“Is this right?”. Ah, the question all high school English teachers fear hearing, yet we are confronted by it often. I first fell in love with the idea of teaching English in the classroom because I knew that it would be a space for students to challenge themselves and their thinking, become better writers, and understand that there was no such thing as a right air wrong answer as long as they had some proof to back it up. So, as I continue to hear students continue to ask me, “is this right?” as they work on group projects in our 1:1 building, I am seeing first hand that there must be an urgency in teaching our students HOW to learn.
Our culture has a fear of failure. We fear providing the wrong answer because we think that it will show our weakness; however, I can’t think of one success story that didn’t include a failed attempt or a thousand. Somewhere along the way, it seems that this fear has been passed down to our students, and it’s often apparent that if they don’t “get it right”, then they are considered a failure. WE NEED TO STOP THIS NOW!
Our district has been fortunate enough to provide iPads to every student, and I can’t even begin to explain how much it has changed the classroom environment for the better (I’ll leave that to another post), but we are certainly in a transitional phase where I’m finding many students to get confused when I tell them that I am no longer the master of the classroom. The device that each of my students posess in their hands has more knowledge and information than ever given before, and our students aren’t used to this. Rather than creating inquiry questions that lead to other questions, many of my students still look to me to provide them with the quick answer so that they can go on with their day. These past two months have showed me that new ways of thinking require new ways of teaching students HOW to think and how to become lifelong learners. It is our job, as facilitators in the classroom, to show students how to ask the right questions and to believe that the work that they are doing is on target with learning goals rather than just being “right”.
Two years from now, I think that our 1:1 school will be changed for the better and much further ahead of the curve than many, and this transitional stage of going from pencils and books to tablets is already proving to enhance learning, thinking, and discussion in brilliant ways; but as Spider-Man’s Aunt (Uncle?) once said, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and now is the time to change our culture of fear into a culture of risk takers. Will Richardson recently wrote an article entitled, “Students First, Not Stuff” which discusses the importance of teaching digital literacy to students. That being said, we have an urgent goal to reframe what is being “taught” in our classroom and focusing on “individual passions, inquiry, creation, sharing, patient problem solving, and innovation.” (Richardson). However, this can’t all be done over night, and having seen 1:1 in action for the past two months, I certainly understand this. But the push to move toward new ways of learning, whether you have tablets or zero technology, couldn’t be more urgent than ever. Students need to feel comfortable taking risks and answering their own question as to whether their response/finding is right or wrong. When that happens, life long learning begins!