Thursday, June 20, 2013

Interaction -v- Participation, Standardization -v- Innovation

This year I've been focused on 3 main words:  engagement, transformation and rigor.  As a Tech Coordinator I want to see teachers moving from using technology to engage students to using it to transform and personalize the learning.  During the last half of the year I've also been looking much more at student artifacts and asking how rigorous they are, where they fall on Bloom's Taxonomy and whether students are using lower or higher order thinking.   I find it important to also consider how active students are in their learning - are they empowered to take change of their own learning, or are they simply following instructions and doing what the teacher requires to complete assignments or do well on test?  Another way of asking this could be are students merely interacting or are they really participating in the learning?

Recently I read an article by Meghan McCarthy Welch and Caitlin McMunn Dooley on this very question.  They write that students have access to screens everywhere, but are they using these tools effectively?  Are they using the higher order thinking skills or are they just "passive consumers"?  They define the difference between interaction and participation in the following way:

Interaction: tools that ask for a simple response or input, for example online games where students select the correct answer by clicking or typing an answer
Participation:  students receive information, but then interpret it and use it to create.  Participation usually involves feedback which can lead to modifying or redesigning the original idea

Interaction may work well in an education system that is geared towards standardized testing.  Online games, for example, often reward correct responses and can be quite motivating and engaging.  However students who simply interact with technology are probably not really developing their creativity, as many of these interactive games can work against developing an innovator's mindset.  Innovation requires being able to think outside the box, or beyond the game.  It involves breaking the rules, taking risks, thinking in a transdisciplinary way, and actively participating and collaborating with others.  Schools are often good at teaching to standardized tests, hitting learning outcomes and anything else that involves observing what students are doing and then ticking the box.  Yet the very things that teachers are doing to raise scores and standards may well be working against students taking change of their own learning and developing their own creativity.  

Many of the tools and apps teachers are using in schools are interactive and engaging, but I think it is my job to ferret out the ones that go further than simply remember, understand and regurgitate.  Next year I want to focus much more on finding tools that allow students to be more creative.  Suggestions welcome.

Photo Credit: Vicki & Chuck Rogers via Compfight cc

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