4 Questions Learning-Savvy Leaders Ask

September 19, 2018

 

Recently, a student approached me in the lunchroom to pitch an idea. The idea required a little bit of help with technology - which I was more than happy to provide. However, I made an important mistake I thought you might be able to relate to.

 

The student wanted to initiate a global "Marble-Run Challenge" with other schools that have LEGO walls. The idea - as it was presented to me - involved inviting others to build Halloween-themed mazes on their LEGO walls and record video footage of a marble meandering down the wall. Basically, the student wanted some help connecting with other schools using our social media channels (as well as a hashtag others could access).

 

I listened to the student's idea with enthusiasm and even tried to do all the things I'd envision great teachers might do. I asked open-ended questions, did a lot of listening, and encouraged the student to pursue his passion. But I also did more.

 

Without even thinking, I encouraged the student to pick an alternate theme and provided a couple ideas related to my own interests. Before I knew it, I had diluted his original vision and schoolified it to meet certain criteria I had in mind for these types of connected-projects. In doing so, I made my tech-savviness (whatever that means) a gate-keeper to what this student had originally hoped to accomplish. 

 

The interaction left me wondering how often I might be doing more than what's necessary or helpful. 

 

All the technology and innovation in the world won't ensure students own their learning until the adults in school release more control of the learning process. We talk a lot about relevance when it comes to the student learning experience, but how often do we really lean into what students feel is relevant - to them. 

 

I don't know about you, but sometimes I might modify a student's idea for noble reasons. The problem with this is it can deprive students of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. It can also rob us of the opportunity to see technology (or a connected learning experience) through the eyes of a student.

 

So what does all this mean? (I'm truly asking here.) I jotted down a few questions I've continued to reflect on and would love to hear your thoughts and push-back.

 

4 Questions Learner-Savvy Educators Ask:

 

  • How might learner-ownership increase if I approach this from a learning-savvy standpoint (instead of trying to be tech-savvy)?

 

  • Am I depriving others the opportunity to learn through failure by inserting my voice too early in a project?

 

  • How am I prioritizing the learner and process over the product and connectivity in tech-based work?

 

  • When learners are connecting in a digital sense, to what degree does the work (e.g. dialogue and learning) reflect their ideas, questions, and interests?

 

I wanted to finish the story I started with. I did go back to the student and apologized for co-opting the idea I was presented with. The student was given the opportunity (and support) to create an original video - using a theme of their choice - and we plan to share out soon.

 

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Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 

 

Connect on email at:

AdjustingCourse@gmail.com

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