Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The One With Knowledge Workers #slice2014


Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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We've gotten to a point in education where students seated in rows while a teacher delivers information is no longer best practice. Instead, teachers are charged to facilitate students' thinking as they discover and learn. One of my favorite quotes is from Will Richardson. He says, "The teacher is not the smartest person in the room anymore if you have an Internet connection." It's so true! We have to think about this huge shift in education but especially if we move towards standards-based instruction. What students can do with the information they are given is more important than memorizing information. 

On my desk, I have a sticky note with the words, "Teacher as knowledge worker" written on it. I came across the idea of a knowledge worker recently and the term struck me. Wikipedia defines a knowledge worker as someone who "thinks for a living". It defines knowledge work as, "'non-routine' problem solving that requires a combination of convergent, divergent, and creative thinking." Doesn't that describe a teacher pretty well? We are constantly teaching, assessing and making decisions about refining teaching to best support students. Actually, teachers are more than knowledge workers. We don't just think for a living, we help support students as knowledge workers.
In my current position, I definitely see myself as a knowledge worker, doing as much as possible to support teachers in classrooms and integrating technology in a thoughtful way. Much of my time is spent thinking about how to best help teachers embrace technology in instruction. I find myself prefacing interactions with teachers or other staff members by declaring that I love and attempt to live a growth mindset when it comes to technology. There is just no way any one person can know absolutely everything there is to know about technology. After that, it's about helping teachers focus on their goals or outcomes for a lesson and then thinking how technology might help them get there. The focus is on impactful instruction that gives students the opportunity to be knowledge workers thanks to technology. Here's a Business Week article from January of 2011 where they talk about knowledge workers in business. What similarities do you notice about how knowledge workers exist in business and how we might encourage knowledge workers in classrooms? 

If you haven't seen Sugata Mitra's Ted Talk, Build a School in a the Cloud yet, I hope you watch it and feel compelled to share it with others. It's amazing. I love it particularly because he articulates just why we need to see ourselves and our students as knowledge workers.
Going back to the shift from delivering instruction to students to now facilitating students' thinking as they discover information, the trick is definitely redefining the role of the student in education. In the Business Week article, they refer to a command-and-control approach as being out of date. It's the same in education as we can see from Sugata Mitra's thought-provoking Ted Talk. 

Every time I sit down at my desk, I spot that sticky note with the words, "Teacher as knowledge worker" and it makes me so proud. It's pretty awesome to do work that lets me truly think, use my creativity and collaborate with others. I know that I hope to encourage other teachers to be knowledge workers and to give students opportunities to be knowledge workers. How have you been a knowledge worker recently? How have you helped your students be knowledge workers recently? I would love to hear your perspectives on this!

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