Yesterday was the second, final day of Roane State’s Ed Tech Academy. Donn King was our keynote and afternoon presenter. He spoke and presented on the role of teachers in the Internet age. His afternoon presentation offered practical advice to faculty who have flipped their class or are considering the inverted model. We also had excellent presentations on the use of iPads in the classroom (David and Ronda Blevins) and challenge-based learning (Dr. Jeff Horner and Dr. Abigail Goosie).
I don’t plan to walk through each session here. You can do that for yourself by following #rscceta on Twitter.
My takeaway from day two is this: Teachers and librarians who believe their main responsibility is to transfer information to their students are doomed to frustration. The internet can transfer information faster, easier and better than any person can.
Mere information has become so easily shared that it is often wasteful and counterproductive to spend lots of class time transmitting information. There are exceptions, but this is true most of the time. When we lecture over content available in the textbook or review notes verbatim, we devalue the importance of those resources and undermine opportunities to connect with our students. Information transfer is not what teaching is about. Information is plentiful. Context is scarce. As Donn puts it, speaking outloud is for big picture context; writing is for detail.
I think about this often when writing an email inviting people to do something – attend an event or take a survey, for example. I have learned that most people only read short, actionable emails, and so, I often try to pare my message down to a few attention-getting sentences with a link to more information.
The same is true with teaching. Our direct instruction time with our students is limited. Attention spans are limited. Cognitive load theory tells us that our students, no matter their age, won’t remember most of what we tell them. They will actually remember very little. Rather than play roulette with their learning, we can be more successful by focusing most of our time on helping them understand a few important ideas or concepts and then connect them with the resources to dig deeper and discover the detail. Students can’t really learn without first understanding why they need to learn. Connecting students to the “why” is the challenge and province of the teacher. This work requires creativity and persistence. This work is the connecting path to those lightbulb moments. Working with the goal of context rather than information transfer makes teaching much more meaningful. Working with the goal of context rather than information transfer makes teaching a whole lot of fun.