Friday, August 19, 2005

Research Blog: I've got this friend...

"It's not me... but I've got this friend who agrees that, 'It is disturbing to think my pupils may know more about ICT than I do,' and he said..."
I mentioned in It's good to talk that I was hoping to get some examples where teachers have found that pupils knew more about ICT than they did. I did a second interview on Monday and got two examples that I think are interesting. Again, both students were very positive about using ICT in the classroom. One gave me a good example on learning something from the pupils while the other student didn't have a problem herself, but had a friend...

originally uploaded by KelvinM.
The positive example involved pupils creating presentations in class on the topic they had been studying. The student was impressed by one pupil who had incorporated music into the presentation and she asked him how he had done it. She said she was delighted to be shown how to download music from the Internet (I didn't ask if it was legal or not!) and then shown how to use it in Powerpoint - a skill the student could then use in her own presentations. The pupil was pleased to be able to demonstrate his expertise, the student was able to learn a new skill and future classes could benefit from improved presentations - a win for everyone involved.

The "I've got this friend..." example was a teacher trying to use of a software package that was a necessary part of the subject's curriculum. The teacher got stuck and refused help from the pupils in the class. Instead a pupil was sent to fetch the student teacher so she could sort out the problem. Red-face for teacher and frustration for the pupils in the class.

Do these two examples help explain why there is a split in students response to this question? In the first example, the student's subject knowledge was not being challenged, she was already a fairly competent ICT user and she was happy to learn something new from the pupil. It sounds like the scenario Ewan described in his comment on my earlier post - teachers and pupils working together to develop skills and understanding. In the second example, perhaps the teacher felt this was an area in which she was expected to have expertise and therefore felt vulnerable because her subject expertise might be challenged by a more knowledgeable pupil? Ewan (yes him again!) describes how German teachers feel a bit vulnerable due to reforms of German grammar and spelling in Jah, aber neh, aber jah..., but are German teachers likely to meet a pupil with more knowledge? I think not. It may be that pupils are not that ICT savvy either, but the fear that they might be is very prevalent.

The last time I looked at this question (about three years ago) I suspected that older teachers and those with lower personal ICT skills would tend to be more worried about this issue. Certainly the students I have talked to so far, think that is the case. They are not worried because:
  1. they are young;
  2. they are ICT competent.
Unfortunately, when I last analysed the data in 2002 I found no statistically significant correlation between either age or previous experience, and the answer to this question. Scunner! As soon as I get the time to work out how to do it again (it was something to do with chi squared I think!) I'll check if there is any correlation in this year's data. I didn't check last time, but I wonder if the subject taught makes a difference?

I would still be interested in any specific examples where pupils knew more about ICT than the teacher and how you or a colleague reacted.

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P.S. I should point out that the "I've got this friend..." bit was introduced in a futile attempt at injecting some humour into this post. It is only fair to say that I have no reason to doubt the student that told me the story. I believe she is not worried herself and that she really was describing what someone else did.


Ewan McIntosh said...

The thing about German teachers - or any foreign language teacher - being in a situation where someone else knows more happens quite often. Foreign language assistants are there partly to share new vocabulary from the country from which they have just arrived. Language changes regularly and so a languages teacher can't expect to be at the to of his or her form the whole time.

The other scenario is where you have a pupil whose first language is not English and they, also, have a better knowledge of vocabulary. What's important for a teacher to recognise are the limits of each person's knowledge. The pupil needs help with exam and learning skills, and the teacher still has something to learn from the pupil. The latter part sometimes gets forgotten but is the bit that can be the most satisfying part of our job.

Ian King said...

In my subject (Computing) I would be surprised if an A grade Advanced Higher student project was not beyond my knolwedge in the area he or she was investigating. When I look back at the developments which have occurred in my departmnent over the years, many of them have been student-led or initiated by students who have kindled my interest in a new technology or programming language. eg. Our first school Intranet (in the days of the Mosaic browser if anyone remembers that one) started life as an electronic magazine organised by pupils in my Higher Computing class)

David said...

Hello Ewan

Hmm... Assistants, I'd forgotten about them. Once again, exposing my ignorance.

Hello Ian

Thanks for your comments. It is worth remembering that as teachers we are also always learners.

I wonder if it would help student teachers to read comments like this from experienced practitioners. From Ewan that learning from pupils is " can be the most satisfying part of our job" and from Ian that many of the new and exciting developments in your subject "have been student-led or initiated by students".

Brilliant. Thanks!