The importance of practice in learning


It was a very inspiring first Face to Face in my new role at Cohort21 with people who have so many different skills, abilities and experiences. Reflecting on my first year, I remember the day being exhausting and mind-blowing all at once. It was a very similar take away, and so inspiring to be around people who are so motivated to be better… not for themselves, but for their students. These people are agents of change and have taken onto themselves to help change the educational landscape so students are better prepared for the world to which they will belong and contribute to. You could not have asked for a higher percentage of people with a growth mindset in one room. See how Celeste is applying the concepts of growth mindsets in her student learning conferences.

We as educators are in the business of teaching, but the definition has changed significantly over the last decade. The goal of optimizing and maximizing student achievement is pushing educators to do amazing things but at the heart of it all is the student’s prior knowledge and experience.

As a facilitator, I had the opportunity to work with Cohort 21 Coach Brent Hurley in facilitating the session on Diigo – “a multi-tool for knowledge management” as per its website, that allows the user to share articles with others around a wide variety of topics.

We offered the session 4 times with different groups and based on the experience of the users we continually modified our approach. The sessions were a series of tightly packed 30 minutes of brain-busting learning. We started with an assessment of prior knowledge and use, and were pleased to find some who were using it. Explaining the “Why” behind the use of Diigo for personal growth and using it with students took valuable time but was important to show the value of this powerful tool.

And then came the practice … with a wide range of abilities on the edtech front, Brent and I were running to show how to use the tool, and to have people practice using the tool with a resources they thought would benefit the group. At first, we thought it best to be open to any resource, but for the next session we added Edudemic and Edutopia so people could find a quick article related to 21st Century Learning to share via our Cohort21 Diigo group. By the 4th session, we felt that we’d hit our groove and that we’d ironed out the wrinkles that were obstacles to effective learning. But still something was missing…

Practice and learning

The big takeaway on this day was a reinforcement that practice is so vital in the learning process. I had the chance to practice a presentation before arriving to the Face to Face, and 4 times after that. I am positive that those in my first session got less from our first session than those in our 4th. Having more practice time on the user end would have enriched the experience, and students could have been benefiting from Diigo in their courses already.

It made me think about the vast curriculum that we are charged with exploring with students, and I wonder… do we give students enough time to practice? With practice comes feedback, and not always in the form of a teacher’s comments. We receive feedback from our students in real-time, or through the use of an Exit Ticket, but are we listening? Are we making changes to to our approach as a result, or are we trudging on with the course material? My hope is that we are.

I know that for the most part, we did not achieve our goal of sharing a resource with the group. Had I used an Exit Ticket with the Diigo session, it could have informed my Google Hangout on Diigo coming up. It’s something I do daily with students, but in my new role, feeling a little nervous in front of a group of educational rockstars, it’s funny what one can forget.

3 Replies to “The importance of practice in learning”

  1. Hi Derek. Your post hits on something important for me. It is always so impactful to have an experience that mirrors what we ask our students to do. I had a similar experience when writing my first C21 blog post. It made me think carefully about asking my kids to write for larger audiences and what ‘safety nets’ I might put in place for them. I think it is very valuable that you recognize this connection between your own practice and your students’ experience.

    On a separate note, I consider myself a decent hand at Diigo. I’ve been using it for almost two years now, and I still walked away from your presentation with something new for my toolkit. The idea of establishing a classroom vocabulary or ‘bank’ of tags was something I had not yet considered and it made so much sense! So here’s your exit ticket from me. 🙂

  2. Derek, the image of teacher that you are sharing with this post is really inspiring! We teachers are not so much the ‘experts’ when it comes to content, but more the experts when it comes to knowing how we learn, and sharing your notion that “practice makes better” is really so important for your students to hear and see in action!

  3. Yeah Derek Doucet, I suppose practice is important. But, as you’ve shown, not quite as important as critical reflection, keen observation and a willingness (determination even) to adjust/refine/revamp.

    I think it’s a pretty important picture you painted: cast in the role of expert with clear content to deliver, against the confines and stress of the clock. I think those are circumstances (obstacles?) we often face – too often self-induced I fear – and the experience is easily characterized by frustration. Pretty awesome that you made it about learning.
    You rock my socks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *