Presentation Abstract

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks: A Reflective Approach for Teacher Re-education

Perhaps the biggest obstacle in implementing a computerized writing curriculum is the resistance of the experienced teachers. They have spent years developing a certain teaching style which they have found successful in teaching writing skills. They feel that electronic gadgetry may be fine for the young and foolish, but wiser minds stick with the tried and true.

This paper reports my work in the Philippines as a Fulbright Scholar assigned to introduce computerized writing into the schools. Nearly 800 teachers in secondary and tertiary institutions throughout the country were trained on how to use e-mail, the internet, and homepages to enhance English communication skills. To overcome the often vocal resistance of experienced teachers, I used what I call the reflective approach in teacher re-education.

The reflective approach follows a simple procedure. Rather than have a lengthy introduction to the mechanics of operating machines and software, the teachers are given communication tasks using the system. After they are comfortable doing the task, they stop and reflect on how the task they were doing is related to some classroom activity they have found successful. Then they are asked to reflect on how the electronic version of the activity extended the effectiveness of their familiar technique.

For example, I usually begin my introduction to electronic teaching with e-mailing activities. As the workshop participants write to me and their workshopmates, they are introduced one step at a time to how to make replies, folders, mailing lists, and signatures. During the reflection period they note how they were able to have class and group discussions, do dialogue journals, peer edit, brainstorm, give assignments and reminders, and keep track of student participation, among other things. Most are amazed at how much can be done with e-mail alone. With more reflection they note that rather than reducing social interaction, a common fear expressed by teachers at the beginning of a workshop, e-mail actually increases participation, an important point when teaching English as a second or foreign language.

Continuing this approach of first doing simple tasks then reflecting on how the tasks extend familiar techniques, the teachers experience how word processing, web surfing, and homepage creation will enhance their classroom effectiveness. They are especially happy to see thatsthey do not need expensive software, just networked computers with e-mail and an internet connection. By keeping the focus on using the computer as a communication tool, the teachers see that their role is to be thinkers not tinkers in the electronic classroom.

Author: Roger M. Thompson


Target Audience: Not Applicable

Add your comment about this presentation

Return to the Schedule of Abstracts