Konrad Glogowski is my all-time favourite educational blogger. Partly this is because he posts so rarely that he’s easy to follow, but mainly it’s because he’s a teacher not a techie.
Konrad’s latest post is a real treat. He’s talking about how he responds to his students’ writing, and gives an example of a lengthy and encouraging response
This is probably one of your best essays, if not, in fact, your best ever. As soon as I saw the title I knew that this would be a great read. It was! I was thoroughly engaged in your work and often felt as if I were discovering this novel for the very first time…(read the rest)
So what’s this got to do with educational technology? Nothing. With leading-edge teaching practise? Nothing. With old-fashioned English teaching? Everything. This could have come straight out of Mr Chips. And therein lies its charm.
Therein also lies its (near-)fatal flaw. How does Konrad find the time to leave 345 word-long comments on every item his students write? Because he’s teaching in Canada, that’s how. There, he can legitimately trade-off frequency of marking for quality of comment. The Canadian system is geared far less to the production-line values foisted on us in the UK by a decade and a half of excessive political interference in education.
So – he can do it, but we can’t. Goodbye, Mr Chips.
Well, perhaps not. There are ways to free up teacher time.
We’ve been at work for years in Chalkface on ways to mark work automatically, specifically so that the dull stuff can be got out of the way and you can concentrate your attention where it will do most good. That’s one way.
And you can get more radical than that. For example, look at TutorVista. In a recent post to the Distance Learning list at Becta, they boasted “Our Tutors are based in India and are familiar with the UK Curriculum”. You see the possibility? Outsource all your marking to well-trained Indian professionals, thus helping to fund education in the third world and freeing up your own time into the bargain.
You may be feeling just a tad threatened at this point. Your job, and pension, outsourced to India? I don’t think so. Look at Konrad’s comment again. Do you really think that could have been made by somebody who did not know the student? More importantly, would it have had an impact on the student had there not already existed a close teacher-student bond?
Suddenly, we get to the heart of where Konrad, and you, add value. It’s not in the facts you teach, or the marks you give. You inspire and motivate young people to learn by who you are, and the relationship you build with them.
In my opinion, technology can and should help by freeing you up from other stuff that gets in the way of that relationship, but true teaching requires no more than a paper and pencil, and a kind word.