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This blog post was inspired after listening to the CAS Flashmeeting round up this week with Mark Clarkson, where a discussion took place about problem solving and introducing computer science at key stage 3.
As a teacher am I supposed to know all the answers? While training for my PGCE some 17 years ago I was told by my tutor never to admit I didn’t know the answer and if asked something I didn’t know, to respond with “I will get back to you”. Some years later and a little greyer I have come to the conclusion that as an ict/it/computing/digitalstudies teacher this isn’t going to help my students progress.
I blogged last week about students being better prepared to succeed by learning how to fail better. At present I am writing a number of resources as part of the digital studies pilot. At the core of this is project based learning and as I have planned and researched each unit this also involves the principles of computational thinking.
Is it better to admit you don’t know the answer but challenge students to solve the problem themselves and/or work with them to troubleshoot the issue. I firmly believe yes. There has been much publicity around the huge number of educational initiatives introduced by the current government. Whilst my opinions on the current secretary of state for education are clear his criticism of ICT has certainly spurred me to respond by joining the #digitalstudies initiative. I do not have an ICT degree or computing background in education. My degree is in economics and my PGCE focused on Economics, Business Education with a little ICT. Once I qualified I then worked for a council in the North East of England, training council employees, local communities and businesses in ICT packages and skills from basic to advanced word processing, HTML and programming. This gave me the toolset to then confidently return to the classroom and teach ict in KS3 to KS5 and Computing at A Level. Whilst I don’t profess to know all the answers I do know that I’m a very competent subject “specialist” in a subject that is about the past, the current and the future. As Julia Skinner so eloquently put in her purposed post yesterday, we are like sponges who soak up knowledge and as a teacher, I share that to engage and enhance the teaching and learning experience in my classroom.
When students use Scratch or Kodu to sequence events in gaming, I challenge them not only to provide solutions but also improve current games. Through peer activities they use Lino.it to help each other out on issues. They set their own success criteria for their projects and regularly review their own and peers work. If they want to know an answer to a problem then is it wrong to say google search or check YouTube, because I know I do if I have an issue with WordPress for example.
As a competent teacher I feel its is important to challenge my students to overcome errors / issues and work with them to become more better problem solvers. Someone as part of the CAS discussion mentioned a strategy where students were told only to put their hands up to tell the class they have found a solution. I don’t personally feel this is a viable strategy for all as i constantly challenge my students to ask why, be it if they are unsure or are stuck. Of course i may not know the answer but work with students to find a solution so they can be better prepared too tackle and troubleshoot in the future.
This may not be the case in other subjects but in mine I feel that my students become better learners not by knowing everything but by being willing to want to know everything.