Teachers Team Teaching with Students - Techsperts - Digital Literacy Dover

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Teachers Team Teaching with Students - Techsperts

Team Teaching—With Our Own Students [Techsperts]

Instead of just teaching your students, maybe it's time to try Team Teaching with them, especially when this involves the use of digital technologies. This short video explaining what a Techspert is, demonstrates how this student would help his teacher teach his class how to use the Numbers App in Maths class that week. It was made by this 8 year old Grade 2 student on an iPad using iMovie as a part of our Techsperts sessions, where 2-3 kids per class in the grade join me during one lunchtime to empower them to help their teachers and their classmates.

Many students are quick to learn many of the skills and potentialities of digital tools, what Mishra & Koehler (2006) call technological knowledge (TK), yet are not necessarily skilled at, for example, sharing them. The involvement of students through skilled facilitation (Ruddock, 2004) creates a collaborative ethos that harnesses the time spent in the classroom as time for ‘training’ by taking advantage of the students’ natural facility with digital technologies, while also harnessing the pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) of their teachers—their unique perspectives based on many years of experience. This is a repurposing of Mishra & Koehler’s model (2006) I describe as TK (and) PCK = TPACK. However, this approach requires the teachers to allow the students’ a certain degree of autonomy, I can remember many instances 'back in the day' with teachers who were locked into a traditional didactic approach to teaching ICT skills, who struggled to establish this model with their students, complaining that their students, 'get themselves stuck' because they haven't 'followed the instructions'. What if we let the students figure things out themselves, instead of 'instructing' them? We guide them in the process of 'figuring it out themselves', and helping each other to 'figure things out', yes that's slower, but believe me, it's a lot more effective.

Students as collaborators

I have witnessed students struggling with some digital tools because they were not being given autonomy to learn independently, through enquiry, because their teacher was more comfortable ‘teaching’ them how to use the technology didactically, step by step, or more accurately, literally, click by click.  By shifting teaching approach from that of ‘instructor’, towards that of ‘mediator’ or even 'engineer', teachers are better able to bring together facilitative strategies, modelling a collaborative ethos—the organising influence as the teacher is still highly salient, albeit a form of leadership that is more ‘fluid’ (Peachey et al, 2008). Our teachers find different ways to incorporate this model into their teaching.

Some teachers use a strategy I call “I teach you - you teach two”—each 'Techspert' teaches two other students, and those students become 'Techsperts' who teach two others, and so on until the whole class has been covered. Knowledge and understanding are gained through combinations of the students’ and teacher’s co-constructing, acting together through ‘distributed cognition’. This creation of a supportive, problem-solving classroom community is essential to the development of digital literacies (Beetham et al, 2009; Twining 2009).

Let kids lead [when they can]

Many of our teachers have been eager to embrace this approach, and regularly come up with unique ways to repurpose the model, one teacher designated a particularly keen Techspert in his class to take on the day-to-day management of the Class Site. As teachers become more comfortable with the awareness that students are going to be able to teach them, their contributions can be smoothly integrated into the fabric of a lesson. Teachers describe how they feel this has ‘flipped’ their perspective on technology; they now feel comfortable “not knowing everything” and “letting them work it out”, which makes the prospect of using digital tools much less daunting.

'Teachable Moments'

Scenarios become commonplace whereby a student finds a new way of doing something or makes a discovery that the teacher has never come across before, but rather than feeling threatened by this, the teacher facilitates this and turns it into a “teachable moment” (Crook et al, 2010). I can assure you that I've learned many 'power tips' from students in the Primary School, just the other day in fact. In one case the teacher gave the student control of the screen, via an interactive whiteboard (IWB), to guide their class (and often their teacher) through a process. Our students usually have a very high level of confidence when approaching technical problems, an approach with a notably positive bias. They appear to have a natural sense of determination and perseverance when faced with technical problems; even though they accept that these problems happen, they see this as an inevitable aspect of using technology - not an exception.

The less you know, the more you can learn

This perspective contrasts considerably with that of many adults, who, when faced with technical problems, tend to blame the machine, whereas the students are more inclined to assume the fault lies with themselves, in the way they are using it.

This way when a problem arises, rather than being a potential threat, it becomes a learning opportunity; if anything, an issue to be wary of is with teachers who are highly skilled with ICTs being too quick to offer solutions, instead of encouraging the students to find someone else in the room who has worked through that problem, so they can tutor one another. Seen this way, could lacking technological expertise can be seen as a kind of enabler...?

Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is for sure, throughout the Primary school, there is a lot of teaching going on, and not all of it is by teachers.

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