Friday, January 6, 2012

'Friends, Romans, Countrymen...' Julius Caesar, Great Teaching and the iPad

I loved Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar'.

 I used to study it in school aged 15. The classroom was so dull, we sat in rows, the walls were bare and the desks were unsteady and spotted underneath from the chewing gum of thousands of kids that had been there before.

The time I spent in that classroom was some of the happiest hours I ever spent in school.

The play soared through epic themes of betrayal, love and friendship and as we read and debated the ebbs and flows of the plot and the relevance of the themes, the time just flew. I was disappointed when the lunch bell rang.

The reason was a great teacher.

She knew her subject and was so passionate about it that it was infectious. She ran a debate masterfully, allowed us to grapple with the big questions and directed us so subtly that I'm sure we all felt we were discovering the ideas that came into our heads for ourselves and what a powerful feeling that was.

 I suppose my point is that the teacher made it. Not the environment, not the space, not the adherence to any sort of 'magic' formula. She did not, for example, share with us our learning goals at the outset of the lesson, adhere to a strict time frame or use any 'active-learning' strategies. And there were only the well-thumbed scripts - no technology.

 She stands out, in my memory, above almost all the teachers I ever had or saw. A great teacher.

So should we all, can we all be great teachers?

I shall speak only for myself. I do not think that I am a great teacher in this way but I do aspire to be great - surely all teachers should?

 I am enthusiastic, I feel I am a good communicator, passionate about much of the content I teach and good, after 15 years, at reading and responding to the children in my class. I am interested in current ideas, love co-operative and active learning and perhaps best of all, I teach in a 1:1 iPad classroom, with the vast resources that that brings to the fingertips of every child in front of me.

I do strive to be my best and would love to be great. But strip all of my super ideas, cool tech and modern strategies away would I be so great? I'm not so sure.

 At Cedars we get requests all the time:

 'Can you give us a list of the apps you guys use in Cedars?' 'What apps do you use?' 'Can I just make a note of the app you are using?'

 Even though we frequently tell people not to bother trying to make furtive notes of apps they see being used on their tour of the school, we'll give them a list at the end of the day, they still feel the need to make scribbled notes in notebooks or on iPhones.

So here's my point:

 After over a year of teaching with 1:1 iPad, I am convinced of this, the iPad can impact teaching and learning in a transformational way, but it is not a substitute for great teaching.
It has to be there to help, to explain, to help create and bring to life. It is not there to teach.

 So, may 2012 be the year where schools everywhere, teachers great and aspiring to be great have the joy of 1:1 technology. May we be blessed with iPad filled classrooms.

 Not to take the place of great teaching but to enhance and help great teaching and learning for 2012.

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