Saturday, September 26, 2009

A New Pedagogy?

There is little doubt that Will Richardson in his blog believes so fervently in a new pedagogy, he is out there promoting it through his blog, his book, his presentations and his collaborated efforts with others. Reading his most recent post and a post he had on “Connectivism” (Nov. 15, 2007) I sense that he is frustrated by the public schools’ glacial rate of change: “At some point, I want one of the goals and outcomes for the students at my kids’ school system to be that they will graduate with the ability to build their own learning networks in effective, ethical and safe ways. But that will only happen when enough of the administrators and teachers understand that for themselves. Only then will they be able to help my kids add dots to their world maps in ways that teach them the power of networks in the ways we already know.”
I agree with him that the key to change in public educational environments will come from where all such change has always come in the past, the teachers themselves. He is putting his efforts to work in the area that will most likely nurture that change: professional development.
Almost two years later in his latest post of Sept. 20, 2009, Will laments the 8-page “Acceptable Use Policy” for a school he’s presenting at which stresses the “don’ts”, not the “do’s” of computer and internet usage. How typical. Having worked in such environments for many years I observed the shift from empowering learning to maintaining control. The new pedagogy Will is promoting is reflected in his “Admirable Use Policy” all stated with Do’s” like “Do use our network to connect to other students and adults who share your passions with whom you can learn.” etc. etc. I agree with his emphasis on opening up possibilities rather than stifling them.
I see parallels between our time and the time I attended high school in the late ‘60’s. There was a great social movement revving up and we were locked in our school buildings, dress codes, hair length codes, and tracked classes. Then 1968 came around, and everything changed at once. It was a tipping point. The new pedagogy may be similar to a movement as well. How liberating to students and teachers when schools become immersed in a new pedagogy. It is certainly possible through the use of new technologies such as blogs where students are not writing solely for their teacher. Instead, they can have a worldwide audience who can respond and stimulate more thought and learning connections. Let’s face it, students are already using these technologies as are the business world and retail. It’s about time we tipped into a new pedagogy that embraced the possibilities while teaching students safe, ethical, responsible usage. I think it is happening at the ground level, one classroom, one teacher at a time.

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