GarROTE Learning

Have you ever noticed that when you're doing something new or for the first time, that it seems to take forever? And, that the memories of those first efforts are richer in detail than when repeated actions have made that first effort, automatic, even boring?

Growing middle-aged, as my daughter points out to me, I find myself questioning my "automatic" acts. Why do I do something in this way? Is it because I'm comfortable with it or because it's the best way to accomplish it? Have I allowed my brain to "check out" simply so I can reduce the stress of learning anew what once was old?

Our brains get more efficient as we do things. Our brain function improves as we learn something, then move onto the next. If we dwell on the same activity--say, how to use an online system like Moodle, Edmodo, Schoology, an iPad app--then our cortical energy decreases as our brain gets more efficient (Source: 5 Ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential). 

In these complementary blog entries, Ryan Bretag and Doug Johnson, explore standardization of digital tools in schools. Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson shares this perspective:
I also believe standardization has a genuine benefit to our students. How much time would students spend learning to use a different LMS operations instead of learning content area skills? If one's 3rd grade teacher used Moodle and the 4th grade teacher now uses Edmodo, is time wasted learning how to do a similar task in two systems? If the English teacher likes GoogleSites, the science teacher prefers Wikispaces, and the social studies teacher uses who-knows-what, are students spending needless energy figuring this all out? Students do move between teachers, between grades, and between schools in our district.
Yet I personally do not like to be dictated to on which systems I use. (I use Dropbox and Evernote despite them not being "official" school adoptoins.) I do believe in teacher autonomy. And I know some systems offer features that I can use to good advantage as a teacher that others may not.
In my own experience, I've found it foolish to constrain learners and teachers to one set of standardized tools. Freedom to choose is essential to a learner's success, and having been in the position to "mandate" what others should do, I've found it a poor substitute for innate enthusiasm.

As a result, my strategy is to recommend certain tools as the ones that the organization can support since resources are scarce (e.g. staff, time, money). However, invite individuals who would like to use something different to step up and share what, and how, they are using different tools. By doing so, one avoids being locked into any one solution...or, more importantly, locking someone else into a cage.

If I mandate Moodle, garrote non-Googlers, enforce Edmodo, subdue into Schoology, I have done little to enhance teaching and learning. If a rich ecology of choices exists, decided upon by learners keen on exploring new ways to interact with each other, then students will experience school as what life must be--uncommon tools blended into endless possibilities.

A happy medium is to use Google Sites as an LMS, blending in other tools like Edmodo as needed. Explore this in more detail here.

Check out Miguel's Workshop Materials online at

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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