Recently, I have been exposed to a number of books and articles for my master’s program, and have been intrigued by the notion of the science behind learning, and how we can help learners and our students succeed. In the first two chapters of The Cambridge Handbook for the Learning Science by R.K. Sawyer, there were a number of ideals presented, as well as questions that came to mind. In chapter one, there was a quote that stood out for me:
“By 2000, no studies had shown that computer use was correlated with improved student performance. When researchers began to look more closely at why computers were having so little impact, they discovered that computer use was not based on the learning science; instead, they were being used as quick add-ons to the existing instructional classroom.” (Pg. 8)
As an advocate for technology in the classroom, this quote outlined my biggest fear. Technology is a wonderful tool to enhance student learning; to allow them to become owners and creators of their own work. However, all too often devices are being used as a substitute for lecture style or a previous, capable task. Although this is a good starting point for some teachers hesitant to use technology, I truly believe that in order for it be effective, it must create a task, project, or other learning medium that previously was difficult without it. With that in mind, how do we train teachers and provide them with the knowledge and support to use technology as a way to improve student knowledge and empower them?
In chapter two, Sawyer discussed explicitly about instructionism verses research from the cognitive sciences, as shown in the image below:
I believe that both of these have a place within the classroom, and view the two on a continuum. We are moving away from the traditional instructionism approach and more towards developing a deep understanding for students in all aspects of their learning; allowing them to ask question, self-assess, collaborate, and reflect. I agree with the fact that having a deep understanding of a concept is obviously a better way to approach teaching, but the question that I still have is as a teacher, how are you able to assess whether or not a student has that deep understanding that we desire? Yes, we can have one-on-one conferences with students, teach them how to reflect and analyze their personal learnings, but when do we truly know that their understanding has evolved? Is it when they start making connections outside of the classroom and share their knowledge with others? What could this look like at the elementary level?
As a read one of the articles, the children’s book Fish is Fish book was shared and I recommend all teachers to read it. It shows how personal background knowledge, socio-cultural influences, and assumptions can lead learners to think and form thoughts a particular way, without them really knowing. Teachers need to be aware of their students, the knowledge that they hold, and how to help them form new ideas. The idea of metacognition within the classroom, as presented in the book, How People Learn:Brain, Mind, Experience, and School is something that I strive towards as a teacher. I want my students to be able to reflect and self-assess themselves. I want them to be advocates for their learning, and experience failure, but see it as an opportunity for growth. After reading the book, Fish is Fish, I felt that the message or moral that the author was sharing was for children to stick with what they know and be comfortable in “your own pond.” However, I could also see the opportunities for discussions with students, and to use the book as a platform to delve into preconceived notions. Among discussion, this novel allows students to be challenged, learn new ideas, and embrace new things; something we continue to strive towards as teachers.