5 ways to get back to SOLID teaching and learning

5 ways to get back to solid teaching and learning

Technology is a classroom catalyst, but it can’t improve learning by itself. It’s time to get back to the fundamentals of teaching and learning. (Icon by Creative Stall via TheNounProject.com)

After working with tons of schools and teachers around the United States and beyond, I’m noticing a trend.

We love our technology — sometimes to a fault.

Don’t get me wrong. Technology has been a huge catalyst in my own classroom and in my life. It helps me to be a better, more effective, more informed version of myself on my best days.

Technology is always changing, and for years, it’s been very helpful to talk about it so we can stay on the edge (even if it’s not the cutting, bleeding edge!).

It’s still that way to some extent. But I think we need to do more.

It’s time for us to get back to the fundamentals — good, sound pedagogy.

I’m putting on a conference in September called Ditch That Conference (a play off Ditch That Textbook, the name of my book and blog). It’s scheduled for September 8, 2017 at Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana. There’s also a virtual ticket option where you can get lifetime access to videos of the conference sessions.

I’m hoping to ditch several aspects of the traditional education conference, and here’s one of the biggest: the focus.

It’s about solid teaching and learning and how technology can support them … not the other way around. And this is a focus that I hope we’ll take in the education world going forward.

Let’s not geek out about G Suite and new apps and shiny devices.

Instead, let’s geek out about raising our depth of knowledge. About learning about and adopting new best practices. About Dewey and Bloom’s Taxonomy and Understanding by Design and about constructivism.

I love this statement from a fellow educator on Twitter:

We don’t need tech geeks who can teach.

We need teaching geeks who can tech.

Technology won’t create the education of our dreams. It will empower educators to give students the education of their dreams.

Here are some ways I think we can head in that direction:

  1. Redo Education 101. Dig out an old education textbook. (This may sound out of place coming from a guy who wrote a book called Ditch That Textbook.) What I’m not suggesting is that we read dry, uninspiring textbooks just for the sake of it. Let’s skim through them — or any foundational source of information for new teachers — and find some of those topics and ideas you’d like to learn more about. Then keep reading — or do a Google or YouTube search about them.
  2. Admit that you have holes in your foundation. This is me. You do you. But if you’re like me, you have some teaching and learning theory work to do. I’m really good at faking it and using the buzzwords to make me sound like I know my stuff. Just because we know the buzzwords and can use them in conversation doesn’t mean our students’ learning improves.
  3. Connect with a pedagogy wonk. This might take some digging on Twitter — or it might not if you already know one. A wonk is “a studious or hardworking person, a person who takes an excessive interest in minor details of political policy.” Forget political policy. Those are policy wonks. I’m taking pedagogy wonks. They’re the ones that know solid learning inside and out. Right now, the geeks are inheriting the earth in technology and entrepreneurism. I hope in education that the pedagogy wonks have a rebirth. Pick their brains. They’ve been neglected and would probably appreciate it.
  4. Find small first steps to implementing what you’re learning. See also: growth mindset. We can always learn and we can always get better. It’s what we preach to our students. Let’s do it as educators, too. Improving the pedagogy in our classrooms doesn’t mean taking hours of master’s level education classes. Any more, we can do a little Internet searching and some collaborating with smart people to head in the right direction.
  5. Get a ticket — or virtual ticket — to Ditch That Conference. I know … shameless self promotion here. The only reason I’m doing it is because I’m building an event that’ll let you do this. If you’re like me, you realize that classroom technology is worthless if it isn’t backed by sound teaching and learning. In September, I’m calling in favors and bringing in great presenters who can connect you with new best practices to bring to the classroom. They’ll also tell you how technology can kick the game up a notch.

It’s going to take a different kind of education to prepare students for this unknown future that confronts them. It’s harder than ever to connect with kids through all the distractions.

We have to pull out all of the stops. Remember, it’s our own future and world that we’re building.

For more information about Ditch That Conference and to register, visit DitchThatConference.com.

For notifications of new Ditch That Textbook content and helpful links:

Interested in having Matt present at your event or school? Contact him by e-mail!

Matt is scheduled to present at the following upcoming events:

 DateEvent / Event DetailsCity / More Info
+ 01/05/2018
Taylorville CUSDTaylorville, IL
+ 01/08/2018
Princeville CUSDPrinceville, IL
+ 01/26/2018
Erie 1 BOCESWest Seneca, NY
+ 01/29/2018
Jackson R-2 School DistrictJackson, MO
+ 02/02/2018
California League of Schools (DBC)Monterey, CA
+ 02/07/2018
Ditch That Homework Workshop (Region 8 ESC)Fort Wayne, IN
 Venue:The Summit
1025 W. Rudisill Blvd.
Fort Wayne, IN 46807
Public Event
+ 02/08/2018
Ditch That Homework WorkshopMishawaka, IN
 Venue:Northern Indiana Educational Service Center (NIESC)
56535 Magnetic Drive
Mishawaka, IN 46545
Public Event
+ 03/07/2018
Delaware Association of School Admin2 Skype Presos
+ 03/16/2018
Lake Shore Central SchoolAngola, NY
+ 06/21/2018
The Suite Life ConferenceWashington, IN
+ 08/09/2018
St. Joseph Grade SchoolSouth Bend, IN
+ 08/15/2018
St. Anthony de Padua Catholic SchoolSouth Bend, IN