Workshop debriefing: Choice of materials + order = new thought?
As an aim of the workshop was to simulate students’ experiences in a classroom situation, I made sure of mixing in audio-visual, texts and teacher’s talk to match the multitude of materials employed in today’s classrooms and to accommodate different learning styles.
However what happens in the marriage of the two zones of teacher’s choice of material and the production of new “material” as participants bring their knowledge, experience and personalities to bear on teacher’s presentations, etc. cannot be separated. What can be chosen is the speed and type of interaction is used to process what is being presented:
For the first section of the lesson, UK Education – past/present/(future?) I chose to follow Ibrahim Lawson’s dense keynote (see doc) on the chaotic history of modernity with something that was more instantly recognizable: selected bits from the RSA Animate of Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms** (again the selection, funnelling attention towards the specific goal of identifying systemic issues in UK education).
However, all material was followed by CLIPs* where participants in teams had to recap or discuss the content, point out what they found noteworthy, voice their opinions or reach a synthesis of understanding. As we proceeded, new material was contextualized by the previous thinking process in each team.
As an example, following the keynote (see doc) the question: “What does this have to do with education at all?” is posed to the teams, and opinions are shared using timed Recap2Pass – where the right to speak is passed on only after the next student in the team has recapped the previous opinion to the original speakers satisfaction. So, in the same CLIP, you have private processing of content, formulating and expressing one’s key points, listening to the recap, correcting and negotiating the meaning of both material content understanding and the meaning of terms, follow by digesting and rephrasing information.
Throughout the workshop, we used different timings and tighter and looser structure to illustrate the different outcomes this would evince. Giving only a minute per speaker creates an intense focus on a tight formulation of key points, where longer time allows for more copious formulation. As one participant described it afterwards, it “fostered a tightly controlled discussion.”
One of the benefits here is that students get very conscientious about paying attention and taking notes, knowing that partners and teams will be expecting their input, however meagre it might be. Note that the longest input, Lawson’s presentation, was limited to about seven minutes, with follow-up processing in teams after each presentation taking a similar or greater amount of time.
At the end of these presentation/exercise blocks, the students had themselves, on various levels, connected modernity and the introduction to modern ways of thinking about the world to the systemic issues in education being tied to 18th Century factory ethos. The next post is on guiding students away from the classic dichotomy of good radical student-centeredness vs. bad old-school teacher-centeredness.
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