“My personal opinion is that a teacher is a pedagogical engineer who needs to apply the best learning theory to a specific situation” – Koen Timmers, Belgium
I feel very lucky to be able to combine two of my passions in my classroom: teaching and using technology. Every time a new technology is introduced I’m stunned and eager to test this app, device or tool and write a tutorial about it.
We are in a time when technology is causing a significant change in information flow. 30 years ago, a teacher was the main source of knowledge. Nowadays, my students are checking information by using Twitter, search engines, and Wikipedia. I wanted to be better skilled in using ICT in the classroom, so I made the decision to spend the past two years taking an additional Masters course called Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change at Sheffield-Hallam university (UK) (via distance learning as I live in Belgium). The fact that I was able to combine being a teacher and student was interesting. I discovered much research has been done on teaching, rather than on learning. I did research on different kinds of collaborative learning– social constructivism and connectivism– and made the conclusion that collaboration is key in education. Constructivism is a learning theory that states that learning is an active process of constructing knowledge, rather than acquiring it. The teacher becomes a guide into this process, who points the learners in the right direction. Connectivism is an approach in which students are learning by connecting to nodes. A node can be a website, a peer, social media, a book, etc. It is an interesting excercise to start rethinking every aspect of education– is there talk of plagiarism when students are collaborating, is assessment needed, etc. My personal opinion is that a teacher is a pedagogical engineer who needs to apply the best learning theory to a specific situation. Instructing students isn’t a wrong thing to do in some situations.
The Belgian government offers grants to schools who implement blended learning (50% distance learning, 50% face to face), which made us decide to use a web conferencing tool to enable distance learning. During the Global Forum in Barcelona I discovered this great tool called Lync during one of Mr. Salcito’s inspiring presentations. Lync allows us to teach our students while they are learning at home– equipped with webcam and microphone, we can see and hear each other easily. The chat allows students to ask questions and to collaborate. Screen sharing allows the teacher to take over the computer of a student and by recording the lesson, ill students can catch up. Students avoid traffic jams and are able to learn in a familiar environment. Starting my day by opening up Lync with a great smelling coffee next to my computer screen is a really great way to teach! Want to know more about Lync and distance learning? Read this short manual.
There are different ways in which ICT can facilitate learning. Tools can help students gather information, construct knowledge, discuss, create, present and share. It enables new forms of education like distance learning and allows me to try out small scale projects in my classroom. Here are some examples of these modest innovations:
– I record all lessons in advance and published these as screencasts. During some of my lessons I don’t teach so my students get the chance to regulate their own learning. Some students prefer to rehearse, others like to gain the maximum amount of knowledge. Instead of being an instructor, I’m guiding my students by pointing them into the right direction. A great way to differentiate!
– By setting up a Facebook group, students can interact. They can ask questions to peers and even graduated students. In most cases the questions are already solved before I get the chance to read them.
– OneDrive allows me to share coursework, assignments, etc., to my students. However it caused an interesting side effect: my students spontaneously started sharing their own written tutorials, which made me a very proud teacher. Students from other classes picked up this idea and started sharing knowledge themselves. What started as a simple idea turned into a higher form of learning- collaboration.
– The students have to present outcomes to peers and give feedback. At the end they present these outcomes to real clients and organisations.
Did I make the world a better place by using these tools? I guess not. But I’m convinced my students are really motivated and they are experiencing financial, pedagogical, socio-cultural and technical benefits.
Since the Global Forum in Barcelona, I got the chance to learn and discover new tools through Microsoft EduCasts, social media and connecting with my fellow MIE’s. I correspond with fellow MIE’s on a weekly or even daily basis; getting messages from Israel, Switzerland, Japan, Denmark, Sri Lanka, Spain, Finland, Colombia and the Philippines, comments from the UK and Kenya, retweets from Austria and USA, and likes from Hong Kong, Portugal, and Bangladesh is fantastic and inspires me a lot! It’s a great global community and every day brings something exciting—I documented a Day in the Life of an MIE Expert here.
It was in the Microsoft In Education Global Forum Community on Facebook where I discovered this new tool Sway. I was very luck to receive an invitation, which gave me the opportunity to test it. I’m sure Sway offers major opportunities and has great educational value. It is very attractive and easy in use. It is responsive by nature and thus works great on mobile devices. I wrote a quick guide to introduce you into Sway.
I really love to discover new tools, test them and write tutorials about them, so others – especially fellow teachers – can start using them right away. Since 2000 I’ve published 9000 pages of tutorials and courseware at my own website www.zelfstudie.be. Check it out!