Friday, 22 April 2011

Why do I Need a Teacher When I’ve got Google? By Ian Gilbert


If you need food for thoughts on what the future of Education is likely to look like, this is a book for you. It packs a wide range of issues all teachers should be considering and it certainly make me re-focus on a few things as well as wanting to find out more about others.

What follows is not a summary-as it would not do the book any justice-but a series of notes that relate to what I intend to concentrate on in the next few weeks…

One of the first things I noted was the insistence on the importance of the comma in Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills. I always had considered the Personal and Learning on one side with the Thinking Skills on the other. Really, they should be looked at as three separate strands although the 3 categories certainly overlap…

I really enjoyed the “Neuromyths debunked!” chapter. Amongst the myths were the fact that we only use ten per cent of our brain, the existence of a “critical” window of opportunity to stimulate and enrich the brain up to the age of three and the fact that we need to immerse babies and children in multisensory enriched environments to enhance their ability to learn. I was particularly relieved to find out about the latter on behalf of all the French kids whose parents think-like mine-that a little bit of boredom is good for you and an excellent preparation for “real life”.

Although I am not a scientist, I have always been fascinated by what the brain does and can do and how it links with learning. This book presented it in a very approachable way especially for non-scientists like me.

I really related to the “Don’t make ‘em mad, make ‘em think” chapter, as I see thinking as the most important job in teaching and a much more important one than just teaching subjects.

I liked the STAR strategy, an easy one to share with students to get them to consider engaging in some form of reflective/ thinking activity:

STAR could be a great way to start discussing with our students what we mean by “Think”, “Act” or “Reflect” and what it means to them…

Sometimes, learning just happens if the right levels of chemicals are produced in the brain at the right time. For instance, “if dopamine has been released with glutamate, your brain will learn whatever it is paying attention to at the time”. The two “good” ways of producing the neurochemical dopamine are reward and anticipation of reward, so it might be worth having another look at how we all integrate these in our teaching…

I particularly enjoyed the chapter titled “Is yours a teaching school or a learning school?” as well as some of the opportunities re-visit the Learning How to Learn approach

According to Ian Gilbert, the attributes developed in the learning classroom experience are:

1. Choice
2. Responsibility
3. Trust
4. Practical nature of the work
5. Development of competences
6. Fun
7. Multiply-intelligent working
8. Independence
9. Team working

That certainly is a good list to re-focus yourself and colleagues as to what should be happening in your classroom… Some terms such as “fun” and “practical” may however need to be discussed to agree to a common understanding within Faculty areas, for instance.