Friday, 17 June 2011
eTwinning and professional development
“Make it as free as you can.”
This sentence was one of the turning points in my growth as a teacher. With these words Professor Sugata Mitra ended his speech at the eTwinning Conference 2008 in Bucharest. After this speech I actually was a different teacher – I had a different perception of myself in my job, of what I was supposed to do, and how.
Through Professor Mitra’s words, I realized the link between social inclusion, education, and remoteness. He was talking about Indian slums, and his famous “Hole in the wall” experiments, proving that children in groups could self-instruct themselves via the internet. Soon I realized he could as well be talking about students anywhere in the world. A child doesn’t have to be born in a slum to experience remoteness.
In the exciting environment of the Conference, with enthusiastic teachers, awards, experts, futuristic ICT projects, Professor Mitra suddenly shifted the light from “teacher” to “pupil”. He introduced us to a situation where a teacher was barely needed: children, left alone with a computer, could learn by themselves, via a self organizing learning environment. I have a vivid memory of the audience being shocked. Is the internet a “better” teacher? Is the teacher useless? Or do we have to think of a different role for the teacher?
When I say I’m different since then, it doesn’t mean I do anything new. I just try to do it better.
I’m striving to change the pupils’ perception of who I am as a teacher – I’m accompanying them in their learning, not leading them. My eTwinning projects are flexible, no musts, no set pathways: our goals are fixed, but students are free to proceed at their pace and explore alternative ways. An already arranged project, where students are actors in a predetermined script, may give you a sense of success, but it’s fake, and above all boring. You don’t need an award to prove you succeeded in your job: sometimes the smallest steps, that won’t earn your project any prize, will be the most rewarding for your students. Now I run the risk of meeting the new and unexpected in my job. I work with my students, not have them work. And I just make it as free as I can.
Voices of eTwinning