Six things my students have taught me

Koen Timmers

Educator - Author - Keynote speaker - Global Teacher Prize 2017 and 2018 finalist

This is part of a blog-series me and my five co-authors from “Teaching in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: standing at the precipice” have written for


Benefits and drawbacks of social media in education

The first time I was confronted with a student checking out facts I was teaching on Twitter, I was mad and frustrated. When he told me his professional network claimed I was wrong I wanted to ask our school’s administrator to close down social media on our campus. It’s still a taboo for teachers to be wrong or not to know the answer to one of their student’s questions. I learned from that student that we need to point them in the right direction. Also we need to teach our students how to properly use smartphones, social media and how to handle with privacy and fake news. Every new technology comes with benefits and drawbacks but that doesn’t mean we have to avoid using them in our classrooms.


Instilling empathy into global classrooms

When people leave teacher training they are used to focus on knowledge acquisition and assessment. While launching global educational projects I noticed the importance of talking about real world problems and instilling empathy into our classrooms. What’s better than learning about global issues directly from students living in those countries?

Teaching ICT using meaningful real world topics

During the past 15 years I understood we don’t have to teach our students every single feature in ICT tools. I’m not a fan of a subject like computer science anymore. I discovered students learn to use some ICT tools spontaneously while using their computer to explore certain meaningful topics.


Shifting from instructor to guide

I learned that teaching is more than instructing. Teaching is also coaching and mentoring students. By allowing our students sometimes to explore, brainstorm, discuss, present, create and share findings they will learn deeper and in an authentic fashion. And while building their own knowledge creativity will be promoted. This I discovered while I coordinated the Climate Action project in which students across 250 schools over 69 countries were involved.


Take your students serious

I discovered students like to express their ideas and feelings and they need to perceive that their opinion matters. While speaking a Swedish teacher, Emma, she witnessed her students really appreciated for being able to share their vision about gender equality during the Human Differences project.


Focus on learning rather than teaching

From the refugee students in the Kakuma refugee camp I discovered that although the fled from war and hunger and live in extreme poverty they still are able to be happy and they very much like learning. This made me realize we focus too much on teaching. We need to focus more on learning. People can even learn without teachers in very different ways. And not every way suits for the best in every scenario. Each subject, age of students, school, culture may require another approach and pedagogy.

by PLN Education