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Students’ New Learning Styles Offer a Model for Teachers

Few educators disagree there is a revolution happening in learning. Whether in flipped classrooms or gamified sections, students are using new tools to direct their own learning more frequently.

Steve Hargadon

Steve Hargadon

Changes in how students learn should be leading to changes in how teachers learn, says Steve Hargadon, creator of classroom 2.0 and founder of the virtual education conference group Web 2.0 Labs.

Hargadon draws an analogy to the oxygen mask in an airliner that appears if the cabin loses air pressure. Why do flight attendants direct the grown-ups to put their own air masks on before helping children with theirs?

Because kids aren’t likely to put the big scary thing on without seeing an adult wear it first, Hargadon says. Similarly, if we expect our students to learn by being self-directed and passion-fueled, he argues, we need to ask our teachers to do so, too.

How Does it Work?

“Traditionally, an administrator would say ‘we want you to be participating in this particular thing,’ ” Hargadon said. “We are used to an institutional model with a mandate. But that might not appeal to everyone’s interest and may not bring out their best.”

Just as a student could be learning how to play guitar from a YouTube video or bubbling in answers on a Scantron (which would you rather do?), teachers can use the Internet to follow their own passions and improve their skills, too.

“If I were an administrator, I would be saying ‘here is a list of thousands of educator networks, what are you interested in?’ ” he said. “Isn’t that what you want a teacher to be? A really great learner? It would be hard to ask teachers to direct self-learning if they aren’t willing to be self-learning themselves.”

Giving teachers the option to tap into virtual conferences, Twitter chats and other online groups helps them grow, takes advantage of their passions and lets them model self-directed learning.

How Administrators Can Join the Trend

Administrators become facilitators: Show me what you want to do, meet with me and tell me how to you plan to do it. Go.

“There are huge parallels for what is happening to teachers with students,” Hargadon said.

Hargadon suggests bringing together groups of teachers to discuss their self-directed, technology-enabled professional development. It’s a roundtable where they can learn from one another and lay out successes and failures.

And if administrators are going to facilitate the behavior, they’d best be willing to model it, too, by blogging, joining chats and tapping into other Web 2.0 tools.

“It’s hard to encourage these tools for students and teachers if you aren’t using them first,” Hargadon said. “If you don’t know how to build an online portfolio, do you really understand well enough what is going on?”

Rethinking Teacher Evaluations

Finally, Hargadon said, this new paradigm requires new thinking on evaluations.

Tests scores, punishments and rewards are the easy way to manage, he argues, but the best teachers do what they do because they love it — not because they care that test scores will be published or fear they might face retribution.

By tapping into teachers’ passions, administrators are giving them new ways to excel. But it also means that administrators must find new, perhaps harder, ways to judge success.

Want to learn more? Check out Hargadon’s blog at His Twitter handle is @stevehargadon. He’s also putting on a virtual conference for administrators in March. Visit



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