What makes a subject worth studying?
What makes a task worth completing?
What makes a learning experience worth of our innovation efforts?
These are questions whose waves students might surf every now and then, whenever they are asked to be part of a new learning experience?
How ready are we to navigate the waves of students’ potential?
How ready are we to accommodate to the different kinds of work students are able to produce?
This I wonder, as a teacher.
While, as a language teacher, my job is to guide students to personalize vocabulary and linguistic structures so that they find meaning in them and use them to express their ideas, it is not my job to dictate how they are to accomplish these aims. A long time ago, when I was teaching at a language institute, assessment and evaluation were quite reductive as we only looked at the 4 basic skills and at how fluently and accurately students could use language. This is somewhat disappointing, considering that I never had the opportunity to experience students’ substance and ideas, I was only a trainer.
Recently, however, considering that the world is one big data realm, and that design and visual stimuli influence the way we perceive, use and transform language, assessment has had to embrace the way we react to everything that is language in essence, and the various forms in which we can use language to express what we think.
Needless to say, I am teaching in days when students, regardless of their language level, share their perspectives on the world, depending on the concept/theme we are working on. A motivation, consequently, for me, is to plan learning experiences where students share their views on the world- and I, very cleverly, will use them to feel updated, and upgraded whenever possible.
However, along with students’ viewpoints, what they are able to produce to fulfill the objectives of a task has become both a matter of creativity, of flow (the sense of self in words of Mihály Csíkszentmihályi), and of engagement- yes, they cause me to be engaged in their productions!
Forgotten are the days when a book review had to be written; when students had to use power point to produce a presentation; when students could only collaborate face to face; and when one needed multiple tools to produce a video; even a googledoc feels so vintage and old fashioned now if extra apps are not added to it! Students are now able to produce interactive documents and tell us a story with both simplicity and depth (pathbrite and storify); students can use a PPT (or keynote) and explain it to us asynchronously (check movenote); students are able to play various characters in a video and present it as if they were part of a newscast (check Touchcast); and what I love most, they do not even need to send their productions as such, they can only send a QR code.
These are great times to be teaching, I believe. We teachers have always been the best students and it seems like the present has a lot to offer. Embracing the control switch that needs to exist in order for us to learn from students should help in the process, I believe.
I like what Tony Wagner says about us, teachers: ‘Teachers are scientists; they should not just be repeating what they did last year’.
So considering the change that happens everyday, I guess that if we want to manage our students’ creativity well, we need to be part of change, because change that is lasting is OWNED.