It perhaps comes as no surprise that the Jedi order crumbled. Their insistence on holding onto an archaic educational model where the teacher delivers lessons to a student without an opportunity for questions does not seem as though it would provide a rich learning environment. Instead, it is possibly to the Sith, we should look to for inspiration. Here, students are encouraged to ask questions of their mentor, to form a close bond as teacher and student push each other in order to reach higher achievement, and their one-to-one mentoring program is second to none. Although, the whole rule of two thing has been known to backfire from time to time. Intergalactic space wizards aside, opportunities for deep learning are being created through New Pedagogies that encourage closer human connections.
When I joined my current school there was a huge pedagogical shift taking place where the focus was moving towards student-centered learning. Over the past few years, it has been an exciting time to be working as an educator. The difference at a student level of moving away from a traditional model of education has been one of more open collaboration and excitement, particularly where new technologies are involved. I run a design and coding club for students where the emphasis is on students learning from one another and sharing ideas. I found Emerging Theories of Learning and the Role of Technology (Doak) affirmed the approaches I was trying to take. When discussing Distributed Cognition Doak referenced a case study in which students used flow charts to construct robots with LEGO Mindscapes. These flow charts offloaded some of the cognitive work which then allowed them to solve more complex problems. I am currently using SAM Labs which allows students to create and program a variety of different systems. I have found that by using flowcharts the students have been able to apply what they have learned to solve increasingly difficult problems. Last week, for example, the students created a system where a car would move when an RGB LED turned green. The students were then asked to work in teams to create a 4-way intersection where vehicles would stop at a red light and go on a green light. It was exciting to see the students step up to these challenges and even try to take it further by, in the case of one group, by adding an encryption sequence to initialize their system.
Learning Theories in action
Personally, when I think of new pedagogies one of the first educators who really made me reflect on my own teaching was Dan Meyers.
His 3-Act Math tasks have an incredible impact on the classroom and it’s amazing to see a shift in student discourse from simply trying to solve a problem to really considering what the problem is asking. I think his quote, “The math serves the conversation, the conversation doesn’t serve the maths” is profound and it’s something that I’ve tried to carry over across other subject areas. During my maths classes it was apparent how the students had displayed both situated cognition and socially-shared cognition (Emerging Theories of Learning and the Role of Technology Doak) and, in my opinion, this is what it means to have an authentic learning environment where students are taking an active role in their learning communities. Even students who typically struggle with maths were engaged and able to participate, even when they needed additional support in the computation.
(As a brief aside Dan’s blog largely lists 3-Act tasks for middle and high school but there are other educators such as Graham Fletcher who took influence from Dan and created their own lessons. Fletcher’s blog can be found here.)
Could there be issues that arise from new pedagogies?
More than ever, my school have a lot of emerging English speakers joining the upper elementary grade levels and even into middle school. For many of these students, teachers will ask other members of their learning community or paraprofessionals to translate instructions. In some cases, however, this approach to inclusivity is having the adverse effect of some students using their home languages more than English. At recess times we are seeing a split community and so I would ask what other schools have done or if this has been an issue? Our language policy is centered around honoring the home language, but perhaps too much so? I find myself wondering how it is possible to honor the home language while simultaneously ensuring that English becomes our shared language.