English Breakfast: The school year is about to start!

Textbooks, apple and blackboard
Source: https://pixabay.com/de/apple-bildung-schule-wissen-äpfel-256261/, August 29th, 2016

A week from now, pupils will be sitting in school and trying to listen to the teacher whilst thinking about their summer memories. Some students went to the beach, others discovered new cities they did not know before or enjoyed their vacation at home because let’s be honest: We do not know if foreign places are safe these days. But anyway, batteries should be recharged, the stress level should be at its low point and everyone should be ready. And speaking of being ready, there are a lot of cool approaches to teaching to be used in school. And that is where the teacher comes in …

Student-centered rather than teacher-centered!

We often discuss what is broken in our school system. We often search for opportunities to fix it on a personal level because let’s face it: Before politics is going to change anything, we will be getting old. For years, we thought that introducing new technology in class would be THE answer bearing the great pedagogical opportunities in mind. Maybe we had the wrong approach to begin with. Specifically in Austria, nothing changed due to the introduction of technology per se. It is the pedagogical stetting that needed to be adapted. The keyword is: student-centered! Going back in time, the pedagogical setting did not change much since Maria-Theresa some hundred years ago. I often bring this intellectual game in my keynotes:

Go back to the 1950s and freeze a surgeon in his operation room. Defrost him in an operation room today and he wouldn’t have a clue where he is. Now, try the same thing with a teacher. We would know. Before hoping that your students won’t fall asleep during your lessons, engage them in team work. Let them research and operate as a coach yourself. Whenever the students feel like they are substantially contributing to the setting of a school lesson, the productivity and output is much higher.

Use technology as a pen!

Discussing new technologies and new media in school, we need to understand a basic concept: No-one is going to replace well-tried methodologies. But we need to add technological opportunities to them. It is very important that we use the technology students are confronted with after school anyway. And the best way to learn about the risks, challenges and opportunities of new media is to constantly use them. It is not an -either or approach-! For example: Ask your students to research on a specific topic on their smartphones for 15 minutes and let them write a handwritten essay afterwards. This is what I mean by using technology as a pen. My vision is not that students are using mobile devices in schools exclusively. But a lot of tasks are done in a better way on the mobile device, some better be done in a traditional way. It is that mixture that defines modern teaching and a good teacher.

Preparation is everything!

If I needed to sum up my thoughts, it would be in one word: preparation! Students need to come to school and see that the teacher is ready to rock. Projects could be well prepared, the valuation key could be in place and even ideas for examination questions could be written down. Students who see that the teacher is ready are not going to lay back at the beginning of the school year. And seeing that the use of technology is planned and required will get the students more fired-up. But in order to keep the pedagogical balance, we need to mix old and new approaches and use technology whenever tasks can be done more effectively with them. We need to use technology as a pen …