Invitation to Learning
I have more questions than answers about what’s really important in student learning. I talk and listen to a lot of people, whom I know are much smarter and know so much more, but I get to a point whether in conversation, reading or watching a presentation, where I stop, think, and ask, “What?” And then I come up with three or more questions I feel it is my obligation—no, my duty to ask. But when I ask them, in many cases I don’t hear the answers I need to hear, even though I know in reverse good language arts teacher fashion, I’ve placed some of the answer in the question.
In the end, someone might say, “That’s a good question.” And that often sends my mind off trying to come up with the answers myself. When I do, I smile and think, how on earth could I be smarter than an expert? Shouldn’t I be on a TED stage somewhere enlightening the education world? And then I remember I’m not smarter, just part of the larger body that thinks we’re all experts in education. Furthermore, those of us that know some technology, well, we tend to think we’re experts at that, too. The most important part of all this meandering is that only my opening sentence really matters. What’s really important in student learning? If we nail that, we have the foundation for a learning environment for today—as well as tomorrow. That’s when all of us as experts will truly reach understanding.
The answer really is student learning, or more correctly, interesting students enough to take on the challenge of learning something. And I don’t think that something should be left completely up to adults to determine. It is that student point of view that usually gets overlooked. While the educator is an important part in making that happen, it cannot be forced. Speeches that say to students, “You will learn!” or using the overused “sage on the stage, guide on the side” line to parents are really not statements about students at all, but rather still about educator status. The former is more a command than an offer of sharing the experiential discovery of learning, and the latter is, at this place and time, just meaningless hype rather than getting to the point.
Why not say instead that the classroom is a mutual learning space for students and teachers, and that learning must be experienced individually as well as shared. Why not say that learning has many dimensions, and all of those will be at each learner’s command—or at least strive for that goal. In that environment teachers and students have a controlling voice in learning and in what is being learned. It doesn’t rhyme, but it sure does sound inviting. Today, we must do more to invite students to learn.
About the Author
Ken Royal is a former educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience. He has written at many of the major education publications, including District Administration, TechLearning, and Scholastic Administrator. Presently, Ken is a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is a Promethean storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.