The Internet Stole My Ability To Teach

I went out of town a couple weeks ago.  And, like any good teacher, I tried to provide my sub with actual lessons, rather than endless piles of worksheets and drivel that are often commonplace in the absence of the instructor.  So, as I was wondering how to write up my sub plans, I decided to take a chance on instructing my kids with the help of the good ol’ internets.

Earlier in the school year, I was having quite the time giving instructions to one of my classes.    This class was rather notorious for being a difficult group, but its was mainly because it rather large size.  All in all, the attempts to instruct this class thus far in the year weren't exactly stellar moments in pedagogy.

So, there I was planning for this class when it simply occurred to me that I should just pre-record my instructions ahead of time for this class.   Rather than instructing them from the front of the room, I decided to give my directions right there in front of them – on a computer screen.  In class, we use a site called Edmodo, (a Facbook-ish site for students) so I posted the link right in front of them to watch on their own computers. I had the students put their headphones on, pull up the video on their screens, and had the students watch my instructions via my video.

It was amazing, really.  I really can't believe the change from one week to the next.  It was almost eerily quite while each student started watching the directions.  It was even the case after the students had finished watching the video, they simply got to work and were very much engaged in what they were doing.  So with that said, this type of instruction has now become a staple when instructing this class.  In fact, while I was out of town recently, I decided to pre-record all of my lessons, for all of my students, and had them play them in my absence.

This really makes a lot of sense to me.  If at any time, instruction can be tailored to fit students better, it actually helps to humanize the students in the entire schooling process.  No more is it simply listening to the teacher drone on and on; it gives the students a chance to control the instruction.  If at a point a student fails to understand the concept, they simply pause the video and re-watch it until it makes sense.  It puts the learning on their own time and at their own pace.

It also has benefits for the teacher as well.  A lot of students enjoy learning from the videos and don’t necessarily need as much of my individual attention as other students.  Therefore, if a student is struggling with a concept, chances are I’ll have a lot more time to help that learner through the process.  All in all, it turns the teacher into the position they should be most often: a facilitator of cognitive processing.  “A guide on the side, rather than a sage on the stage.”

Now, I have already heard all the disagreements against this approach to instruction.  Last year, I had to address them all when I flipped my math classroom.  I had to deal with old paradigms and perceived ideas of what teaching looks like in the classroom.  Change comes hard, especially when most of us have shared an experience of school.  What’s more, because we’ve had the same shared-experience, we often believe it to be the only way to conduct a classroom.

So, with all that said, is video instruction the answer to all things education?  Of course not.  And also, let’s not assume this is new to education.  It’s been around quite a while, yet the process is much easier to implement these days.  It is a technology that we need to utilize and implement.

Technology is neither good nor bad.   Technology just is.  It’s the advancement of ideas.  It’s the manifestation of shared ideas.  Sure, technology can be used for evil purposes (we have governments and their wars to thank mostly for this) but it can also be used remarkably well for good.

If we take this idea that incorporating technology may lead to better instruction, I think it wise to clarify one final point:  I’m not merely using technology to teach, I’m actually utilizing technology in my teaching.   I’m embedding technological advancements within the lesson to further facilitate the cognitive processing in students.   I’m using technology to drive the lesson, but I’m not letting it do the steering.

The advancement of technology should always be tied-in to education.  The stick in the dirt gave way to the pencil.  The calculator replaced the abacus.  The overhead project was probably the latest classroom staple to die – and hopefully the one-teaching-style-fits-all mentality will soon follow in its footsteps.

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A quick note: Below are some good resources to spruce up your instruction with the latest and greatest (almost all are free) educational gadgets.  If you’re interested in using more technology or flipping the classroom, check out some previous posts.

Screenr (Internet/ Computer based)

Screencast-0-matic (Internet/ Computer based - and yes, that is the actual name)

Educreations (iPad)

ShowMe )iPad)

Explain Everything (iPad)

Doceri (iPad)

Nearpod –(iPad & Computer)