By Gary Shattuck, CIO Advisor
In my last blog, I explained the second of the Six Laws of Technology Adoption in Education. The third law is the Law of Beliefs. The Law of Beliefs is based upon what a teacher’s philosophical belief is concerning how students learn best. In simple terms, the Law of Beliefs refers to the concepts of a teacher-centered classroom versus a student-centered classroom, and which is the best learning environment for students. The teacher-centered classroom is based upon the belief that students are passive recipients of knowledge; it envisions the role of the teacher as the dispenser of all knowledge. The student-centered classroom is based upon the belief that students construct their own knowledge by building on prior knowledge. As are result, in a student-centered classroom the student actively participates in creating new knowledge. Since most teachers use both practices in various degrees, the issue becomes which practice is used predominately?
When it comes to technology, a teacher who believes in the teacher-centered classroom thinks of computers as a source of remediation, an electronic tutor providing programmed instruction. In essence, the student is learning “from the computer.” On the other hand, for a teacher who believes in the student-centered classroom, the computer becomes a cognitive tool with which the students construct their own knowledge. In this environment, the student is learning “with the computer.” Researchers such as Larry Cuban, an opponent of technology in education, and Henry Becker, a proponent of technology in education, both agree that the teachers’ belief structure has not changed to the point that most classrooms are operating under the teacher-centered model. It is important that teachers adopt a student-centered model because in this model the student is in charge of their own learning and is an active participant in creating their own knowledge. Achieving student ownership is the key to creating students who will be the leaders in a changing world.
The problem with this issue is that it is hard for teachers to change their philosophical belief about how students learn best. There are three keys to moving teachers from being in the first-order change category, or a teacher-centered classroom, to being in the second-order change category, or a student-centered classroom. The first key is that a quality, on-site professional learning program is necessary. The second key is that teachers must be surrounded by other teachers who are operating at the second-order change level. The third key is that teachers need the support of their school leaders in order to successfully transition into a teacher who embraces a student-centered classroom. Teachers will change when they have a “shared meaning” with the school leader about what should be occurring in the classroom. In order to provide every student with a 21st-century education, teachers must alter their beliefs to include using the pedagogy of a student-centered classroom. Students want and deserve to be active participants in their learning; if we fail to provide that for our students, we fail to prepare our students for their future.
Gary Shattuck is the director of technology and media services at Newton County Schools in Covington, Georgia. Follow him on Twitter as @EdTechLeader