Some Good Tech-Transformed SD Questions

Bruce Knox posted the following comment on my recent post about the “Technology-Transformed Learning Environment.”  He writes…

My job involves sitting with teachers and coplanning their units of work with an emphasis on infusing technology. I am going to take your 5 points and final comment to ask 7 questions of my teachers as they consider planning a unit.

1939. Anacostia High School, Washington, D.C. “Carpentry shop.”

To see the kind of learning that I’m trying to describe, think of the old shop class that some of us attended in the ’60s and before.

Bruce did a good job of sumerizing the rather vaguely presented list I wrote about.  He has also given me a chance to expand on the ideas, my comments inserted below, italicized and indented.

  1. What questions will your students be asking?

My notion of this would be questions that are largely unpredictable.  My question of teachers would be, “What barriers will your students encounter, that will compel them to ask ask questions, seek information, or invent solutions?”  Rather than inserting questions into the unit, we should insert reasons to ask questions, barriers to overcome.

  1. What will their conversations be about? Who could they be conversing with?

These qualities are all thoroughly interconnected.  The posing of questions is what provokes the conversations.  But the questions can be aimed at and involve exchanges with classmates, students outside of class, experts, you, other teachers — but perhaps even more often, the exchanges are with information sources such as reference books, periodicals, online encyclopedias, online databases, search engines, and often by working information with spreadsheets, graphic enhancement, visualization techniques, etc.  It’s learning by exchange.

  1. How will the assignment/unit talk back?

It’s a clever way to express it.  But what I’m looking for is, “How will the learning experience reveal or uncover the desired knowledge or skills?”  In a way, we’re looking for an experience that waits for the learner to do something, before the answer forms.

  1. How will this increase the self-value of the student or develop something of value to someone else?

In what ways will the learner grow, as a result of the activity.  This can be a new skill that is self-identified as worthy, or a resulting product that the learner is proud to include in his or her portfolio.

  1. Where are the opportunities to make mistakes safely?

I think that it needs to be stipulated that these be good mistakes.  Where might students get it wrong, and in getting it wrong, find the right way.

  1. Where is th opportunity for you to ask your students, “Surprise me!”

In what parts of the unit can you not predict the method or outcome.  Where will the students as for clarification, and your response will be, “Surprise me.”

  1. What will your students be able to do with what they have learned?<

This is core, I think.

This last one, I think, is one of the most important shifts that should and will come from technology-infused learning environments. Because learners are empowered to not merely consume knowledge and skills, but to literally mine it, work it, and express it compellingly to real audiences, then learning becomes something that you “do with,” rather than being “done to.

To me, this is the definition of instructional rigor.  Not how much you are taught, but what you can do with what you learn.

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.