At the post graduate induction Saturday, I have stood in front of the crowd of eager new starters and asked them what they thought I taught at university. I have been quite surprised by the suggestions of anything creative, such as art or performance since I consider myself the least creative person around! However, once I tell them that I teach mathematics and science with an interest in e-pedagogy and computing, they accept my own declared label of ‘geek’. It follows on quite fluidly therefore, that my own teaching strategies would reflect the use of technology…but do I have to prove that these strategies work in order to use them?
Throughout education, learners encounter a range of subjects, teachers and teaching styles. As long as the strategies used have an impact on progression of the learners then they could be recognised as acceptable. Each educator approaches teaching in a personal way. They adapted the well established learning theories and research to their own personal approach. This is what makes each ‘teacher’ different. This personal approach is also reflected in the learners themselves with each one reacting and benefiting from a range of different styles. When discussing with students about their work ethic for completing assignments they often relate how they find it easier to work in their room or in the library. Although I prefer to work on my research in the library and to write blog posts in the local coffee shop, I accept that they, as learners, have work ethics which differ from my own. In a similar way I remember at the end of a year in my year 5/6 class, a child’s final words to be were; “I’ve not enjoyed the way you teach Mr Wilson, but I have learnt a lot.”
“I’ve not enjoyed the way you teach Mr Wilson, but I have learnt a lot”
Initially I was taken back by this, feeling that I had maybe ‘failed’ that child but after careful consideration, I acknowledged that I could not possibly meet everyone’s learning style constantly throughout the year and, as long as the child have made progress, I had been effective in my teaching.
You can probably see why these are called ‘waffles’ but I am getting there. My own personal teaching style is through the use of technology. Being a self confessed Geek, the use of technology comes quite naturally to me and although colleague might ask – “where do you find the time?” – to me it takes less times to implement it than using other strategies and plus, I actually enjoy it. Does it have an impact on the student’s learning and engagement? Well I would refer back to the paragraph above about the personal ways students learn. Some will benefit from the approach and others might not, but essentially their learning will continue since I am not teaching completely with technology. Also, if you look across the whole programme, the students are exposed to a range of teaching styles, all of which will have their own positives and negatives. These will all support some forms of learning more than others.
So do I have to ‘prove’ that technology has a positive impact on learning? In my opinion I do not since I am using e-pedagogy as a personal teaching strategy. When students comment that they have enjoyed the session, or say in module evaluations how much the conference chat supported their learning, then to me, my approach to teaching them has been beneficial. Another tutor could have used a different strategy and had the same impact. If people are wanting ‘proof’ in order to use a strategy then I would suggest that they should not use the strategy. Teaching, like learning, should come naturally and once it becomes ‘enforced’ then the impact will be affected.
In conclusion, if you want to use technology in any form within your teaching, then I am positive that some learners will benefit from the approach. If the use of technology does not reflect your own personal teaching style, then that’s fine – continue with your own style and I am sure that your style will benefit the learners in a similar way. I consider the best educators are the ones who teach through their own personal teaching style, be yourself and teach how you work best with or without technology.