The student is the teacher and vice versa

“What are you waiting for? There are teachers in here who need your help!”

I hurried the students in. It was after school – most students were heading home or hanging out with their friends, but these 8th graders were sticking around to do a little extra work …teaching teachers.

For the MIT class “Learning Creative Learning,” we have to create a Scratch program about something that we do. There wasn’t a lot of detailed expectations – the point was to learn something about the program and create something. Some of our teachers who were taking this online course had no experience with Scratch, so we planned to give them some training. Rather than run a workshop with other teachers showing them how to work the controls, however, we decided it would be best if we dragooned some of the Middle School students who are taking the basic Computer Science elective for 6-8th grades. We’d have them show teachers how to use the software, raise their stature in the community, and help out the teachers.

The teachers came in one by one. They were tired – it had been a long week, with a lot of things going on. This was at the end of the day – not really the best time for teachers to start learning something new. Nevertheless, in they came. The students all sat down with the teachers, typically working one-on-one. They asked about the teachers’ assignment and showed them how to add sprites, import pictures, add sounds, and build scripts to animate the sprites. Everyone worked at different speeds and levels: some had worked with Scratch a little bit before while others were complete beginners. Nobody was an expert. The students worked patiently with the teachers, helping them when they got frustrated or lost.

Apart from the obvious purpose of helping our group get skilled enough with Scratch to start working on their assignment, we hoped to do a few things with the students and teachers. By reversing their roles, we hoped to show both teachers and students that they each have a lot to learn from each other and much to teach each other. Too often students are put in the passive role of receiving information and instruction from adults. By switching this around we hoped to show them – and teachers – that they can be active creators of information and learning. We also hoped that the students would gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the challenges of teaching. By having to deal with tired adults who are new to a system they’re familiar with, the students would see better what their own teachers sometimes have to deal with!

By the end of the hour, the teachers were moving along quite well. All had enough basic skills to work with the program, and some were well on their way to completing their assignment. The students came away with the knowledge that sometimes students know more than teachers!


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