How I was educated, how I learn and how I would teach tomorrow

Summing up the first week of my Master’s programme, it was all about how we have come to the current idea of digital education and what underlying theories of learning and instructional technology paradigms relate to this development.

Taking a step back resulted in some reflections on my personal schooling history, it’s relevance for the person I am today and my concept I hold on education & learning.


The hardliners of behaviorism


Throughout school I was lucky to meet the hardliners of behaviorism (if one can say that) focusing on memorizing and recalling this memory (responding) in a particular occasion (to a stimuli). That resulted in me being able to …

  • recall all German federal states and their capitals without knowing where they actually are located,
  • being able to recite the multiplication table but struggling when working on complex math problems,
  • being able to cite Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum but not being able to translate one single Latin phrase properly.

I don’t want to say that this is solely an outcome of the way I was taught. But it becomes clear dto me how much influence schools do have on families (as they assume, that teachers know how to teach, and might copy their teaching style at home to support their children) and on the individual idea/concept of knowledge (if there has always been the one correct answer, I am likely to struggle in reality where there are mostly not one but several ways to answer).

Talking to a friend of mine about this he said “Well, but these are some facts, you could always get a good impression with.” Or as my old Latin teacher would put it: “Reciting Caesar’s Bellum Gallicum makes you the superstart of your regular’s table.”


Aversive contingencies = punishment?

Browsing good old Skinner and “The Technology of Teaching” for my Classics seminar next week, I can find the keyword of ” aversive contingencies” or “aversive control” (describing an “unpleasant stimulant to change undesirable behavior” or in simpler words punishments such as extra work or detention [very happy that I missed the times of corporal punishment]) . Source

That keyword somehow describes my relation to school, as I was pretty often scared being in class. Especially when I knew that the teacher randomly assigned tasks to be solved at the blackboard (in front of the class) or presenting homework (as an impromptu speech). Whereas for other students that was a reward – for me it was hell.

What brings me to the importance of seeing students as individuals and recognizing their learning needs not only regarding content and pace, but regarding learning type and motivational aspects.

What for one student might be the most engaging activity ever, might be the scariest for another. 


Tracing the influences of the past

So this is how I have been taught mainly (although I have to admit, that especially during my A-Levels and my studies this schema of education vanished – and especially five years of working full-time have taught me that it is not important to know all facts, but to know where to can find them).

I can still find back some traces of this influence in my actual learning style and my assumptions of learning theories. I tend to …

  • think that there is alway this one correct answer,
  • have something done and then avoid developing it further (especially with feedback that comes too late)
  • think that I have to know it all by heart – which sometimes makes me lose track on my focus and get stuck with too many details.


Making the best of it for tomorrow

Knowing this enables me to develop further. But what about education and technology in general? Reading about emerging technologies and how they can support the teaching process, there was one quote that I came across often:

“It’s nothing new what we are doing only because we use technology”.

For me it is, or to put it in better words, it should be and we should emphasize this. Please do something new with technology and please do not simply transfer your classroom lessons to digital environments. This is not what we need technology for.

To close with a quote from the Innovation Unit’s “10 ideas for 21 Century Education” report: 

“Education systems have been resistant to change because education is so important – too important, some would argue, to experiment with. There is another way to look at this: in a rapidly changing world, education is too important to be left behind.” Source 

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