The Rules of Engagement

Over the past week or two, Wesley Fryer has delivered some very interesting and thought provoking podcasts discussing the power of capturing our students’ attention and engaging them in the creative and exploratory action of learning – rather than simply sitting back and taking in information like so many tape recorders. This post is as much for my own reflection as it is for the other newbies that may be following along and have yet to read Mr. Fryer’s work.

At a time when I am about to embark upon my first year of teaching with Web 2.0 technology, I really value these posts and podcasts. I value them because I am learning as much from their content as I am in the way Mr. Fryer delivers them. As a lifelong learner, I am doing my best to take down salient points, ideas, lessons, and techniques that I feel will result in my becoming a better teacher. This recent series of posts by Mr. Fryer surely fits the bill.

In his August 6, 2007 podcast entitled: Strive to Engage Not Enthrall, Fryer does a great job of juxtaposing the standard ‘old school’ teaching methodology with one that follows Web 2.0’s collaborative and participatory style. Listen to his “voice of the old school teacher” as it speaks “at” students telling them exactly how they are supposed to behave and to what degree they will be controlled. Sound familiar? I am sad to say that I have been guilty of teaching in this manner. Yes, I may have tried to be a bit more entertaining and to deliver my words with a bit more finesse. But to quote Led Zeppelin…for those of us who fail to see a need to change within ourselves… The Song Remains the Same. As Fryer puts it, we have to stop trying to “capture” or “enslave” our students for their prescribed “stint” in our class (you know, before their mad dash for the door begins…leaving scraps of paper and a cloud of dust whirling in a small but well defined pathway to sweet, sweet freedom?). Rather, we must encourage them to become active participants in the learning experience and to want to take ownership of that experience by tying it to things that are unique and meaningful to them.

Mr. Fryer ends his podcast by challenging us all to transform our teaching style from one that is captivating to one that encourages them to investigate their passions and aspire to creative participation. His words say it best:


Fryer: “Invite students to collaborate with each other to create authentic knowledge products which reflect their true understanding, perceptions, and mastery of the subject being studied. Devise assessments, and have students help devise assessments for themselves, which cannot be “faked.” A worksheet or a study guide will not suffice. Invite students to conduct interviews and put together a short video documentary. Invite students to create an animation which illustrates a concept visually as well as auditorially. Invite students to collaboratively create and author a wiki-based document with other students in a classroom across the continent or across the world, about a topic in which they are interested and want to explore further. Not sure what a wiki-document is? Ask and find out! Invite your students to help!”

The challenge to modify one’s teaching style is massive, and it is often coupled with the fear of failure spurred on by our mandate to meet the aims of our curriculum and/or high stakes testing. As I head into the beginning of the school year, there are most definitely times when my thoughts range from impassioned excitability and eagernesses to the fear that my efforts may be met with administrative friction or that I won’t be able to get my Moodle class and blog/podcasting efforts past the “rumbling, stumbling, bumbling” stage. In these moments, I turn to my network of fellow Web 2.0 teachers, and I seek out the wise advice of people like Wes Fryer who speak from the standpoint of having been there.

What hopes and fears do you have as a Web 2.0 teacher? Where or to whom do you look for guidance and inspiration? Drop a line and let me know.

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2 thoughts on “The Rules of Engagement

  1. Great post, Kevin. Thanks for reminding me about Wesley Fryer. It’s about time I payed his blog a visit and his podcasts a listen.

    Who do I look for when I’m seeking guidance and inspiration? My students. Definitely. and also my fellow bloggers who plug at it each day, asking difficult questions and sharing their experiences.

    Am I a Web 2.0 teacher? I don’t know about that. I feel I am a teacher because a teacher works with students to help them create products that reflect their knowledge and their growth. Regardless of the media in which they do this. I personally use Web 2.0 ‘stuff’ because it is authentic to how my students live and learn…and because I think it’s way cool! But I also have them use other technologies – like book-making and tactile arts because they are pretty cool too and because they still play a role in their lives.

    Like I wrote at the beginning of this lengthy comment – great post!


  2. Thanks so much for your comment, Tracy. I especially appreciate your reminder that traditional arts including bookmaking, architecture, sculpture, ceramics, and even graffiti (See Jason Hando’s blog: can play important roles in helping our students “see” the world through varying filters.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I really enjoy your posts there at Leading from the Heart. Keep up the good work. I’ll be posting a comment to your “Understanding the Machine” article shortly.

    All the best – Kevin

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