“Just jump in the deep end!” – Worst Advice Ever!

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SwimmingThere’s a reason I started to take my then three-year-old son to swimming lessons.

It’s because, left unattended, he would have – most likely – jumped in the deep end without the pre-requisite skills to live to tell the story. Neither he or his mum were too keen on that scenario. Hence the weekly lessons.

Just jumping in the deep end is a curious idiom. I can only assume it originated from swimming, but that would seem to suggest that someone did, at some point, believe this was the best way to learn.

Obviously it’s not, yet I see this advice – virtually on a daily basis – given to teachers who are new to #edtech, or for those of you not versed in Twitterese, Educational Technology.

By the way, this is a great video about hashtags! – Seriously, watch it.

Let’s think back to the pool.

You can’t swim, you get told to jump – or perhaps you are pushed – into the deep end. First thought?

OK, well after that one… your next thought is survival. You struggle, splash, kick without rhythm,  inhale water. Iyou make it back to the side, you’re unlikely to want to jump back in too quickly. Even less so if you have to be scooped out by a teenage lifeguard.

And what would you have learned during that time in/under water? The correct technique for the dolphin kick? A bit of bilateral breathing perhaps? Unlikely.

But what if, instead of being thrown in the deep end, you were encouraged to dip your toe. What if the coach got in the water with you? What if the coach guided you over a period of weeks, until such a point that you felt comfortable to jump in the deep end?

And then over time you were coached to further develop your techniques.

Of course that’s a better model. Not only for learning how to swim, but learning in general.

I’m pleased to say that my son’s swimming coach took that approach with him, so now as a 5 year-old, when he jumps into the deep end, my first thought isn’t to dive in after him, unless it’s a race of course. (No better way to teach him resilience that whoop him in a freestyle race every now and then!) 😉

It’s easy for us to tell people to just jump in as there’s no responsibility on our part. No accountability. No follow through. People either sink or swim – and if they sink, well perhaps it’s time they got out of the game altogether… 21st Century Education and all that…

Of course I’m not saying that people shouldn’t want to learn something new. Especially teachers. One of my favourite quotes from George Couros is:

If you’re done learning then you’re done teaching.

But we must realise that if people are hesitant with #edtech (or anything else that may be the flavour of the month in your school) they’ve probably got some very real reasons for that. Blinding them with all the benefits of using it will do little to sway them. Ripping through a staff meeting clicking and flashing multiple browser windows whilst speaking a language they barely understand will also be a waste of most people’s time, including yours.

You’ll only need a couple of sessions like this to lose them completely.

Let’s be more like good swimming coaches and less like scary old-school PE teachers.

Create a shallow end for learning, and rather than telling people to, just jump in the deep end, perhaps we can encourage people to just go a bit further towards the deep end. And let them know you’ll be there as and when they need you.

0 Comments on ““Just jump in the deep end!” – Worst Advice Ever!

  1. Great post. Another option is to let teachers choose whether they want to start at the shallow end or the deep end. Some like to just get into it and explore themselves while others like to be taken step by step.

  2. We can also let teachers choose whether they want to start at the deep end or the shallow end. Some teachers prefer to be briefly shown something and then spending time themselves exploring it and testing it out in the classroom with their students while other teachers like to be taken step by step.

    • Thanks Alice! Really appreciate the comments. Love the idea of giving teachers some autonomy (choice) in how they learn. We talk about it all the time for kids, but often neglect the teachers!
      Cheers, again!

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