Saturday, December 3, 2011

About Me

While passionate about teaching and learning I try to keep a balance in life.  I love books and unashamedly acknowledge that I not only read for escapism, but that Dick Francis is a favourite author.  I have had the privilege of living and working in a multi-national country and tried to adopt the best from some of the cultures and nations.  It has made me a better person.

My Thoughts on Education 
My first reaction to my own standpoint on education is  that I generally respond to a given teaching task with a gut feel which comes from not just years of experience, but that experience plus an analysis of the situation, objectives and current teaching pedagogies.

 1.  Pedagogy. I favour Social Constructivism together with Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory.   Individual development cannot be optimized without considering the social and cultural contexts within which it is embedded.   The way students relate to each other, and within their cultural norms, dictates how best they can learn.  Japanese students, for instance, are diversely different to Arabic students in the way they respond to teaching methods.   A teacher has to choose methods that will get the best results.  Experience shows that students and parents from conservative instructivist education systems have difficulty accepting that independent or collaborative constructivist learning will get the exam results required.    Sometimes the teacher has to take a cognitivist approach to meet the student's needs.  Vygotsky's 'zone of proximal development' provides learning through social interaction, peer support, recycling of language and the relationship with the teacher be it face to face or online.  It's the teacher's job to ensure that students are in a place of trust so that learning happens unhindered by insecurity.
2.  Teaching Style. Much has been made of ‘sage on the stage’ versus ‘guide on the side’;  my teaching style is rather that of  ‘sage at the side’(Quinn, 2011).  The term guide conjures up an image of a travel agent – someone who suggests where to go and what’s good to see – hence I favour the notion of the expert on the side.  The expert has a strong role in pointing young students in the right direction, allowing him to construct knowledge from both suggested and discovered information.  Even older students require close supervision to ensure that they don’t get lost in their education travels.   Vygotsky advocated that students need an expert against whom to test their construction of knowledge.   
3.  Innovation. Learning has to be enjoyable, engaging, innovative and inspiring where students can have fun and take the lead in their discoveries.  The learning environment also should be authentic; tools for teaching must include the technology with which students are familiar or expect to be able to use.  Action research using mobile technology, social networking and visual media is far more appealing than books and an interactive white board.  It is challenging for teachers today, to keep pace with  changes in technology and to redefine how it's used; I believe it's necessary that education takes place within a technology, rather than having it as a supplement to traditional teaching.  The Age of Innovation is here.
4.  Passion.  Most of all, I believe that  a teacher has to be passionate about teaching and learning.  Passion is exciting, contagious and drives us to do our best.  Donald Trump summed it up... "Without passion you don't have energy, without energy you have nothing."