I think most of you will agree when I say that on a socio-economical level, one of the sole purpose of education is to prepare the next generation for the needs of tomorrow’s society. Accordingly, the way the classroom is organized currently was meant to suit the needs of a society that has now relatively evolved. Some people say today’s educational system is broken and frankly I don’t quite agree. It’s actually wonderfully designed, but we need to readjust it to better suit the interest, the needs and the goals of today’s students. In other words, we need to use technology to slowly switch from a teacher centred to a student centred classroom. Here’s a practical example of what I mean.
Given the proper support, students of this current generation can accomplish an awful lot TIC. They simply grew up with it. When I recently set up a travel blog project with some of my core secondary five students, I was surprised at how little technical support I had to offer, only guidance throughout the project was necessary. The project, concluding the unit 3 of Finishing Touch untitled “Road Trip”, was for them to plan a week-long road trip from Vancouver to California. They had to go online and plan everything, from the car renting to acommodation and activities. For each day, they needed to have a blog entry explaining everything they did and comment their experience and they would be evaluated on the relevance of their research, the accuracy of the language use and overall presentation of the project. It would end with a brief in-class presentation in team. This project turned out to be a great success in many ways. For the first time, students were actually working efficiently in team and were constantly on task and using the L2 during their teamwork. They were intrigued, interesting, deeply involved and their final products, their blog and their presentation, were of great quality. It was quite a different experience for me as well, bit of a break from the more lethargic, teacher centred classroom I usually lead. This is exactly what I had in mind when I wanted to use technology to shift from a teacher focused to a student centred classroom.
It might not seem like reinventing the wheel, but these slight changes in the classroom style are greatly beneficial. Firstly, my role as a teacher has changed significantly. Instead of being the sole transmitter of knowledge, I was acting as a reference and a supporter of the students’ learning experience. My job was to guide them, inspire them, help them enhance their resourcefulness. Consequently the learning style is also much different. It has become an autonomous learning experience, a longer-lasting learning experience. Something else to be considered is the significant increase in motivation among students. Given high-interest topics, such as the “Road Trip” project, students’ motivation is significantly increased because they can actually relate to the concepts, the goals and the concrete applications underlying it.
Yes indeed, a certain level of adjustment is necessary from both the students and the teacher, but at the end of the day, you’ll all be winning. The advantages of the students’ side were covered briefly here-above, but as a teacher think about it. You ‘ll rarely have to give long lethargic lectures to a class of unmotivated students. Classroom management is different, one the students are on task, you simply need to supervise and support them. You’re voice will be rested, you’ll save yourself from these migraines you started having after a few periods and your class will be much easier to manage because students will actually be motivated to work. You don’t know much about new technologies? Well there are plenty of tutorials on youtube and there are always two or three geeks in a class that will be willing to have their 15 minutes of fame and help you! Believe me, motivation is undoubtedly the greatest of trigger for a positive spiral of interest and motivation leading to work well done.
This being said, wether or not you’re familiar with new technologies, it is imperative that we become more aware of the potential their use hold in the classroom. They hold the key to a new, more suitable classroom environment for today’s generation and denying it would not only lead to significant failures in our educational system, but to discrepancies between the academic formation of tomorrow’s generations and the needs of the job market in the near future.