Shut Up

A recent conversation about interactive whiteboards with an administrator had me suddenly feeling and responding a bit  Gary Stager-ishly. While I don’t quite hold IWBs to the same level of disdain as does the esteemed Dr. Stager, I find myself moving more to his point of view and growing consistently less tolerant of the type of teaching such technologies almost inevitably fertilize, that of the teacher-expert-lecturer standing in the classroom spotlight, seeking to fill students’ brains with some pre-determined list of important facts. Listening to Robert Wolk’s Wasting Minds yesterday as I drove to Austin, the author brought up the question of what we are actually here for. Is it to ensure students have a prescribed brain-load of knowledge and skills needed to ensure acceptance to the college of their choosing? Or, is it to create thinkers and problem solvers who can successfully navigate, respond to, and, when needed, even change the world? The best approach to teaching is radically different, depending upon which answer you subscribe to. As for me, I wholeheartedly believe in the latter, and it is what I want for my own children. As such, I want to offer some advice I wish I had been given as a rookie teacher 23 years ago: shut up. Our kids don’t need you constantly standing in front of the room (with or without that $2000 technological marvel hanging on your wall), dazzling them with all you have to share. They need you setting the table for learning by getting them interested, supplying them with the tools for learning, listening to their questions, directing and redirecting as needed, and modelling what a real learner looks like. You might be the foremost expert on plate tectonics, or the Constitution, or whatever, but think back to your own schooling for a minute. What was the most memorable learning experience of your school life? Was it an amazing, inspired lecture? Or, was it an engaging act of discovery, where you can barely remember the role of the teacher? What do you recall? What are your thoughts on the matter?

Oh, and I apologize for the title–I know it probably makes elementary folks cringe. ;)

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