The Culture of Democracy in the Classroom

There are times when too much information can be counter-productive. This is something that Mr Gove hasn’t fully understood. If we spend our time teaching facts to children rather than enabling them to find and use facts for themselves, then we are in danger of overwhelming them and making learning tedious and irrelevant.

Fact

The same could be said of blogging. We can become overstimulated by what is available to us. Only yesterday, we were discussing how many things we need to read and how little time there is to do so; and our concern referred to what is out there to read on the Internet, as well as a number of books that we’d like to read on the Kindle or in the form of a wonderful real book.

Yesterday’s blog was a mass of information. Just clicking on the links and reading the articles in full took a considerable amount of time. Clicking on the links within these blogs would require further reading and time, and who knows where that could lead?

But this is the absolute joy of it all. Who knows where it could lead?

The delight is that it could lead to different places for different people; such is the diversity of the subject matter and the variety of interests of the individual reader. This is what the Internet offers to us all. This is all about life-long and personalised learning. This is what we should be enabling our children and young people to do.

21st_networked_learning

Yesterday, we commented on some of the blogs that have caught our attention. They were focused on the world of education, and in the main about the use of ICT in the classroom, but this was just the tip of the iceberg. All manner of thoughts have been processed since reading the post and clicking on some of the links. We now have to explore new sites such as “Socrative” that could enable us to pose questions and have discussions with a virtual class.

http://www.socrative.com/

For the second time this week, we’ve been introduced to “Wallwisher” where we can create our own learning environment for anyone with an interest in a specific theme that we choose to post there.

http://wallwisher.com/

We’ve signed up to visit the BETT exhibition to see how these amazing innovations in information technology could help us as a consultancy as well as improve the learning experience for children, young people and the adults who are facilitating this new form of learning.

http://www.bettshow.com/

We’ve considered the tips provided by WonderAcademy on how to engage learners through peer-led work, and how we might like to add to this list in the future. We’ve already advocated the use of ICT in learning, and have embraced the teaching and learning that can come from Twitter and blogging whole-heartedly.

http://wonder-academy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/10-things-i-know-about-pupil-led.html

We are in the midst of a revolution that we are only just beginning to come to terms with, and as  part of a world of learners, we still haven’t fully understood the extent of this on our profession, our professionalism and our own learning.

20111010_learningrevolutionarticle

Sometimes, when you stop to consider the extent of this revolution, it is so mind-boggling that you are almost thwarted by the vastness of it all, and yet there is something gloriously exciting and invigorating about the democratisation of learning that we need to capture and share with those eager enough to embrace it.

Today, on Radio Four, there was a programme about culture, and the exchange of culture. In days gone by, if we wanted to know what television programme to watch, we would have to look at the “Pick of the Day” sections in the newspaper as our main source of information – and we still use this exceptionally helpful guide. If we wanted to choose a book to read or a film to watch or a play to see we were often guided by the opinions of others, especially professional critics.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01py4fm 

The days when these were our only sources of information are long gone, and whilst there is still a place for the professional critic, democratic opinion has crept into our lives and now informs, directs and guides us as much as the professionals who have directed our cultural experiences in the past. Our world is open wide, and we all have a say. Our voices can be heard and we are allowed to speak.

We should be using that democracy for our own learning and our own teaching. We should also be using it for demonstrating our creativity. YouTube and other such social media sites allow and enable us all to be film-makers. Computer programmes enable us to become musicians without any formal training, and can even stimulate us to compose pieces, and we can do this on our own or with friends, or even with people that we don’t even know.

behindthescenes03

This amazing resource is being used by famous people as well as the more ordinary. Only yesterday, David Bowie decided to air his much-hyped new single on the Internet first. We can assume there will be a record deal to follow but it was on the Internet, the world-wide web, that he chose to show his wares.

This opened world doesn’t stop at culture though, and the learning that we encounter as adults or children should embrace this new method of fact-finding and analysis. Furthermore, we should never be satisfied with facts alone. Developing our intuition as a means to further our own learning should also be embraced by all. It is our intuition that can lead us into one form of learning or another. It’s our intuition that excites and energises us into learning more, imagining, valuing what we learn, exploring our feelings and our response to whatever stimulus we have in front of us.

(Just as a short aside, there was yet another example of someone using the word “instinct” instead of “intuition” on the aforementioned radio programme today. One of the panel of  experts said that she sometimes goes with the “instinct” to fund a particular television programme. This isn’t instinct. This is her intuition.)

The message is clear. Democracy is coming to the people in the form of information technology. It’s been coming for years but the accessibility is now greater than ever, which is why teachers should reconsider their stance on smartphones, twitter and blogging.

twitter_chubb-100012107-large

As teachers, we also need to trust children and young people. They will soon see through the hypocrisies of advocating tablet computer use in the classroom when they are having their smartphones confiscated! If children and young people are properly engaged in their learning, the only reason they would want to socially tweet or change their status on Facebook is to tell the world how brilliant their learning experience is. If that is a normal way for children to interact and exchange ideas, then we should be encouraging it, not banning it.

If Ofsted or senior managers want to know how a lesson is being received by the pupils, how about using Twitter for assessment of learning? This would be an immediate response from pupils who can both evaluate a lesson’s content and provide a self-assessment of their learning – all in 140 characters. That would certainly reduce the paper work and provide a  meaningful summary of a lesson that can inform future planning. Or how about a quick photograph with the phone to take a picture of a practical science lesson – up on Instagram in a second?

Engaging pupils during a lesson – the Internet is their realm. We need to use it so that they can democratise and individualise their learning. A quick search through a subject on twitter could bring forth a series of links that each child could explore on their own, and then share their learning with others.

Teachers will still be needed. Teachers can still direct learning. Teachers will still be able to offer their advice, guidance and experience in exactly the way that they’ve always done, only slightly differently and using slightly different methodology.

In England, we are about to receive a new National Curriculum. According to Mr Gove, it is going to enable teachers to have greater flexibility in the content and delivery of lessons.  No idea what to teach? Find it on the internet! Look at various sites, get ideas, make them your own, develop a style of learning that you do for yourself, i.e. research, analysis, conclude, create –  that you can then impart to your pupils.

revolution1

The freedom of learning and the democratisation of learning are now there at our fingertips. As a world-wide teaching and learning community we should embrace this with wide open arms.

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About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at http://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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3 Responses to The Culture of Democracy in the Classroom

  1. Gary and Clare, thank you for the post. I gathered more information today from you than I have from my local experts in whatever number of years. It is greatly appreciated.

    • 3D Eye says:

      Thank you for you kind words. Our aim is to inform and inspire but more importantly to try and see the potential in learning for our children and young people. We really appreciate your continued support for our posts. CB
      PS – Am I right in thinking you live on Bowen Island? I have cousins who live there.

      • No, I don’t live on Bowen Island, but I would love to. I was there for a conference a couple of months ago. I live in Edmonton.

        You are doing a great job of informing.

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