When I was at primary school all my teachers had to worry about was that I was better at operating the video recorder than they were. For everything else it seemed they were the experts, the ones in control, the ones in the comfortable place of knowing more than me.
Last year Tom, an 8 year old in my class, came to school with a memory stick. On it was an incredible 3D model of a castle created using Google Sketchup, the free software many architects use to try out their ideas. Beautifully symmetrical, every tower was topped with a flag, carefully created line by line. There was nothing I could teach him about 3D design; he was the expert.
We are now in a place where many children are more skilled than their teachers in the use of technology. At home they brain train on their Nintendos, surf the internet on their parent’s smartphones and share their videos with the world on YouTube. At school too many teachers shy away from technology, how can they teach children to do something they aren’t confident with themselves?
I was unable to teach my class anything like Tom’s skill in 3D design and as a teacher that is a scary place to be. However, they didn’t need to miss out on those skills; with a bit of support Tom could teach others. I wasn’t the expert, but I am a good learner and I could support the class with their skills in learning how to create castles like Tom’s.
Technology makes this really obvious, but haven’t many children always been more expert than their teachers? Aisha was a natural at realistic drawing, which has never been a strength of mine. What is a strength of mine, and most teachers, is breaking down skills into ways they can be communicated to others. Together we worked out how to help the class to learn some of her skill with a pencil.
Teachers do need to make time to get some understanding of technology, a whole new culture is developing and they need to know the language. However, there is so much out there and it is moving so quickly that they can never be experts in everything. What they can do is be confident in their skills as learners. After all their job isn’t to know everything, it is to unlock the learning.
(Names have been changed.)