Teaching in the (technologically advanced) future…

Is it the end of chalk and talk? TEACHING CHEMISTRY by starmanseries (flickr image CC BY-NC 2.0)

As part of my Youth, Popular Culture and Texts unit of work I’ve been exploring how this new era of Web 2.0 and technology revolution impacts on teaching and learning. What better place to look than to check out what fellow teachers are out there doing? I’d like to introduce you to Mr Barlow…

Mr Barlow is Melbourne-based high school science teacher and eLearning leader. He has had overwhelming success with integrating emerging technologies into his classrooms. I first heard of him while cruising in the libraries journal database, searching for articles with ‘intrinsic motivation’, ‘self-efficacy’ and ‘web 2.0’ (all three of these search terms go so nicely together :)). After reading a 2008 article of his I thought I should check out his blog (I was curious to see if it was still alive and if it was thriving – I know blogger burnout is a real thing and maintaining a blog long term is no easy feat).

Mr Barlows podcast
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I was gobsmacked to find his blog is flourishing with nearly 2 million hits (this after very humble, tentative beginnings). Mr Barlow not only uses blogging as part of his pedagogy but has increased his teaching repertoire to include:

  • An active podcast channel
  • An interactive electronic book (complete with over 50 integrated videos) available on itunes for his grade 6 science students
  • And his senior biology students are some of the first in the world to have iOS apps designed specifically for their course.

His blog includes resources for teachers, online learning for students and links to papers and presentations.

I definitely recommend reading some of his papers – one I enjoyed was The End of ‘Chalk and Talk.’ Mr Barlow compares his classroom/teaching results as he moves away from the traditional teaching style of ‘chalk and talk’ instead integrating podcasting and student-directed activities (Spoiler: the students got better marks and they also considered him a better teacher).

One thing that stood out to me was how Barlow found it discombobulating to relinquish the traditional teaching method (discombobulating = me, paraphrasing :)). He reports that it felt different, letting go of the teacher being the centre of attention and the focus of the lesson. That his role changed. Even to the extent of feeling like he was not doing his job properly – being less active in the classroom and relinquishing control to the students.

I love the idea of integrated technologies in the classroom. Research overwhelming shows that incorporating emerging technologies into teaching pedagogy produces greater results and fosters a rich, motivating learning environment. What teacher does not want that for their students?

However, what does that mean my job as a teacher will look like? It will not look like what my teacher’s job was back in the 80’s and 90’s when I was a student in school. It won’t even look like my early years of teaching in the 2000’s. It’s an exciting era for teaching and I feel like I am only on the cusp of exploring how new technologies can transform Australian schools. I’m excited for what it means for my own kids learning and also as I seek to adapt my own classroom pedagogy. (I also pray for a small handful of tech savvy kids in each of my classes, haha – this new generation of kids are brilliantly adept and often make manipulating technology seem effortless — they’re a godsend as I negotiate my way through tricky waters).

Barlow, T., 2012, The end of ‘Chalk and Talk’Teaching Science, Volume 58, Number 1, p.54-57.

iTunes books – Year Nine – Science Gamified by Mr Barlow
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iMovie — bringing creativity and digital technology into the classroom

iMovie by uka0310 (flickr image CC BY-NC 2.0)

I loved reading Bruce Derby’s ‘Creativity in my Pocket: No ‘I’ Puns Here’ journal article. There are so many complex issues involved with integrating emerging technologies into the curriculum that it can be easy to feel swamped and out of depth. Derby simplifies everything down – mobile learning devices do not need to compete with traditional learning but rather augment it.

An iPod is a little easier to manage…
man with video camera by woodleywonderworks
(flickr image CC BY-NC 2.0)

I love the idea of using iMovie in classrooms. When I was in grade 11 my friends and I made a movie clip to go with a favourite song for our photography class. I remember the ridiculous fun we had – roaming about the school shooting in multiple locations and getting all arty with angles and acting and goofing around. Even more so, I still remember the hours and weeks spent editing and mucking about with bulky and time-consuming (expensive) technology, spending our lunchtimes and free periods in the lab to get things done in time. We fudged our way through it, our teacher constantly on hand to help with the complex technology. It’s astounding how far this technology revolution has come (understatement of the year). My own kids were making and editing movies (complete with synchronised sound tracks and special effects) when they were in first grade – for fun, at home, with no formal training.

I believe school should be a place where students (and teachers, too!) have fun. Where students are motivated and their creative potential is explored and expanded. The beauty of mobile devices, and apps such as iMovie, is that you can cover all the same curriculum content, achieve the same outcomes and indicators, and use these new technologies to present the learning in a way that enhances enthusiasm and enjoyment. How fun is making a movie with your friends? And then enjoying a lesson watching and learning from peers’ movies (even teachers love these relaxing and bonding lessons)? How much more does making a movie ignite creative processes as opposed to aurally presenting information in front of the class – it really is a fab tool for unleashing that creative possibilities.

“There is nothing revolutionary here… The only thing that has changed is the application of newer technology to established tasks, expanding the possibilities for the creating of the final product. Most importantly, this technology is incredibly simple to use.” (Derby, 2011, P.99)

Special shout out to iOS developers and how they really have simplified technology. Seriously, even my grandmother can use this stuff 🙂

Bonus: It was 1996 (year 11) — we made our own video clip to go along to Tracy Bonham’s Mother Mother. Oh, the angst of those teen years. Good times. Tracy Bonham’s original clip below 🙂

Derby, B. (2011). Creativity in my pocket: No ‘I’ puns here. English in Australia 46(3).