“The fact that I, as a teacher, get to assume the role as facilitator and guide gives me the extra energy to really see the students as individuals, and to challenge their individual competences and talents.” – Denmark
Martin Lindved’s passion for technology started early, when he got his first game console in the 1980s. Since then, he’s managed to combine his love of technology and play to create meaningful learning experiences for his students. Lindved’s latest innovation, The Digital Tarzan Track (DTT), brings together all of his experience in working with children. Using the didactic model, the approach combines the three things that are crucial in successful teaching and learning: ICT, play and movement. Lindved has been sharing his innovation with other educators, and sees his students gaining real 21st century skills, even as pre-schoolers. Here, Lindved tells us more about DTT, and offers up some insights on the changing role of teachers and the resulting opportunities for innovation.
Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?
The first time I tested the DTT, I was amazed at how much learning I could add to my teaching. The idea evolved simultaneously when I discovered the collaboration between the students. I normally only witness this kind of collaboration when they play, or play a game on the computer together.
A year ago I began introducing the DTT to other teachers, and the feedback I received
confirmed my belief that this way of teaching has opportunities that have never been seen before. The Digital Tarzan Track is a product of the way in which I have always worked. I listen to the students and their needs in class and combine it with the academic goals. The innovative part of the teaching is listening to the students and incorporating their individual needs and ways of acquiring learning.
What has changed as a result of your efforts?
One of the most important things that I want the students to take away from my teaching is the idea that we practice at school, therefore, it is important to keep trying to find the correct answer. There is no right or wrong answer when I teach and ask the students for their opinions and ask questions. When working with the DTT, I experience students helping each other through the obstacles, even when they don’t know the answer or solution to the task at hand. I see that my kind of teaching gives the students the feeling of being takes seriously. To me, learning is not about performance, but is more about having experiences and wanting to learn more. What has changed? The way we use ICT and introduce them early in school though my didactic model: The Digital Tarzan Track.
How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?
It is really quite simple. All you have to do is listen to the needs of your students, and demand that they also take responsibility. They need to take responsibility not only for their own learning, but also for the class in general and for the people they are around. The process of learning has to be a joint responsibility. It is no longer only up to the teacher, but the students share the responsibility. The students have to learn to be co-designers of their education. This will create a feeling of ownership and will inspire students to learn and to help others learn, too. The feeling of belonging to a community gives the perfect setting for the learning process. The most important role as a teacher is about class leadership. I’m not only thinking of class leadership from an educational vantage point, I think of it more in terms of an overall understanding of the individual terms of life, competences and talents of the students. And most importantly, it is about being curious about the daily challenges of the students.
How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?
Six years ago I began introducing EyeToy in my classes. I was interested in the technology, because it was one of the first things that integrated movement of the body in the technology. Since then I have set up a forum for Danish kindergarten teachers on the Internet, where we can share our work. Today I use all kinds of technology in class, and I keep presenting new options to the students. I use the DTT a lot, and the model helps me to get all the students to participate. I use the sensation effect of ICT and mix it with the students’ desire to play and move. There is no doubt that this is a combination that I will continue to use in my teaching.
Documentation is a vital part of what I do. I upload little videos from class to a shared video channel. This enables parents to keep track of what we do in class, which gives them a unique understanding of the work we do. Right now I am quite preoccupied with using various digital communication platforms such as Skype. I work with the idea of being in two places at once in the classroom. I am physically present in one end of the classroom, but I can also communicate with students via Skype on my smartphone in the other end of the classroom. This way I can also invite another teacher into the classroom, and we can teach two classes simultaneously.
What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?
My students are all different, and therefore the biggest challenge for me is to ensure that everyone is given equal opportunity to learn in class. When I have to adapt and vary my teaching it usually demands a lot of preparation, and time is therefore by far the largest challenge. I sometimes wish that there were 30 hours in a day instead of 24. This is why I constantly test and examine new possibilities in my teaching. My goal is to diminish the time I have to spend preparing for class, and to strengthen learning. With the DTT I have gotten a giant step closer to achieving this goal.
What is your country doing right to support education?
In Denmark there is a lot of focus on education, and there are constantly new ideas and projects aimed at improving teaching. Our country really does many things to support the educational system. It is always a focal point to the administration, and this encourages everyone to think about how we best develop our educational system. There has been increased focus on the digital development in schools and institutions nationwide. In my geographical region our hardware has been updated. We have new computers and tablets and speedy broadband connections.
What conditions must change in your country to better support education?
There is no doubt in my mind that we have to begin trusting one another again. With this statement I am referring to the fact that teachers know what they are doing in the classroom, and it is time for the politicians to listen. In Denmark we have a tendency to look abroad for solutions to future challenges in our teaching. There are a lot of creative and innovative teachers in Demark, and they deserve to be heard. Globalization has hit hard in the political universe, and has led to politicians forgetting the strength that lies within our own country. We forget to listen to one another. If we are going to create better and more teaching for future generations, it is about time that we begin working together to recreate the positive spirit that has always been the foundation for development and creative ideas. I wish that we would start finding solutions to some of the problems of our educational system. Of course we have to look abroad for inspiration, but if our goal is to be innovative and creative in our solutions we have to put the copy/paste mentality on hold for a while. Only by acknowledging that we know nothing can we begin finding inspiration for new ways of teaching future generations.
What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?
I believe that parents will play a far greater role and have more influence on education in the future. Tests indicate that more than 60 percent of children’s learning happens through their parents.
This is not because parents necessarily possess a great amount of knowledge, but because having a safe foundation is the basis of good learning. One could ask the question: How about the many children who do not have a safe foundation? This is where technology comes into play. Sugata Mitra has attempted what he calls a Nanni cloud. It only takes one call via Skype, and you have all the support you could wish for. I believe that the concept of parent support will play a key role in the future. The best innovation I have seen has been spurred on by support from fellow students, parents, colleagues and society. If we help each other, our innovative ideas will take us far.
What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?
It is always difficult when you are trying to do things differently and to test new ideas. My best piece of advice is to never be afraid of making a mistake or to attempt something which might not be a success. It is all about learning from your mistakes, and to build on the experiences you make. You can always find someone who opposes your thoughts and ideas, and therefore is important to build a large and broad network, where you can find new inspiration and energy. Your network should not only consist of people from your own profession. Think globally and seize the opportunity to talk to new and interesting people. Above all else you have to keep a positive spirit!
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?
The teaching role has begun to dramatically change because of the digital development. I am witnessing a more open approach to change among teachers in Denmark, which is a very positive development. The best trend at the moment is definitely the work in student-to-student learning. The fact that I, as a teacher, get to assume the role as facilitator and guide gives me the extra energy to really see the students as individuals, and to challenge their individual competences and talents.
Standardized tests are something which really does not belong in 21st century learning. I
simply cannot understand this trend. No child should be put through a standardized test for at least the first 20 years of his life. If you have to test the work that the students do, the test should reflect the learning of the individual child and not focus solely on getting the students in the same direction.
If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?
This would have to be the alphabet keyboard. The odds of you having ever heard of this tool are quite slim, but I am convinced that the alphabet keyboard will be one of the most important tools in teaching in the future. I believe that communication is the most important teaching tool in the world. The alphabet keyboard visualizes the written language at the computer. All keyboards only have the capital letters on them. By placing the lowercase letters nest to the capital letters on the keys the written language will make sense to even small children. This is a simple invention, but it has paramount importance in how children learn to read, write and use computers. When the alphabet keyboard is connected to the computer, children as young as pre-school can communicate using the written language. This gives children a chance to experience digital learning quite early on in their lives. The alphabet keyboard received the 2011 European Language Award.
About Martin Lindved, Pre-primary Teacher at Skansevenjens School
Birthplace: Fredericia, Denmark
Current residence: Fredericia, Denmark
Education: Educator, teacher and keynote speaker.
Websites I check every day: Facebook, Børnehaveklasseleder.dk, Itibevægelse.dk, youtube, TED, my school homepage
Person who inspires me most: Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra, and my wife.
Favorite childhood memory: This is definitely the many holidays I spent visiting my
grandparents on their farm. This was a place where I could really unleash my creativity playing in the fields and in the forest. Here nothing was impossible. The grown-ups only demanded my attendance at dinner time. I remember the first 13 years of my life as a never-ending summer.
Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Pleasure: Just been to Orlando,
Florida with my family in May; Work: I’m going to Greenland to show the Digital Tarzan Track.
When was the last time you laughed? Why? This question makes me think –
I laugh every day – a lot. It is usually the ways in which my children view life and everyday challenges that makes me laugh. It can also be my students’ views on my teaching. However, the question leads to a more important question: Who have you smiled at today – a smile costs nothing but gives so much.
Favorite book: The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business by Werner Holzwarth. This is a story of how simple things can be in a complex world. There are always solutions to the challenges of life. All you have to do is go along with it. It is the perfect manual for problem solving.
Favorite music: Lenny Kravitz, Reef, Dizzy Mizz Lizzy (Danish band), Beth Hart and Robbie Williams. I often have music playing at home, at work, in the car or just to relax.
Your favorite quote or motto: The truly wise person admits that they really know nothing at all.
– Socrates (469–399 B.C.)