Teacher Feature #24 – Three Little Words

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Technology empowers students. Certainly this brief sentence contains three important words. However, when creating this month’s “Teacher Feature”, I remembered “three little words” that will help reduce teacher stress while empowering students. It is recommended that teachers start responding to student questions, for which they don’t know the answer, with the three little words … “I don’t know”.

Teacher Feature #24 - Stephen Heppel

Teacher Feature #24 – Stephen Heppel – December, 2012

Undoubtedly, for some teachers, such a confession will be difficult. Especially if they have prided themselves on always knowing everything about their particular subject area(s). However, with technology invading our homes and our schools, it will be impossible, for even the most tech-minded individual, to always have the right answer. Therefore, I recommend that each teacher become more transparent and acknowledge students more frequently with “I don’t know … but if you find out, I’d love for you to share it with me”. With such feedback, the individual pupil is empowered as the traditional teacher’s and student’s roles are reversed.

In order to survive the barrage of questions posed by inquisitive Early Years students, some teachers direct their young students to “Ask three, before me.” What an amazing catch-phrase! This strategy asks that students search for answers in other ways as opposed to always relying on the teacher. Not only does it take pressure off the teacher, it also encourages students to learn new problem-solving techniques. Teachers, who are hoping to infuse technology into their classrooms, cannot know all the myriad of details about each software application. Neither can they know how to accomplish all tasks on each particular gadget in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom environment. Rather, empower the students to collaborate and problem solve as a community of learners. Such action will benefit them when they are employed in the real world.

I was very lucky to be exposed to such a “real world” learning experience when I enrolled in the popular “Digital Storytelling” course offered by the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This massive, open, online course (or MOOC), affectionately known as “DS106” (www.ds106.us), ran for 15 weeks and exposed me to the realities of learning in the 21st century. No, there were no recommended textbooks nor required software applications. Neither were there specific handouts on how to create GIFs or a special effects using Photoshop or Gimp. Although the instructors worked hard, they did not take ownership for creating up-to-date instructions on how to accomplish a task using different versions of Photoshop. Rather students were empowered to search Google for “Photoshop tutorials” or communicate with others taking the course to learn how certain tasks were best accomplished. Furthermore, students were encouraged to share their creative assignments providing “behind the scenes” insights into how their projects were accomplished. Following the “ABCs” of DS106, students were encouraged to “Always Be Creating” and “Always Be Commenting” on other students’ work so that a true sharing and learning community could be fostered.

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob children of tomorrow.


John Dewey said it best … “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob children of tomorrow.” This message definitely resonates with me as a new year fast approaches. During this holiday season, teachers might consider pedagogical resolutions that they might adopt during the new year. Perhaps some of the following questions might cause you to reflect and change:

  • Can you move towards harnessing technology in your classroom?
  • How can you become less of a gatekeeper of knowledge and more of a facilitator of learning?
  • Are you willing to be more honest with students by saying “I don’t know”?
  • Would you be willing to explore one new educational application each month?
  • Could you connect with other educators to form a Personal Learning Network?
  • Will you encourage students to explore creative ways that technology can empower them?

As the year 2012 comes to an end, I want to wish all my readers and friends a warm Seasons Greetings and finish this post with three little words … “Happy New Year”.

Take care & keep smiling :-)

Larger Image: Brian Metcalfe’s Teacher Feature “photostream”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/life-long-learners/

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