Oh, That’s Right!

In South African educational parlance, teachers don’t teach “students,” they teach “learners.” I like that.

If the goal is lifelong learning, then we should start calling ourselves that as early as possible. I’d imagine it’s much easier to think of oneself as a learner in adulthood if you’re used to it from the time you enter school.

A difference exists between “student-centered” education and “learner-centered” education. One seems more all-inclusive, no?

It happened this week. We started Week 1 here in Cape Town with a plan for a week of student-centered workshops. It was to be a beautiful blend of pedagogy’s brightest shining all-stars (Traditional v. Progressive, learning in the Information Age, backward design, etc.) together with the shiniest and most collaborative of tools (digital storytelling, wikis, Google Apps, etc.). It was what was key for the students. In our heads.

But we had to become learners as well. Teaching pedagogy is all well and good in its place. Without a frame of reference for what it means to truly integrate ICT tools, though, the pedagogy doesn’t carry much weight.

We needed to learn what our learners wanted and needed – time to play.

Not unlike too many teachers in the States, teachers here need time to play with the tools at their disposal – tools their schools’ leaders are expecting them to come back ready to use.

We learned to give them what they wanted and what they needed.

The second half of the day Wednesday was dedicated to Word and PowerPoint – inserting pictures, transitions, text wrap, layout, design. Today’s sessions focused on Excel, Smart Boards, experimenting with PowerPoint and searching through flickr.

Yes, I realize pedagogy is important. We must be mindful of why we do what we do with whatever tools we use. Before that, we must experiment, we must be creative, we must fail and learn from that failure.

At the end of the PowerPoint session at the end of the day, our teachers still sat playing with pictures, text, transitions, research from online. They were constructing meaning from something they found interesting and saw held immediate value for their learners.

They were not so enthusiastic about backward design.

At the beginning of the week, Noble said in his welcome to the teachers that our team would be learning as much from the Capetonian teachers as they would be learning from us.

He was correct.

2 thoughts on “Oh, That’s Right!

  1. Can you teach me about edtech stuff??? I am very interested in Africa, and I believe that industrialized ‘first world’ countries have basically forgotten Africa and her needs. Reading your entries brings me there. When I taught 20th Century Issues I canvassed my students for their knowlege of Africa–and Islam–and Southest Asia–with dismal results. Thank you for sharing your days and I hope your GI keeps well.
    Love CarolAnn

  2. I must congratulate you – you really learn fast!

    The point of allowing teachers time to absorb is absolutely spot on. We have an idiom in Afrikaans, which – loosely translated – says: “You can’t ripen a peach by squeezing it”. Similarly, ICT maturity only comes through time and exposure. Your contribution of shedding some light, and allowing hands-on exposure, is most valuable in the development process of the teachers who were fortunate to benefit from your sessions.

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