Hmmmmm … It sounds kind of obvious now that I think of it, but to learn a new skill I’ve always had to do it.
I’ve never been very good at sitting back and having someone show me how to do something. It’s not that I am a poor listener. It’s just that I find my mind wanders. I get caught up in my own thoughts which often leap ahead and become preoccupied tackling aspects of the problem that lays ahead. When I first started to use computers, a feat that occurred not all that long ago, I would look starry eyed as my mentor either explained or showed me how to do something and then expected me to reproduce the action.
Oh so memorable was the time I tried to master the very simple process of editing a document. To undo a mistake all I had to do was to press on either the delete or backspace key. I can laugh now, and maybe some of you will laugh with me, but for the life of me, I couldn’t make sense of when to select the delete or backspace key, no matter how many times I was told. It was only once I started to do it myself that learning was achieved.
Coactive teaching is based on this premise. For learning to occur it is believed that modelling with the learner will bear results. Key to the process is the notion that the learner must be actively involved in the doing for the learning to be achieved. This experiential approach aims to achieve long lasting learning of new skills and concepts.
While coactive teaching does have a place in education and learning, I believe, as an educator, that a more bold approach needs to be adopted in our schools.
I believe that to maximize learning, immersion, total immersion, is the best way to foster long lasting learning.
Think of how difficult it is to learn a language. Is fluency in a new language mastered by attending classes once a week or once a day or by memorizing lists and lists of new vocabulary? How quickly and effectively improved is the new language learning achieved if the learner is immersed in the language. Think of the weekend camps in which students are required to speak only in the foreign language being studied. And what about the trips to France, Spain or China implemented by some of our schools. Aren’t these examples of immersion intended to speed up the learning process?
While I didn’t realize it at the time, I have just graduated from a program, the VicPLN, which immersed me in the digital world. To learn to blog, I had to blog. To learn about Twitter, I had to … well … Tweet! To understand what Ning was all about, I had to … just use it. To learn about a range of presentation tools, I had to use them. What was happening? I was being immersed in the digital world. I could either watch others as they produced amazing blogs, presentations or new learnings, or I could jump in, feet first, and try to wade around in the deep end of new experiences.
I had absolutely no idea that I would get completely hooked into this new learning. After all, I am no ‘digital native’, but by taking a risk, jumping in feet first, I really became totally immersed. The good thing is that the further I swim through the digital world, the more immersed I have become. Immersion feeds on itself. It is leading me further and further into new learning.
Now just imagine the impact that this kind of experience could have in our schools. Our students, our digital natives, are already immersed in a range of tools and programs that constantly deepen their learning – even though they don’t realize it. What if we, their educators, harness the tools and programs of the digital world and use them to create an environment in which our students are immersed in new learning. Wow! It’s an exciting prospect!