I’m in learning mode!
Learning languages is good for you apparently (and good for those of us who teach it/them!). It increases brain activity, creates synapsial connections and keeps you ‘young’. Learning a musical instrument is of equal benefit, they say, and adds physical dexterity to the mix. Learning how to use new technology should perhaps have all the same advantages. And so when people say – as they have done to me recently – that getting to grips with a new piece of software is a ‘steep learning curve’, that is presumably a good thing. At least it may (may) stop me getting Alzheimer’s!
I have been reflecting on all this because (a) I HAVE been on a steep learning curve with a new (for me) piece of software and (b) because tomorrow I will have my first (and only) lesson on a new musical instrument in order to raise money for the Spinal Injuries Association – 8 weeks after just one lesson I have to take an official music exam. It’s called a Grade-one-athon).
The software I have been trying to master is for audio recording. I have written a new song (the first one for years) and I am trying to put together a credible recording of it using double-tracked voice, three or four instrument tracks etc. Whatever the song is like (or however bad my rusty musicianship), learning how to use the complexities of the software has been challenging, frustrating, irritating, and exciting. You know what it’s like when you try to master something new: the hours lost, the wrong turnings taken, the folly of it all! Here I am, then, like a language-learning beginner, trying to learn how to do something which many others are expert at, and all for no particular reason, no possible success and definitely no financial gain – and the cost in hours is mounting. How on earth Gorillaz recorded their latest album The Fall on an iPad I’ll never know.
Ah yes, the iPad. Technology. The point of this blog post.
For some years now – even before the publication of their wonderful book How to Teach English with Technology – Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly at the Consultants-e were arguing that IT training should be an integral part of teacher training. Nicky and Lindsay Clandfield have recently co-authored a book about Teaching Online. You can’t be a teacher these days without using technology, can you?
I’m not trying to start a technophile-technophobe discussion. Instead I am wondering just what kind of training we SHOULD offer people in teacher training. It’s not a new question, but it is quite new for me. I don’t have any trouble thinking of what to say about how to organise groupwork; nor am I unlikely to be silent about the worst and best uses of software like Powerpoint. But what I can’t quite work out so far is how to offer a principled approach to the use of internet and mobile technology.
What I am getting at is this: I am messing around with audio software because I WANT to. For me it’s a perfect mix of geekdom, overweaning ego and plain good fun.
So perhaps that’s what we should do for new teachers: tempt their inner geek to surface, appeal to their egos and tell them to find some software, any software, that appeals to them. Or – and this is equally plausible – we should ignore technology since (a) those who want it will go and get it but (b) the others (who don’t) are quite capable of teaching extremely well almost without it.
What do you think?