Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Experience, Learning and Technology

Hi There and welcome to my new blog. Before I have only used these for university courses I have taught, and this is the first time for me opening one just to express ideas about education, learning, or anything elese that may seem relevent! I hope you enjoy it, please feel free to let me know your thoughts. Best, Dr. Andy

Today's topic:

Experience, Learning and Technology

It seems to me from my own experiences working both with special needs and ESL students in American and international schools, as well as training teachers, that we may have gotten slightly off track in our technological applications and debates or discussion of the use of technology as well as its application in our schools.

We often start the discussion by asking how we are using technology in our lessons: The hidden assumption is that technology is always the better way to go in delivering instruction. As we all know, if you start with an error, as in math and so with life, everything that proceeds after will be erroneous. And it seems to me that this presumption is not, in essence, correct.

Why not?

Well let's look at some real life experiences and ask a few pointed questions. Take a toddler say of 8 to 14 months old, about the time a lot of children first learn to walk. So how is this skill learned? With an I-pad? Virtual reality? Notes derived from google docs? What about reviewing walking videos on youtube? Do social networks like twitter or facebook offer any guidelines?

Walking, like a lot of learning, is experiential, and the two main methods most children will tend to use are imitation, by watching friends or parents do it then trying the same thing, or by trial and error, and in the vast majority of cases a combination of these.

You might feel this is an unfair and overly simplistic example, so let's look at one more directly related to classroom experience, how about figuring out the area of a rectangle is the product of it's length and width in square units, a key concept taught at about the middle school level in mathematics. How is this best learned? Now this is a little trickier and answers will vary. I worked with a child in my class just this week who was totally unable to learn this in any other way than by watching a video, and even then I had to take some of the key parts and play them over and over for him to get the idea down. Score one for technology!

But wait!! With learning disabled kids that have trouble with new concepts, I have found that the number one most effective technique in teaching this idea is to have them compare it with perimeter by pacing around the edges of a room or enclosed area outside, then comparing the fact that area includes everything within those boundaries, while premiter is only the edge or straight line distance. I have them go to different parts of the room and look at the floor, or even touch sections with their hands. Is this part of area? Yes. Go to another section. What about this? Yes, again and again till they get the concept. Retention rates are near 100 percent with this method, better than with books, videos, or anything else I have tried.

We could look at a lot of examples; if you look at counting, with very young children the finger counting method is usually the best place to start because it is both highly visceral (involving physical feelings) and visual. Reading is often best when done orally with both teachers and students doing it. Using a book gives you something to feel, and again it is often easier for the younger reader to flip back pages and find something in a book than with a mouse on a pdf file. But if reading for research, often using links with online resources or databases make the research process quicker and easier for the older learner.

There is nothing wrong with asking how we are using technology; but it is the wrong place to start the discussion. The discussion should always start with what the learning needs of the students are. Then we can discuss what we might use to teach the skills in a way that will best meet those needs, and why and then how.

Starting the discussion with technology is putting the proverbial cart before the horse, and our students will suffer accordingly, from such an approach!

Teach with understanding, teach with compassion, teach with love!

Dr. Andy

1 comment:

  1. Sir,I really fan for your education understanding and knowledge......
    It's too good words "Teach with understanding, teach with compassion, teach with love!"