Do we always need a map?

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A few events today have made me reflect upon promoting the use of technology in the classroom.  This thought provoking post by Tom Barrett and dropping my son off for his first trial session at nursery.  The trailers for the forthcoming ‘School Season’ on BBC had also made me ponder. The illustration above illustration by gapingvoid(which I spotted thanks to Doug Belshaw) also added into the mix.

What have I been pondering? Should we always be using tools such as Google, Bing, Twitter?

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But first an anecdote. Or two. I have a large collections of maps and guide books.  The guide books I use to avoid other people.  planets Let me explain, when travelling abroad, I find it very useful to know where all the other Lonely Planet readers will be eating, drinking and looking.  I then avoid those places. Part of the fun is stumbling through the local language, choosing a restaurant that has no English menu (or for that matter photographs of its food, why is it that Brit’s abroad need to know what egg and chips looks like?)

Secondly, some of the best adventure I’ve had has been as the result of wandering around the mountains without lookmapsing at the map.  I’ve come across some stunning spots to wild camp as a result, and the process of making a route up on the spot is exciting and rewarding.  It also means that I have no idea what the route will hold, or what the summit will look like.

So what’s the point?

  1. Not knowing the destination is an adventure and fun.  So how do we keep children’s options open? Is the the right thing to be encouraging an ethos where terminal exams are seen as being almost life and death. One of the greatest activities to learn is to accept the responsibility of actions and choices.  Why blame Google/Rough Guide/Ordnance Survey for the mistake?
  2. Knowing where you want to get to, but having no idea how to get there is rewarding. Is it vital that all children know where they are going and have the skills to compete for jobs on a global level? What if you just want to be an artist, a dancer, a painter, charcoal maker. Or have no idea.To be honest I often wonder where I’m going, and that’s most of the fun.
  3. Good preparation and training will help along the way. It’s Ok if you have a route map in the rucksack,a flask of warm Ribena and enough food to feed an army. The unknown is less scary and more exciting the more prepared I am.

I accept that this may be a personal preference, but I think that as an educator it’s my job to suggest the less obvious way when it’s appropriate. Sometimes, the best way to find out how something works is the take it apart rather than find an instruction video on YouTube.  Sometimes, the best way to discover a skill like team working or collaboration is to go on an adventure. Sometimes the best way to be independent is to unplug. Although I’m not suggesting any spiritual vision quest is needed (although sleeping rough in a Welsh cave is very cool, in all senses of the word!)

I wonder if giving lots of advice is the best thing to do.  Why not keep it simple:

May our students know better than we do?

What is my personal conclusion? Nothing new, exciting or insightful. Just that I should know when to unplug and allow students to do things the traditional / old fashioned / difficult way. Maybe one of the main roles that I should be fulfilling is teaching young people when to switch off and not rely on technology. After all (and I forget where I came across this), an over reliance in technology leads to lower attainment.  Who says attainment is important? The pupils that I’ll be speaking to tomorrow, some in tears of joy, others of despair.  My role? To help show them the way forward regardless .

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