PLEASE Stop Teaching!

Here’s a passage from my Next Era Ed book I wrote this morning.

What if we could improve students:

  • conceptual understandings
  • retention of information
  • quality of performance
  • achievement
  • interest in pursuing further study
  • mental wellness & self concept
  • sophistication of thinking

What if the methods were “sure-fired” with decades of research at some of the most respected universities in the world?

What if each were backed up by a model that defined effective strategies to ensure success?

Want to review the list again, because I’m about to pose a trick question?

Ready?  Okay, you can improve students learning in all the ways in the list above as long as you don’t do one thing: teach.  Especially in a school.

It seems cruel doesn’t it?

But a few hours later as I am going over a list of ICT Skills generated by a school I work with, I ran across this item that a “teacher” added to the list of “baseline skills.”

  • Teach students how to use the Internet for research purposes, including advanced search functions, keyword choice. etc.

This kind of thing makes me want to scream (and validates my point above).  Can’t we recognize that if we stop thinking “teach” and shift to “learn” that it creates an entirely different (and better!) criterion?:

  • Create a task that can only be achieved when students appropriately use advanced search strategies.

I suppose one main difference is that the first one is very easy…

(please pardon my frustration, but some days the mountain seems awfully steep)


4 thoughts on “PLEASE Stop Teaching!”

  1. Tom-

    I completely agree that as educators we need to shift our focus from teaching to learning. Our primary goal is to have students learn. I recently heard an analogy about a man who taught his dog French, but when the dog still only barked, the dog was still taught French, but did not actually learn French.

    As educators we are surrounded by so much curriculum, “research”, strategies, opinions, etc., it is difficult to determine what are the best ways to promote student learning. I completely agree that technology is a huge motivating way to promote student learning; however, just putting technology in a classroom isn’t the only part of the solution. Teachers must have professional development and learn ways to use this technology. Otherwise, equipment will not be utilized well and will not promote student learning. Research indicates that the teacher is the number one determining factor of student success. My question for you is this…if the teacher is so important, isn’t teaching also important? We can’t just give students a bunch of materials and tell them to learn. Teachers have to be motivating, educated, talented, filled with infinite amount of strategies to help ALL students learn. How can technology in itself help ALL students learn without fantastic teaching? Sure, some students will thrive, but what about Tier 2 and Tier 3 students that really need more? I am interested to hear your take on this.


    • Hi Jill,

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Yes, the research that people like to quote celebrates the importance of the teacher. An I would point to the work of Steven Farr (Teaching as Leadership) and suggest that what’s described there looks a lot different from what many teachers do. I’m declaring a “take no prisoners” approach when I see curriculum that uses chalk-and-talk, Copy/Paste Masterpieces (AKA “Research”) or Slackers’ Delights (“group” projects where one student does all the work). The great thing about technology (especially 1:1) is that it reveals the flaws in these standard approaches. My “solutions” are twofold and target changing classroom routines and turning ownership for learning over to students. By name, I call the “The Edge-ucators Way” and “CEQ•ALL” (plus this rubric for students – pdf). Feel free to use any of these things and thanks again for taking the time to write.
      Cheers. Tom —

  2. Thanks Tom for all of the information! I found it very interesting. Currently, I am working on my master’s in integrating technology in the classroom. Looking at your links, you really are calling for a 180 degree change of thinking and mode of practice in education as we know it today. I totally agree that major changes need to take place to really prepare students for the 21st century. My question for you is, do you think this is possible? We are currently in the age where money is getting taken away from education. Teachers in my state (Washington) just took at 1.9% pay decrease and we have the third largest teacher to student ratio in the country. Last year I had 34 students in my class and my school’s computer lab did not even have enough computers for all of my students to each have one. Is there money available to create a 1:1 environment? I know that some district and I believe even Maine has made this a priority, but most are way behind the curve in this area. Even if we did have the equipment, what about the huge PD that would train teachers? With a radical change of thought, major PD would be necessary. Many teachers came into the profession because they love to teach. Some of us are totally willing and wanting to embrace change, but unfortunately I think we are few and far between. The unions will fight this type of change dramatically, because let’s face it, most people are afraid of change. Personally, I embrace looking at new ideas and trying to improve my students’ learning. Even so, I feel like I am light years behind the curve. Currently I work in a district that there are no student computers in most classrooms and many teachers still do not have even a projector or document camera. I only have the equipment that I have because I received a stimulus technology grant two years ago. Even with this, I only have two student laptops in my room. How do we make this major switch over and close this huge gap of resources? I am curious to hear your ideas! Thanks again for your response!


    • Hi Jill,

      The main way the “revolution” will occur is as students carry their own technology with them into the classroom. Much is happening outside the US in this area. The most “radical” aspect – ironically? – is letting students use the technology they already have. Schools have gone from the Oasis of technology where we gave students their first access to computers and the Internet to a barren desert where filters and poor bandwidth constrain student learning. Large schools and districts are at a huge disadvantage in this area – as are schools serving more impoverished students. The positive aspects is that technology only gets cheaper. I would be curious if you polled your students, how many have iPods, iPhones, even computers. When we did this at a school where staff argued issues of equity, we found 95% of students had access to their own computers. We would not have guessed that the figure was above 70%. Also, these are the kind of numbers than change rapidly. Watch how many iPads get bought as Christmas presents this year.
      I do agree that large public schools (with their unionized teachers) will fight against this change. The up side – and the reason I push in this direction – is that the change is inevitable and the human changes will take a lot longer than the technological and economic ones. So we should get on with personalizing learning?

      Kindest regards,

      Tom —


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