maanantai 7. heinäkuuta 2014

Teacher of 2014 - How to get one's message through?

Both the review meeting which I attended two weeks back as well as EDULEARN 2014 conference in Barcelona today have provoked the same discussion in my mind - about teaching and really also about basic communication from one person to another. Why is it that we reject information coming from teachers? Why as a learner, I prefer some teachers (like Suprateek Sarker), and really dislike others... That was exactly the topic of this morning's key note speech in Barcelona by Prof. Eric Mazur from Harvard University (USA) and Kiran Bir Sethi. The Riverside School in Ahmedabad (India).
 ICT within our society has permanently changed the way knowledge is available and shared in between people in the world. Most people can access knowledge within their pockets at any time through smartphones. Teachers have traditionally been the distributors of knowledge, but as the world has changed into a situation where "anytime, you can ask Google" is the de facto, also teachers must change. It's clear that in the future world, it's much more important for students to have competences of knowledge inquery, evaluation and adaptation, instead memorizing. This means that the role of the teachers has to also move from a person that delivers knowledge to others towards more to a guide and facilitator of students skills in fetching, using and sharing knowledge themselves. In Finland, this change has already happened in the younger generations of teacher training, however the situation is not as good in some of the other countries around Europe.
 My perspective is this: It's not a new invention that a student learns better if the teacher is just facilitating the learning, allowing the student to form his/her own cognitive mapping and emotional relationship to the data - this was already used by Sokrates the ancient Greek philosopher, who came up with the concept of 'midwifing knowledge' meaning that teacher will just set the environment for learning, but the learner creates the knowledge themselves. Personally I feel that this approach is most effective because learners who are 'told what to do' will have a negative attitude against authority and that's stopping them from learning. Personally I learn much better if I'm given the freedom to make my own choices, supported of course by the teacher. I would want the role of the teachers in 2014 to be guiding, smart and relating to the students' needs. And don't tell me that crap about the fact that we cannot do it in the school system we are in nowadays because of money and time trouble - That's very short sighted if the learner goes through the pipe of education without actually learning anything at all. Are the students with Masters' degrees or PhDs who know nothing useful in the working life? Absolutely not. So why not cut the content and steer the learning into the more meaningful processes of 2014 - Knowledge inquiry, evaluation, adaptation and re-use? In Finland we often claim we are doing this. How is it, that in so many occasions I still meet examples of the contrary?
 Old habits die hard and I personally am probably just as bad a teacher as any. However, at least we have recognized the need for a change. I want my students to learn. And if that means that I should be more relating to their level, asking them to discuss instead of telling them what to do, and admitting that I am not know-it-all, but a humble servant of knowledge, just like them... Then maybe, that would be the starting point of the teacher-learner trust relationship which would eventually lead to the possibility of me transferring knowledge to them. Not by saying how they should do it, but by saying that okay, this worked for me - you can try it, or you can find your own way.
 When dealing with a three year old autistic child, I have also been reminded of one important fact: Motivating through rewards and positive feedback, you can get results. Making your learner feel guilty of anything they haven't done in the past is never the way to do it. There's only a few emotions in the world which I dislike less than guilt. We all feel it, but when someone deliberately is trying to make us feel guilty. You need to be able to level yourself down to the level of the learner and even lower - to show peer support rather than authority. These skills can get your message through even if you are not a teacher, but dealing with people in daily activities. So next time you feel the need to 'nag', how about taking a breath and thinking for a second - how will I get my message through? Listen, guide, question, facilitate, level-down.
I think that the most important competences of 2014 for any learner are the so called 'Soft skills' (which here in Edulearn are rightly promoted as the 'new hip thing') and teachers' job is to facilitate those.

Pahoittelut Suomalaisille lukijoille - tänään jälleen työasioita, joten kirjoittelin vaan englanniksi. Kysymys on, että millainen on 2014 luvun opettaja - onko opettajan tarkoitus antaa tietoa opiskelijoille vaiko auttaa oppilasta itseään muovaamaan oman tietonsa ja yhteytensä siihen? Opettajien rooli on murroksessa, joka Suomessa on ollut meneillään jo pidempään, mutta esim. Euroopassa on niitä maita, joissa tällaista ajattelua vasta aloitellaan. Mielestäni näitä taitoja voisi soveltaa ihan normaaliin kanssakäymiseenkin vaikka kotona: Voi miettiä meneekö nalkutus perille vai voisikohan olla, että jos 'opettava' osapuoli ottaisi enemmän 'ystävällisen ja vertaistukimaisen' asenteen aiheeseen... Monesti kuulen, että kun ei ole aikaa niin pitää sanoa suoraan. No, jos suoraan sanomalla ei mene oppi perille 10lläkään kerralla niin kannattaisi miettiä taktiikkaa. Jos kerran käyttäisi asian esittämiseen enemmän sokratesmaista 'maieutiikka' lähestymistapaa - ehkä vastaanottaja hyväksyisi asian heti ja siinä se aika vasta säästyisi. Tulevaisuudessa oppilaittemme täytyy oppia nimenomaan niitä 'pehmeitä taitoja', joita täällä Barcelonassa kovasti promotoidaan, ja uskon, että tulevaisuuden opettajan tehtävä on ohjata niiden syntymistä.

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