I have experienced it many times yet I am still amazed by the willingness of students to share information online they would not divulge in person. Through a private chatroom, messaging or a similar (private) medium, I have found out things I simply would not be privy to otherwise.
The main reason for it is pretty obvious: students feel safe and comfortable there. The power relationship is leveled, there are no raised or hushed voices, everything is recordable (no “teacher’s word against student’s”), trust is open, implicit and mutual, students are comfortable with the medium, they have time to consider, change, delete what they say… in short a differently powerful way of communicating that can be very effective and empowering for students and teachers alike. Oh yes, we ‘dislike’ or ‘ban’ that sort of stuff at schools around the country…
During a brief private chat with one of my students today, an old idea sprang forth. The idea isn’t exactly about technology but the priorities we (learn to) assign and value.
Since the 1950’s Bloom’s taxonomy has been widely quoted in edu-circles. The pyramidical, cognitive domain (do you know the other two Bloom wrote about?) has been a particularly prominent marker in deciding what goes on in classrooms. Lately, the original cognitive canon of “remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate, create” has even been revised to its ‘21 century’ digital incarnation and increasingly used by a range of people from parents, teachers, administrators to computer sellers.
But here is another one of those pyramids that came out about a decade before Bloom. Created by Abraham Maslow, the pyramid shows the hierarchy of human needs . Basic needs like food, shelter, water etc on the bottom, creativity, problem-solving and other, ‘higher order’ needs much touted by the digital peddlers like me at the top. If you haven’t come across it here is the classic diagram.
Now, this isn’t rocket science. If a kid is hungry, feels threatened, unsafe, not well, insecure or lacking to satisfy any of those needs towards the bottom, he or she might but is not very likely going to scale the heights of Bloom, no matter what you do or what shining resources you throw at them.
But unless we ask and/or observe carefully we might actually miss those signs. We push ‘Bloom’ and so often forget or take ‘Maslow’ for granted. Maslow ain’t digital either but digital tools can help, a lot.
I sent out a tweet last night with a link and a question about this. One reply (thanks Colin, @cytochromec ) was particularly poignant:
I had a prof who discusses pyramid on the first day. Only teacher who openly inquired if we were safe/healthy/fed/housed
“Only teacher”! Will you be that teacher or will you just go ahead and try to educate their head (often in vain)?
Yes sure, Maslow had his fair share of critics too but (just like Bloom) his ideas are still useful as a rough guide. It is not a gospel but can be a good daily reminder about what comes first.
Have a good day at school tomorrow.