Thursday, March 17, 2011

Beyond the 4th Wall - In the Classroom with NO Technology

Interesting process has been occurring with me. I work with technology, I breathe, dream and think about it, but not just for the sake of it, but because I want to find ways to connect with my students and with peers around the globe. Undoubtedly I see its connective value.


However, I can feel a twist, those moments of change coming...Last year, I spent my teaching time being an online facilitator for educators, as well as for my online students. I had no face2face classes. Now, I am back to that physical space of magic, gestures and heartfelt laughs. That area in which you connect every second with eye contact, body language, the tone of your voice. You feel if things are working or not, you see if there is a question mark on students' faces, if they are relaxed, tense or bored. If they are worried about time or if they don't even notice the minutes ticking. This is the space that I'm back and totally excited about it. I spend my time preparing my lessons, talking to peers, planning our classes together. It is always a reminder of why you decided to be an educator. And for the past decade I've been an advocate of the power of technology in the classroom, I've been training teachers to integrate technology in the classroom, to be sensible decision-makers on to choose when to use it in a pedagogically-sound way. I still believe in all that.

But, with my adults class, I'm a much more careful user of technology in the classroom, for what they really want is to have you there, entirely focused to help them, to listen to them, to talk to them, and not worried if this video will work, or the file on the computer will open, or if they will be able to do the craziest projects using a computer. NO. They need us as human beings and not machine operators. So, that's why my approach has been much less tech in the classroom, but much more beyond the physical classroom boundaries. Now, I realize how powerful it is what Salman Khan has been piloting with his incredible open learning platform and open-minded ideas about education. In his TED Talk, he mentions the shift that has occurred in some math classes in which teachers have been using his videos as homework assignment and have used class time to do what was once homework - working on solving math problems. By doing that, teachers have become true learning facilitators and students have been working collaboratively in the classroom for a common goal, to succeed. Success as a collective endeavor and not as a lonely journey. Teachers have realized that by adding the youtube videos beyond the classroom, students have control of their learning, can playback explanations, can go back or move forward on a concept. And the classroom becomes that liquid, fluid network of wonderful minds achieving their academic goals with the helping hand of an educator.

So, back to my own adult class, I've realized that, in this case, technology is of a much broader reach if I encourage my students to work on our class wiki, if we connect through emails (Yes, they are heavy email users and not so much in the realm of social media), if we share with one another videos, texts, stories of our interest. In fact, just yesterday two of my students were saying that because of our contact beyond the classroom through email and wiki, they've been pushed to do more in their English practice than they generally do, they've been sharing with friends the videos I share with the group. They've been discussing the concepts they watch on the videos and they've even surprised their kids by knowing about the latest music hits and pop stars in the billboards. Isn't this exactly what we need and preach for? Students who are engaged, challenged and willing to move forward through the constant contact with the language? That's what we can get by using more technology beyond class time and more humanly connections in class. All of this doesn't mean I'm not using at all Tech tools in class. I am! But as a much more sensible user and educator.

Group work - the relaxed way


  1. I absolutely agree, Carla. We need to be totally sensitive to our students' needs and adapt the way we integrate technology or, rather 2.0 learning, to each educational context. One-size-fits-all is no longer the trend. The way I see it, it's the 2.0 attitude what matters, be it on or off-line.

    My new space:

  2. Dearest Carla,
    As usual your posts are really enriching and real food for thought. I must confess I want to be back to this issue as I am in a hurry now. I have been going through a lot of questioning about the best use of everything I have been preaching since 2008 when I did your course. I still feel as if I am preaching in the desert, but this is another story. I feel good when I read you had been 100% focussed on tech/online teaching because I always think I should be doing more, learning more, sharing/influencing more. But then teaching 8 f2f groups in addition to EducationUSA advising and other stuff I have to do, I guess I am doing my good share of the job, at least trying to catch up with everything that's going on.
    Anyway ...thanks for making me think again.
    See you....

  3. Very inspiring post. You did it very well. Thanks for sharing this information. I will try to follow the shadow of your tips.

  4. @Carla we surely need to be sensible decision makers in our classrooms to inspire and boost students' passion for learning.

    @Gilmar you might think that you are stuck, but if you look back and around, you'll see how far you've gone and how you've been inspiring the ones that are close to you.

    @Berbekun Glad to hear you've enjoyed the post and I hope you can find some useful resources for your educational context.

  5. Great post, Carla. Inspiring reflections. What you describe here is the essence of the teaching-learning process. There may be no technology, no books, no pencils, no walls, no desks. A Teacher and a student - that's all it takes!


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