Peer-coaching and Technology

A quote from an article by Amy Golod for USA News and World Report called “Educators Work to Better Integrate Technology Into the Classroom”:

“Typically, a pre-service teacher is between 18 and 22, so many people think they should know all about technology, but this is an overestimation of digital media skills,” Hughes says. “For example, they use social networking sites such as Facebook, but there are lots of other social networking applications.”

This is one of the biggest misconceptions that teachers make about students. Just because a student can use Facebook or Twitter does not mean that they are able to translate those skills to other areas as well. Often times, I have had to train students on the use of Powerpoint or Word for the most basic of tasks. Students know how to do a few tasks really well, but not everything is transferable to other areas. It’s like saying that I can drive a car, so I must be able to drive a Formula One race car. While certain things remain the same, most the most critical pieces are missing.

Here in lies the problem for ELT teachers: How can we teach something we don’t know ourselves? Here is where peer-coaching from other instructors or even students helping other students can make up the virtual gap in understanding. Our primary goal is to teach English, not teach technology. Still, teaching someone a skill can help someone use the language in context. The balance is found in giving enough instruction and then letting the student fill in the gaps. Have students watch videos or read articles on how to use a particular tool and then have them teach one another.

I have used this extensively in my English and Photography class. I have the students prepare ‘How to’ presentations on using a single aspect of photography by doing research online and by practicing it themselves before presenting it to the class. I simply provide the guidance and make sure that they are not straying too far off the mark. I also provide them the language necessary to present their finding and give correction along the way. In the end, they have accomplished a task (TBLT) and students teach one another (peer-learning).

How have you handled the changes in the classroom? Have you been able to coach someone else?

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