Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Top Down or Bottom Up?

This is a blog trying to connect meaningful dots for better learning. In our website we only curate inspiring ideas and examples around education, like this post from Peter Pappas’s blog about important changes in education enabled by current technologies : innovations in teaching and learning : top down or bottom up?

Head to the vendor area of an educational conference and you’ll see a “top-down” vision of innovation in schools – expensive stuff that delivers information – lots of flashy equipment like display systems, interactive whiteboards, etc. They might give the illusion of modern, but in fact they’re just a glitzy versions of the old standby – teaching as telling  . Does anyone really think there’s an instructional ROI in jazzing up test prep with a “Jeopardy-style game” delivered by “cutting-edge display technology?” 

In fact, the best innovation in instructional practice is coming from the “bottom up” – from teachers who find effective ways to harness the creative energy of their students. These teachers don’t simply deliver information to kids, they craft lessons where students can research, collaborate, and reflect on what they’re learning. They harness a flood of new platforms that enable students “see” information in new ways and support a more self-directed style of learning. Unlike the expensive wares being hawked by the convention vendors, most of these web tools are free. 

Want to find out more about instructional innovation in action? That won’t cost you a thing either. Just jump on my Twitter feed and you find superb teachers willing to share their latest student projects. And that free flow of information contrasts with a second “top-down” approach to innovation in schools – the professional learning committee. Imagine being told that, “teachers will now attend PLC meetings.. and don’t forget to fill out the PLC report form and turn it in to your administrator.”No one at the top seems to notice that teachers who want to network have already created their own “bottom-up” support systems via the social web.

Most kids have a “bottom-up” expectation of curating their own information and creating something with it. The barriers to producing content (music, art, books, etc) have all but disappeared. Schools should be helping students develop better skills at critically evaluating information and using it in responsible ways. But many schools cloister students behind internet filters. And instead of finding innovative ways to take advantage of the student’s personal smart phone, they ban them. “Susie put your iTouch away and please focus your attention on the output from our classroom’s expensive new wireless document camera.”

Other related article and discussion about how education should do in this information explosion and internet-networked age : What Happens in Schools When Life Has become an Open-book Test? In these discussion, we resonate with the challenge to traditional ideas such as our students need to “learn the basics (so they need to sit still in classrooms and listen to teachers) – then solve the problem,” that’s not how life always works. Most often we are confronted with problems that force us to go back and discover underlying foundational elements. Very much the content we learned in school is never used afterward in real world, but what matters is the mindset and skills to solve problems or create something.

peter pappas, education

Peter Pappas had been a teacher for 25 years, for over 20 years he has worked with school districts, state DOEs, leading educational organizations and companies to improve the quality of teaching and learning. He constantly blogs about topics range from commentaries on teaching and learning issues, educational tools, pedagogy strategy, to updating techie stuffs.

He is good at using pictures to deliver message, an interesting example is iPad 2 – A Triumph of Capitalism Over Communism.

Some other good articles are like:

– sharing experience in using technology tools :

How to Use Web 2.0 to Teach Literacy Strategies to Struggling Readers

3 Ways to Use Social Media to Crowdsource and Blog a Conference Backchannel

– on pedagogy :

Work, Culture and Society in Industrial America: Teaching History With DBQs

Watch Problem Based Learning in Action: Apollo 13

– on teacher’s PD : Lesson Study : Teacher-Led PD that works

– to pinpoints current issues in education with provoking thought and information:

The Inconvenient Truth About Textbooks

Curriculum for Excellence – Educational Policy That Values Students and Trusts Teachers


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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