Educational evolution: out of extinction...
As a teacher, I sometimes feel like I’m spinning my proverbial wheels. And I must not be alone because a colleague recently said, “I could be naked up there” referring hyperbolically to the lengths necessary to get our high school students’ attention.
While I run frantically through the halls of my school from photocopier to chalkboard, cutting, pasting, organizing, distributing, instructing, collecting, grading, recording, redistributing and reviewing, my students are comfortably slouched in their seats socializing.
I worry our high schools can be collectively characterized by disengagement, and, more to the point: academic disengagement. To be sure, social accommodations are plentiful: from sports and clubs to dances and trips. So please know, I’m not concerned about that holistic student we often refer to in reformatory discussion.
I want to talk about the brain and what we know about learning. Specifically, how can we engage our students? The easy argument might seem to be that kids these days don’t really want to learn. In fact, that’s been suggested in some informal discussions. But I know that not to be true, because we are all natural learners. At least that is the premise of Brain-Based learning, popularized by researcher Eric Jensen.
If we look around our school environments, we might find that students are engaged and learning, almost in spite of our efforts, in ways we don’t fully understand. More often than not what engages them is technology, which represents a major gap in public education; many school policies ban the very interfaces to which our students are drawn.
I am not a techie; I grew up on PacMan and Adventure on The Oregon Trail, moving a blinking cursor across linear screen paths for entertainment. The first cell phone I remember was hardly mobile as it was attached to a brief case. I was in college when I first got on the Internet or sent an email. My willingness to explore technology for education originates with a desire to fully engage the modern student.
I'm going to start exploring the technology my students choose, rather than the products created for teachers. Please join me as I navigate through the beeping, blinking, flashing, ringing, singing, buzzing world of a teenager's technology. [And yes, 'beeping' might just have a double meaning.]