Thanks to a tip off from Paul Miller (on the Xiphos blog) I came across the latest missive from Michael Wesch, he of YouTube fame(!), on the Brittanica blog. Titled ‘A Vision of Students Today (& What Teachers Must Do)‘ there is alot I agree with and support but there was a particular section that really struck a chord with me.
“..a long list of other activities students have learned that they can “get by” without doing. Studying, taking notes, reading the textbook, and coming to class topped the list. It wasn’t the list that impressed me. It was the unquestioned assumption that “getting by” is the name of the game.”
My time in education from about the age of 15 til I left university at 22 was pretty much all about ‘getting by’. I soon discovered what was the bare minimum I needed to do to get along (and it was pretty minimal it has to be said!) and devoted the majority of my time to my social life – looking back, particularly at uni, most of the real lessons I learned were more of a personal nature (and often alcohol related!) than academic. This was before iPods, wifi – or even much internet connectivity at all. Finding ways to ignore lecturers even if you do turn up to class has never had much to do with technology – I often used an early morning Archaeology lecture to catch up on my Zzz’s!
The thing is even back then I was pretty passionate about learning and was always seeking new information out, reading and visiting libraries – I just found the traditional lecture format pretty uninspiring. Like the teachers referred to in the article I love learning but for the most part had little time for school. These days my life is all about learning – my job is focused on it but beyond that there is so much information just a few key strokes away that I find every mild moment of curiosity leads me down a path of new discoveries – yet I am still not comfortable in any kind of traditional teaching scenario (as I proved to myself in a recent 2 day course that I found frustrating beyond words despite a genuine interest in the topic).
In the 12 years since I graduated the world has moved on in leaps and bounds and like Wesch says “there is literally something in the air, and it is nothing less than the digital artifacts of over one billion people and computers networked together collectively producing over 2,000 gigabytes of new information per second.” Trying to act like this hasn’t happened simply isn’t going to succeed – but then neither is the idea that technology alone is the answer.
I firmly believe the role of the (good) teacher is still vital but that if school is going to be the place that inspires learning things need to change – and its for more clever folks than me to decide how but it seem important that this is addressed now rather than later.