Sometimes you have to overcome a situation which is difficult, one that you would have preferred to avoid. However, once you have succeed in overcoming the problem, you are happy to have faced and solved this.

More or less this is what happened to me when I was told to teach on databases about 6 years ago. Now, I realize that -thanks to that- I have learned a lot of database, specially during the first course, but also in all of them.

This has benefits and drawbacks. One of the benefits was that I enjoyed learning, so I made my students enjoy. One drawback was that I had to teach on some things without being very confident. Nevertheless, the result of this “experiment” was that I learned and taught at the same time, which is quite interesting. As a consequence, I became quite sympathetic with those who -as me- were learning: my students.

The first term was a bit crazy and risky, although the result was frankly good. The following years it went from good to better, and I had the opportunity to explore new areas and continue learning. However, as years passed away, I turned less sympathetic. I realized that last course, when I faced a new challenge: teaching the same subject to younger learners. Then I had to think deeper in how to make explanations plainer. This also made me learn. Now I use those revised explanations with young and not so young students.

Therefore, my own experience lead me to share several points of view with both Richardson –Teachers as master learners– and Siemens –Teaching in social and technological networks. Learning is a lifelong task, which has to be taught to students. It also consist on a attitude that has to be inspired and fostered in the early years of school. In fact, I like not a bit the title that Richardson uses: Master Learners.

This fits with an idea that was discussed before: A learning community can only be shaped from inside, as a member. However, many of us understand that the teacher is not just another one. Siemens makes an excellent description of 7 different roles that the teacher has to develop among the students. I also see them as different ways to shape a learning community. Used from time to time, then one role, then another, the set serves the teacher as modeling technique. Teaching turn into something like conducting an orchestra. The master learner has to decide the best moment to introduce one instrument or another. What I’m not so sure about is whether all of them are necessary or not. I would say that a teacher need a transition for freely trying out the tools that best fits to his/her classes. In other words, s/he has to learn how-to, and it’s up to him/her to decide which instruments want to employ.

On the other hand, I can hardly agree -because I fail to see- is how social networks or virtual worlds like Second Life can be of help in learning. I agree with the need of active exploration and being way-finding, but I hesitate over relying on social networks for sense-making.

In regards to the balance between self-development and teaching, I would say that each task necessarily implies the other: I teach as I learn, and I learn when I teach. And finally, in order to achieve this, I would say to anyone, as well as to myself: start moving, start active exploration, start looking for ideas, opinions and peers’ experiences, start trying out new ways of teaching every year. In other words, be a student, again, and become a learner. Stop using established teaching tools or manners that stop improving, like many textbooks, dictation, etc. Instead of them, look for material never used in a classroom before.

Master Learners
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9 thoughts on “Master Learners

  • November 3, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Great opening statement. That is so true, we are hesitant to try new things, but we feel great after we tried it and realized its success. As a teacher of 1st graders I agree that I need to be the start for them. They need to be taught early on how to learn. If they learn it early, they will succeed as they progress through the years of school.
    I like how the article gave us the 7 points. I felt it was a good reference and thinking point!
    I like your statement ” I teach as I learn, and I learn when I teach.” I feel the same way. I love learning from my kids, though they are only 6 they have a lot to offer, and if I am open to listening to them and hearing what they are saying, I surely can learn from them. I also enjoyed your ending. It doesn’t have to be a huge change right away, but start with some change. Don’t be afraid to stretch outside the box. But teachers also have to be reflective upon themselves, and realize that things might not be perfect right away but that shouldn’t deter them from trying, revamping and trying again.

    • November 4, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Thanks for your comment, Sharray.
      You are totally right by saying that 6 years old students have a lot to offer, specially to us, adults.

  • November 3, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Your statement, “A learning community can only be shaped from inside, as a member” summarizes for me what this week’s readings were about. This is the shift of the teacher’s role in classroom that utilizes web 2.0 tools. The teacher is no longer the ultimate authority, but a guide along with a fellow learner. This new dynamic will be empowering to students and teacher alike, when they can learn to operate within their new roles. I think.

    • November 4, 2013 at 10:46 am

      Yes! I love this part, too.

    • November 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks, Mary.
      I specially liked the enumeration of ways to shape learning that Siemens makes: “the curator includes critical course concepts in her dialogue with learners, her comments on blog posts, her in-class discussions, and in her personal reflections. As learners grow their own networks of understanding, frequent encounters with conceptual artifacts shared by the teacher will begin to resonate.”
      I think that this fits perfectly with what you say.

  • November 4, 2013 at 10:45 am

    “This has benefits and drawbacks. One benefit I would underline is that I enjoyed learning, so I made my students enjoy. One drawback is that you have to teach on some things that you are not entirely confident about. Nevertheless, the result of this “experiment” was that I learned and taught at the same time, something that is quite interesting. As a consequence, I became quite sympathetic with those who -as me- were learning.”

    This resonated with me! I think this idea of teaching on concepts that you’re not entirely comfortable with relates to the horizontal structures we talked about earlier in the semester. The teacher is becoming the facilitator of learning rather than the expert on the content. That’s an awesome situation even if it does make the teacher a little uncomfortable with the change in role. The most important piece of this is the way that these situations make you more able to relate to the students and their experiences. I think the areas where we can relate learning to our students are some of our best teaching moments.

    • November 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Yes, Devon. I also think that those are great teaching moments.
      However, it was so risky that I am not sure I should do it again. That time I had to teach on something unknown to me with only two weeks to prepare before the first class. It could have been a disaster, but on the contrary, it resulted a great experience. I think that an intermediate point between mastering and learning must be perfect.
      Thanks for your comment!

  • November 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    I really like your characterization of teaching as conducting an orchestra — it captures very well the improvisation, non-static nature of teaching. I also agree that we should be cautious about the role of new technologies in helping teaching/learning, but do you think that virtual worlds, while perhaps not directly helpful for ‘formal’ teaching/subjects, might actually teach other non-formal/life skills?

    • November 5, 2013 at 11:04 am

      Hi Priya,
      Honestly, I cannot see the how. After spending some time browsing Second Life website, I cannot see it even for non-formal/life skills. Actually, I am a bit critic with this. Also, it can be due to my not knowing much about this topic.

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