One of the tough things about being a “teacher” these days is giving up the “sage on the stage” role. It’s so easy to be the expert when students are struggling. Our first instinct is to just tell students the “answer” or how to do something or how to fix something. We do it because we are helpful . . . but are we really helping them to learn and to figure stuff out on their own?
They tell us to be the “guide on the side” now. To get students to learn from each other. So how do we do that? How do we get students to teach students?
One way is to use the technology that’s at our fingertips. For example, I had students creating Google Sites for digital portfolios. I made a model* for them, a portfolio by my dog Carmelo (they love my stories of Carmelo struggling to type and use a mouse with his paws) and gave them the assignment.
But I anticipated the dreaded questions: How do I do this? How do I do that?
Making it Easy for Kids to Help Each Other
See, I believe that people learn better by trying and trying again rather than asking. By writing and rewriting. By reading and rereading. So I want my kids to click things and try things and prototype everything and tear it all down and start over until they figure out how to do it. My kids, however, are trained (trained very well) to get the teacher to tell them how to do it when they hit the smallest frustration. And we teachers are trained (also trained very well) to just give them the answer. We are more than happy to just do it for them.
I’ve spent years making packets with step-by-step instructions and screenshots and numbered lists, and and I’ve spent way too much time saying things like, “it says right here to click on the edit drop-down menu and choose select all.” And then I go on and say the same thing to the next student. And the next. And then we go through it all again on the next project.
Then it hit me the other day. Like 2 minutes before class. I threw together a Google Doc called “How Do I?” and added it to the portfolio assignment in Google Classroom. I set it so that everyone could edit it. I projected the doc on the whiteboard and put a buzzer on the front table. Then I told my kids to type in questions when they got stuck. And then another student who knows the “answer” can buzz the buzzer and tell the class what to do.
Worked like a charm.
As you can see, they started bypassing the buzzer by just answering questions right in the doc. Bypassing the buzzer. Bypassing me.
Teaching each other.
*Here’s the link to “Carmelo’s” portfolio template: https://sites.google.com/scvths.net/carmelomportfolio