Listening and learning

We’re always being challenged to find new ways of engaging and teaching today’s learner. I don’t think we can do that successfully unless we begin to understand the spaces they inhabit both physical and virtual.

A colleague was recounting a conversation she had with a young teacher who told her how grateful he was that his teenage students had invited him ‘into their world’.  He never presumed he was a part of it or that as a teacher, he deserved right of entry.

Perhaps we all need to be examining schooling from a new perspective: as co-learners. The futurist Alvin Toffler said:

The illerate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.

I was interested in the creative approach the University of Rochester (US) took in upgrading its library facilities. Rather than consulting the ‘experts’, they asked students.  A group were asked to identify their favourite place to study, what they carry to class and something they see as high tech.  The administration team was surprised by the results.  They found for example the library hours were ‘out of synch with student needs’. 

In July, I had the pleasure of meeting some Year 9 students who are really engaged with their learning and with Web 2.0 tools.  They’ve actually begun working with their teachers to create podcasts of lessons which are then accessed by the school community. I asked them about their perceptions of learning and teaching in today’s world…..

As leaders and educators, we need to be willing to include students in the collaborative process of making schooling relevant.  Perhaps we need to be following in the footsteps of the University of Rochester by asking students first – imagine the possibilities if we harnessed the wisdom of both generations!

6 thoughts on “Listening and learning

  1. In our small community at HFS, we have noticed a marked difference in attitude in our Stage 3 students, since we have engaged in our Web2.0 work. The chance to express an opinion, or collaborate on an idea,…and have that idea or opinion ‘on show’ for others to share, has affected the overall perceptions of our students to their learning and our community. The staff have been commenting on the impact it has had on behaviour management issues,- engagement & participation in community activities is having a positive impact on the students’ behaviour both in class & on the playground. At the moment our Year 6 students are involved in making ‘presentation packages’ about safety while blogging, that teachers, (or themselves), can use in class during blogging lessons. They are also beginning work on a radio ‘broadcast’ that will promote ‘good news’ in our community. These simple activities are shifting the status quo of our community…we are beginning to explore the concept that we are all collaborators in our learning. It is a very positive thing!

  2. I also believe in involving the students in their learning. We need to give students more opportunities to actively collaborate in the decision-making processes. This results in higher levels of engagement, significance and ultimately a deeper knowledge and understanding of the key concepts being taught. Furthermore, by collaborating with the students and giving them a chance to make decisions, their learning is much richer.

    In March of this year, our principal organised our entire staff to attend the Quality Teaching Symposium at The Morley Centre. The third session was titled ‘Students Talking’. A large panel of students from Years 5 to 12 gathered to share their ideas of : what helps children to learn, what hinders learning, and what was their best learning experience. The results were insightful. Just sitting at the table with my colleagues, listening to each student share their views was incredible and an eye-opener too. The students were very honest in their sharing. This is a general summary of responses:

    What helps children to learn:
    interactive activities, brainstorming, games, class discussions, (What do I know about … ), learning from their peers, an enthusiastic fun teacher, understanding the task.

    What hinders learning:
    fighting in groups, copying off the OHP, using textbooks, injustice, teacher yelling

    What was the best learning?
    When you get on with your teacher, design and make tasks, a friendly personal teacher who gives specific feedback, using the computer and technology.

    Once you open your own door to let the students in, opens up new ways of communicating, being and learning. The students have so many wonderful ideas of learning and demonstrating their learning that makes the learning and teaching so much richer.

  3. Great comments Felicity. Particularly in light of what we think catholic schooling should be about. Placing young people at the centre of the schooling experience is essential for quality learning outcomes. The recognition that the student has major responsibility for his or her learning is a powerful experience in itself. this puts significent pressure on teachers as they “individualise” learning but ultimately is much more rewarding for the teacher and the student.

  4. Hi Frances,
    I just checked out the blogs by 6 Blue. This is really amazing! The depth of reflection about their own learning is truly remarkable. Congratulations to you and the teachers at your school. We are on our own web2.0 journey and I would like to share some of the students comments with our staff about how web2.0 tools have helped them to improve in their learning. I think it will help them to recognise the importance and effectiveness of implementing this technology in the classroom. I look forward to learning more!

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