Learning from a teacher who “doesn’t teach”


Teaching | Thursday, February 28, 2013

Learning from a teacher who “doesn’t teach”

Katie Regan says that she doesn’t teach her 10th-grade enriched English class, and she’s right.

She is a conversation moderator. She is a technology travel guide. She is a personal trainer, motivating students to do the work themselves. A “sage on the stage” she is not.

“I don’t teach at all,” said Regan (@katieregan88), a teacher at Jordan-Elbridge Central School in Jordan, N.Y., via e-mail. “I provide resources, avenues and videos to help them learn on their own.”

A collaborative research project that her enriched English class does hits several forms of teaching: cooperative learning, flipped lessons, mini lessons, modeling/guided practice, co-teaching and collaboration. (Find her blog post on this project here. Find the materials she used to teach this unit here and  and lesson plans here.)

In it, I think there are several great lessons for teachers of all subjects and grade levels.

1. Online teacher/student and student/student collaboration through commenting. Regan’s students create thesis statements on Edmodo, an educational social media platform. Statements are discussed and revised through comments. Students create outlines using shared Google Docs, where everyone in the group — plus Regan — can view them.

This online commenting and collaborating process is a great way to engage students. They already live in digital worlds through social media, texting and various other channels. To tap into what they’re familiar with is to meet them where they are instead of forcing them to come to the bland education world where they think we live.

2. Flipped video lessons for new content. Regan does a screencast or finds online videos of new content that students need. Then she makes them available where students can access them in school and out of school. When they ask her for information available in those videos, she makes them watch the videos again. “Keep telling them, ‘I don’t know! Watch the video again, or look it up!’,” she said. “This is exactly how to get them to start doing things on their own.”

3. Plenty of varied tech resources. Regan has access to iPad carts (a school iPad for every student) and a computer lab of PCs. She relies on Edmodo and Google Docs every day. Her list of apps and sites is extensive, including: Nearpod, Skitch, ShowMe, Evernote, iBooks, a QR reader, Easel.ly, Prezi, Google Voice and Windows Movie Maker. Most are free resources.

The result of this kind of teaching? Regan spells it out in a post at her blog, katieregan.edublogs.org:

“These students not only tackle each task with tenacity but they analyze and question. They reflect and revise. Most of the time this is done without having to tell them. … Students who are working together toward a common goal are more engaged with the content and skills being taught. They are guiding their own learning and will find out what they need to when they need it.”

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