Click on the picture, mouse-over, left click…. ah yes, the power of a paradigm shift. Thirty kids in a class suddenly become thirty teachers with answers and insights to share with the whole group? Is it really that easy to see our classes differently so that all of those questioning students suddenly become helpful teachers?
After spending almost ten years teaching this digital technology to high school students I have come to realize that I cannot have all the answers. I cannot know every detail of every bit of software out there…. but I am supposed to be “The Teacher”. If this sense of being all-knowing can be a concern for me, what must it be like for any new teacher out there? Especially any new teacher who has no experience with digital technology? Can there be a realistic solution? I would suggest that there most certainly is a solution – and it is as simple as the title of this blog entry.
I was working with one of my digital classes one day, and as I watched them work through their project (commercials created using Photoshop and Flash) I had a radical change of perspective. I “saw” the class differently – they were shifting back and forth between being kids/students and kids/teachers! They would ask each other questions and get those who knew more to show how they had accomplished some effect or process. They were teaching each other constantly, and I realized that this was a power that needed to be put into use a lot more often. All that was required was a change – in me. I had to stop being the great all knowing one. I had to be willing to openly share the role of teacher with any of them. I found the change to be an easy one.
This shift requires that you, the teacher, see yourself in a different light. There are so many reasons for you being up there at the front of the class – and being all knowing about software isn’t one of them. Sometimes we forget this and that can undermine our self confidence. Its time to remember all of those reasons and its time to share. These days I openly tell my students that there are 30 teachers in my classroom. Some look a little taken aback – that’s okay, I just give them more time to get used to the idea. Others have come up to me later and thanked me for saying that – they like the idea of making them teachers. We still need to know the basics and there can be no substitute for actually spending time exploring the technology we use and teach. But we can also share.
This is a fabulous way to give students leadership roles. It recognizes their value and skills and builds a sense of trust and involvement that is so important in a class. It can be how a new teacher puts a class’s energy and skills to work. It can be how we elevate a student who needs a boost. It can be how we release ourselves from a very confining role and find a much bigger and more productive and satisfying one. Thirty teachers in a class? Absolutely.