Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Conscience-based Teaching

I have been reflecting on the Apple Bus Tour I went on a couple of weeks ago. I have to say that beyond the innovative use of digital technology that we saw being implemented creatively in so many schools, what has impressed me and stayed with me the most has been the level of commitment shown to the learners in the schools we visited.

I remember in my first year of teaching in Christchurch having a conversation with a colleague about planning and the amount of time we put in to it. He said that he didn’t mind the time consuming nature of teaching because “teaching really is a job that is worth doing well.” It’s something we need reminding of from time to time, when we are feeling it is just a job, or feeling resentful of the long hours, or feeling the beginnings of a cynicism that will be tempted to uncritically download unit plans from the internet and take other shortcuts. But teaching really is a job that is worth doing well. The time we put in bears fruit, in ways that we do not always see, but sometimes are often privileged to see in amazing ways.

The uses of technology we saw in the schools we visited were far from being shortcuts. It was clear that hours and hours, often years, of deep thought, experimentation, trial and error, reflection and genuine concern for learning were behind the innovations. Not shortcuts, but a vision of the powerful potential of technology to leverage the learning possible and improve the lives and futures of students.

One of the most powerful demonstrations of this that we saw on the Apple Bus Tour was the incredible things happening at Point England School in Auckland. Anyone who has visited the school or followed Dorothy Burt on the Manaiakalani blog will know exactly what I’m talking about.  There seems to be such a high level of integration, on so many different levels: Integration of the school culture into the atmosphere of each class; integration of pedagogy and technology; integration of hard data into living learning goals; integration of multimodal forms of expression, embracing non-print literacy without letting go of the fundamental importance of being able to read and write. The Literacy Cycle they have developed is certainly something I want to explore further in my own teaching.

I wonder how many other people experience what I have come to call the ‘teacher’s conscience’. In other words, I know when I’m taking shortcuts, winging it a bit, trying something new for novelty’s sake - and it doesn’t feel quite right. I know when there is more icing than cake. 

On the other hand, I also know how good it can feel when all the pieces are in place (in as much as they can be in teaching), when the pedagogy is there, the learning goals and processes are well thought through, attention is giving to individual learning needs, and I can see the progress being made. My ‘teacher’s conscience’ says “Yes!” Perhaps there's a new pedagogy there: Conscience-based Teaching...

But I can’t get there without an investment of my time. Seeing what I have seen on the tour has reminded me that it is worth the investment we make in our learners. Yes, there are new things to try, tools to use, but actually the Apple Bus Tour has sent me back to basics - pedagogy. planning for learning, assessing effectively. Yes time consuming, but it is a job worth doing well.


  1. The Apple Bus Tour provides an opportunity to get a vision of where to go - the journey there takes time and effort. The short cuts we can take are often long cuts in the end!

    So enjoyed reading your reflections Craig!

  2. This is a great post, Graig. I was having exactly the same type of conversation with a couple of teachers yesterday. Its kind of comforting knowing that others are also thinking through the same kinds of issues.