Life & Style | Education

Time for innovation and change

Trading convention for experimentation

  • By Sydney Michael Atkins
  • Published: 07:00 July 28, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit:
  • Sydney Michael Atkins, educational blogger and English teacher at the Gems Modern Academy. Courtesy: Gems Modern Academy

‘Chalk and Talk’ has been the standard instructional approach to teaching-learning for the longest time now. I remember the long lectures and didactic lessons I sat through as a child, trying my best to copy down or absorb every morsel of information that was thrown my way. I also remember the funny smell that lingered long after school with the fine white dust that flew off the blackboard every time my teacher asked me to ‘rub the board’. I don’t mean to sound like I come from the stone ages but you get my drift, right? We’ve come a long way since then and classroom dynamics have undergone titanic-sized transformations

Education today has taken a gargantuan digital leap and its ramifications and its reach are mindboggling. Over the last four weeks we have taken a rapid journey discussing the possibility of using blogs in the classroom but we’ve only just begun to scratch the tip of the iceberg. There so much to learn, so much to read and so much to do!

Time for change

Today’s classrooms do not look, feel or function like they did ten or fifteen years ago and the best teachers in my humble opinion, are the ones who embrace and adapt to these changes. They are the ones who are prepared to sacrifice their many many years of experience at the altar of new learning and innovation. Convention has failed us, it will not work much longer and there is no better time than now for invention and transformation!

Over the last three weeks we’ve looked at how blogs can be used effectively in the modern classroom. We’ve also looked at the far reaching effects of using blogs for instructional purposes and hopefully by now at least some of you have been inspired to give it a shot too.

About a year ago I took the plunge into using EdTech for myself. Baby steps of course, I began using a blog, twitter and youtube to connect with my pupils online and what an experience it has been. I am still getting used to the idea of having my face on youtube but it’s my educational blog that has got me most excited. The blog has allowed me to introduce my students to the responsible use of social media. I love it when I see them use twitter to ask me course-related questions, but reading their responses on the blog and getting an insight into what they’re thinking and why they think that way, has been both a revealing and rewarding process.

Bridging the offline to online gap

The multiple benefits of extending classroom conversations to the online world is truly remarkable. Suddenly, I find that I’m surrounded by little subject experts. The links I post, the videos I share and the information I direct them to through the blogosphere has ensured that the people I meet in class every morning are well prepared and raring to go. The depth and breadth of their online discussions, their research and their commitment to course work has taken on a complete new avatar.

A taste of ‘live’ learning

I’m not blind to the fact that there are several potential drawbacks of using technology in the classroom but those reasons are hardly enough to limit the innumerable positive effects EdTech can have on the teaching-learning process in 21st century schools.

My experiences with my blog in the last few months have been overwhelmingly encouraging. These online learning communities have unparalleled power to help children self-instruct and to impart both knowledge and skill and I’m just glad that I can be a tiny part of it all, orchestrating modern-day magic, as it were. Blogs, wikis, web 2.0 tool and other such, cannot be viewed as an ‘add-ons’ any longer. More importantly, they do not make the teacher any less important. Instructional technology is simply a modern-day tool. It needs to be integrated and implemented carefully and that’s why the teacher’s role still remains most critical.

Keeping in step with the times

Like the Chinese proverb states, today’s children were ‘born in another time’ and if we want to get through to them, if we want to connect with them and have a meaningful impact on their learning and on their lives we must be able to speak their language. We cannot ignore the truth any longer; the omnipresence of technology is shaping the lives of our pupils in both obvious and subtle ways. What a tragedy it will be if we don’t step in and attempt to make something purposeful and meaningful out of it all. All the best to each of you as you plan to revolutionize the way your pupils learn. We’d love to hear back from you about how it goes.

Sydney Michael Atkins is an English teacher at the Gems Modern Academy, Dubai

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