Dacey’s room working with students who were making video tutorials for their peers using the ShowMe app on the iPads. We had had this plan in the works for a while, but Mr. Dacey was worried about the technology use. After many failed attempts with scheduled meetings to go over the details, we decided to just go straight to the kids and let them help us work out the kinks.

What happened in the classroom? Magic. The kids figured it out. They got to work right away without any difficulty. Every single student was engaged in creating the best tutorial possible. The only guidance we had to give was a reminder to the students to think about their own learning process. What questions did they have when they first saw negative exponents? How did they figure it out? What helpful advice would they give someone else trying to learn how to simplify expressions with negative exponents?

As all this was going on in Mr. Dacey’s room, the Internet was buzzing with the news that  Sugata Mitra had been awarded $1 million to continue his studies of how children can learn with technology with guidance, not interference, from adults. This is a quote from an interview in The New York Times.

At first I thought that the children were learning in spite of the teacher not interfering. But I changed my opinion, and realized this was happening because the teacher was not interfering. At that point, I didn’t become entirely popular with teachers. But I explained to them that the job has changed. You ask the right kind of question, then you stand back and let the learning happen.

We did just that, and the learning happened. The students answered most of their own questions, collaborated, exercised creativity in personalizing their own tutorials, and were far more engaged than if they had been answering questions on a worksheet.

Thank you, Mr. Dacey, for letting the learning happen.

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