Introverts and MLEs

Last week, TED published this blog post, How to teach a young introvert based on an interview they did with Susan Cain, a strong proponent of introverts (see her TED talk The power of introverts).

The interview is an interesting read and it really got me thinking more about introverts and how we cater for them at school.

Hi. My name is Nathaniel and I am an introvert.

I really am.

From what I can tell, there are different levels of introvertedness (if that’s a word!)… I for one actually like to have people around me but mostly only if they’re family or close friends. I like to know that someone is around. I find it very difficult in rooms with people I don’t really know. Interestingly, I can get up and talk in front of an audience and I’m very happy sharing online! But I know other introverts who would rather simply be on their own. There must be quite a continuum of types of people from the incredibly introverted (hermits perhaps?) to the incredibly extroverted.

It seems like a negative thing—to be an introvert. Yet there are many introverts in the world and there will be some in your classroom.

Cain talks about being the quiet kid in the class. The ones that are expected to be more social and and outgoing. But that’s not their nature. Teachers need to be more aware of those students and cater to their needs rather than expect them to conform.

The way we do group work now doesn’t work for introverts. It can be too much for them. This for me is quite interesting. I hated group work and I still dislike having to participate at conferences/workshops etc during ‘icebreaker’ type activities. That just isn’t me. Cain suggests that the think-pair-share method works far better with introverts than putting them into slightly larger groups. In groups of two they can often manage better. My experience—I can manage better, but only if I don’t really have to say much. If you ask me a question I’ll answer it, but I’ll probably use as few words as possible (I think I usually write like that too… except maybe in blog posts where I let my thoughts wander a bit more). Cain says “less group work” will help the introverts. This feels like it flies in the face of a lot of what we see is important in current teaching practices. She is not saying “no group work” though, but rather is reminding us to be aware of the differences in the students we teach. Give options/choices so that students have some freedom to work how they feel most comfortable.

Probably the thing that most interested me from Cain’s interview was her discussion about the classroom spaces. She, possibly without realising, describes modern learning environments where there are larger open spaces but with a range of different spaces that students can go and learn so that there are solo spaces as well as group spaces. Cain reminds us that adults move amongst different types of spaces. Children want this opportunity too.

And in regards to technology Cain suggests that having apps which allow for collaboration both openly and anonymously will help our introverts feel more comfortable. She says,

Even if it’s not anonymous, the fact that a student is participating in a class discussion or a class blog online removes some of their own psychological barriers to participation

We need to consider the types of students in our classes. It’s not just about learning styles but about psychological needs. We also need to be open to these needs changing. Even the most outgoing person can have a bad day and just want space—their own space. Traditional single-celled classroom spaces don’t often allow for this, but as you can see from Anne Kenneally’s EDtalk below, you can adapt what you already have.

[vimeo 52111969 width=”500″ height=”281″]

Modern learning practices/pedagogies & traditional practices

This blog post for me probably raises more questions than answers and is very much me reflecting on conversations I’ve had over the past week or two.

There’s a lot of talk (and action) at the moment about 21st century learning, modern learning environments and practices, future focused education, modern pedagogies or whatever you want to call it! It’s invading education. In a good way I think. I’m excited to be working in education while this shift is underway. I believe it’s positive. Not easy, but definitely positive. Recently when I’ve talked with some teachers—both primary and secondary—about their schools plans to move into BYOD or 1:1/1:2 (or whatever!) environments a couple of things have come up (my words, not theirs!):

  1. Why do I/we need to change when I know what I’ve been doing works and my students are succeeding academically?.
  2. How can I continue to teach in my traditional ways but using digital tools?

I think the first question is very valid. Many teachers have been teaching successfully for many years. Their students are achieving highly and are engaged. Yet, for some reason there are people saying that they need to change and adapt to use new technologies. Why? I don’t doubt that these teachers are getting good results, but my question is, why wouldn’t you do more to engage these students where they are at? If we’re aiming for personalising learning, then wouldn’t using the tools/technologies that our students are using regularly, every day surely be advantageous?

The second question in my mind says that we acknowedge that digital devices/technologies are being used these days and it makes sense that I would use them in my class (or we have to) but we’re comfortable where we’re at. The danger with this is that a laptop/tablet is going to be a word processor. A place to write notes, essays, stories etc—used as an expensive ring binder to keep all our notes together. It’s not 21st century learning. It’s not personalised, it’s not future focused. So while I think it’s important that we move into modern ways of teaching and learning I wonder…

What—if any—place do traditional pedagogies and practices have in the 21st century learning environment?

If you have any thoughts/comments around this, I would appreciate you sharing them in the comments area below.

Monday Mentions: 4 August 2014

BlogCheck out my favourite blog posts from the past week.

  1. Schools that work for kids by Eric Sheninger from the blog A Principal’s Reflections. In this post Eric reflects on his son and his technology use at home and relates that back to a school situation, stating that the structure of many schools is at odds to the world our children are growing up in.
  2. Why are more teachers not sharing their practice? by Steve Mouldey from the blog Steve Mouldey: Emergent Reflections of a Secondary Teacher. I know I shared a post from Steve last week but this, to me, is such an important question to consider.
  3. HPSS and Seven Sharp – The School Behind the Soundbite by Claire Amos from Teaching and E-learning. TV current affairs show did a segment on Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS) looking at the modern learning environment and practices that the students learn in. Overall it was very good. Claire takes this and expands on what a school week is like at HPSS to show that the normal stuff people expect from school is still covered within the project work they are doing. This is a great post for anyone interested in seeing how a brand new school operates within and MLE, using modern practices.