Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Process vs. Product

We have had a lot of questions over the past few years about digital classrooms and eLearning. Many suggest that we simply take the 'e' out of it so that it's just 'learning' but I think we have be clear that this is definitely a different style of teaching and learning, therefore, it really needs its own identity. As for the 'digital' side of things, well, I think there has been a complete shift in our perception of all of that digital stuff too!

For me, the realisation dawned about a year ago that I was getting myself tangled up in the PRODUCT. Everything I did in the ICT suite or with the laptops seemed to be immersed in the 'final product' - how it looked, what the kids had made or completed. I seemed somewhat distracted by the 'what' instead of the 'how'.

For someone who has certainly done enough Inquiry Learning to know the difference, I seemed to still be bound up in this whole 'product' issue. One day at a school assembly however, after watching all of the beautifully presented Inquiry Learning Keynote presentations, listened to the Wordles, seen the iPods used to present their 'products' and so on...well, I just had the big lightbulb moment.

What were we doing? What was I doing?

I felt like screaming that we were getting it wrong - couldn't they all see it? We were setting our goal as a final production! All that we 'taught' was ICT and digital goodies packaged up to look fantastic! It's no wonder the parents quivered nervously when told their children were in the 'digital' class, wasn't that the class that sat on laptops all day producing fun stuff?

Oh now don't get me wrong, the fun stuff is part of the bigger picture, but somehow we were forgetting that learning is a journey and NOT a destination, so eLearning is a process and NOT a product. This was what we needed to come back to, and come back we have. We now look at the skills to be taught and developed first, then the 'how to' and the 'what if', and the product is a side effect if even that. My class have a wiki as a learning space but it will never be 'complete' or perfect, it is a work in progress. The blog is their reflective space and that too will never be finished - we don't even care how it looks! It's about the PROCESS of reflection and development of our learning journey NOT about how people feel when they read it! Oh, we love to have responses and comments but that is PART of the process, not the whole process and certainly NOT the product of our reflections.

We have many, many devices, apps and websites that we use but they are just the tools, the methods for delivery. May I never get distracted by the hearts and flowers of the product ever again!

However, if I really wanted to measure whether my class actually 'get' the process vs. product, then it was seen in their reflections of this year of learning. Not ONE child commented about the wiki, blog, apps, iPods, iPads, laptops, digital cameras, websites. Not ONE. They ALL talked about and reflected on the bigger picture - their experiences as learners, topics, Inquiry Learning, trips that we did, cooking in the classroom, student teachers, swimming, athletics days and so on. When I asked the class why they hadn't mentioned anything about being in an eLearning class and what we had done that was different to some of the other classes, the response was breath-taking -'because that's HOW we learn, not WHAT we learn.'

Process vs. product, from the mouths of babes.

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