Hating school, loving learning

 

Nevertheless, the point about disengagement of students is one with which most educators would not argue. Wesch entertains the idea of ‘play’ as opposed to dull routine and meaningless tasks.

Perhaps the word “play” is imperfect. I could say that in school, they should be invigorated or engaged or even inspired. But whatever the word, the idea is to create a stimulating environment were the learning comes natural and not forced, where the desire to learn is created first. Then, the labor of learning is a labor of love.

Technology is what students of today play with. As many advocators of 21st century learning suggest, technology plays a large part in the new vision of education. But technology is also the thorn in the side of a large number of teachers. Although we use the language – ‘integration of technology into learning’ – not many of us have actually taken this seriously.  Managing technology in the classroom is often seen as asking for more problems. Wesch is clear about the role of technology in his classroom:

Texting, web-surfing, and iPods are just new versions of passing notes in class, reading novels under the desk, and surreptitiously listening to Walkmans. They are not the problem. They are just the new forms in which we see it. Fortunately, they allow us to see the problem in a new way, and more clearly than ever, if we are willing to pay attention to what they are really saying.

What are they saying? I think they’re saying that they’re bored, that their tasks are not relevant, that their projects are not engaging, that they’re sick of being passive recipients of content over which they have no control. When they turn to texting or web-surfing, they’re getting out of the classroom, they’re reaching out into the world.

Wesch explains this problem: 

And that’s what has been wrong all along. Some time ago we started taking our walls too seriously – not just the walls of our classrooms, but also the metaphorical walls that we have constructed around our “subjects,” “disciplines,” and “courses.”

When I was in primary school,  I had a strong sense of where I belonged. I belonged only with kids who were born within 12 months of my birthday.  I was afraid of those a year ahead of me who belonged to an entirely differentand superior group, one that I wasn’t to have anything to do with.  If I had known what learning took place in the older years, I would have wanted to be there, but I learned to sit and wait during reading classes, as students took turns to labour over stories in our reader, stories I had already read early in the year. There was no wider reading, there was no skipping ahead, we all had to be open to the same page, doing nothing but daydreaming. The reader was all we had for the entire year. And so would the next class the following year. Of course, now things have changed a great deal. Now we have many more reading choices, and in some cases primary students can choose to read library books instead of readers from the box. 

But I’m not sure that things have changed as much as we think. We still teach from textbooks. We’re not all consistently planning scaffolded inquiry-based projects which ask rich questions. We’re not experimenting enough ourselves with technological applications and seeing educational possibilities. We’re still proud of research assignments that supposedly encourage independent learning, assignments which leave our students to google incompetently, to copy and paste, to present superficial findings, to lose interest, to just get the thing done, hand it in and sigh with relief.

Wesch is clear about the solution:

Fortunately, the solution is simple. We don’t have to tear the walls down. We just have to stop pretending that the walls separate us from the world, and begin working with students in the pursuit of answers to real and relevant questions.

He says we need to acknowledge the shift in learning based on information being everywhere. What we should do is let go of ‘the sage on the stage’.

When we do that we can stop denying the fact that we are enveloped in a cloud of ubiquitous digital information where the nature and dynamics of knowledge have shifted. In the process, we allow students to develop much-needed skills in navigating and harnessing this new media environment, including the wisdom to know when to turn it off. When students are engaged in projects that are meaningful and important to them, and that make them feel meaningful and important, they will enthusiastically turn off their cellphones and laptops to grapple with the most difficult texts and take on the most rigorous tasks.

Something is not right in the state of education. Wesch, to finish off:

And there’s the rub. We love learning. We hate school. What’s worse is that many of us hate school because we love learning.

It doesn’t have to be this way… 

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7 Comments

Filed under Education, play, Web 2.0

7 responses to “Hating school, loving learning

  1. You raise really great points there. Fisrt of all thank you for sharing your thoughts and the links to other equally thought provoking ideas.

    I went through school thinking I was never smart enough although I always got good grades. The problem was that I developed this capacity of “guessing test questions” I studied for the questions. I memorized answers. I did homework because it was part of the assessment criteria – because the rules told me to – not because I liked to.
    By the end of the test , I would forget those answers and go focused on memorizing the next set of questions and answers. I felt a fake. I hated test season with a passion (it stole my time for creativity and pen friend letter writing activity – from whom I developed my taste and learning of foreign languages, cultural differences and any thing that was related with other countries.) However, I had good grades, but I didn’t feel I deserved them. I never felt I had learned anything, that I would ever be able to materialized what I had memorized in a given discipline. But no one cared – what mattered were the grades and the fact that I would go from year to year without getting stuck in the same grade. My family was happy. My teachers too. I was not a problem according to the school system.
    I always liked learning – but I had to relate to it and more than anything else, I had to relate to the environment. School is not an environment – it is just a set of rules – and the more subtle you are to try to get by, the smart you are thought to be. But pursing “smartness” is different from developing intelligence – and that is what schooling is failing to achieve! And this problem is deeper than the issue of implementing technology in the classroom. A classroom is a classroom – teachers’ territory. What we need is to get technology be involved (embedded) in an environment where reality learning can occur.

    And that takes more than a set of tools and machines. It takes above all people willing to make the difference and a dramatic change in policy and curriculum. I didn’t learn my first language by memorizing group of words – I acquired language by relating to it (by touching the objects, by asking what it meant as those words appeared to me –in real context). I learned more about 20th century national history from the stories my grandparents and relatives told in cold evenings around the fire place than I did from timed classes, in which names and dates were ‘spit’ at me for memorization purposes ‘…because these are important and can come up in the test’.
    What is needed is more reality learning, and environments, not classroom or 50’ classes divided into subjects, in which learning is a consequence of experiencing with reality.
    It is high timed we stop preparing people for exams and help them cope with real life. Technology might, will help, make that connection, because the truth is that the society is already embedded in the technological (r)evolution. Has everybody has already noticed that, except schooling! Strange, inst it? Especially when schooling should epitomize vision, innovation and future.

  2. Pingback: Learning Journey » Blog Archive » Why we hate school?

  3. Thanks, Christina for your thoughts. I know exactly what you mean about getting good marks but not feeling as if I really know anything. That doesn’t work in life, and once you need to function in life, you really learn those things. But how much time is wasted filling in time and worksheets, just following what’s prescribed, without really getting into deep and relevant learning? Yes, schools are denying where the world already is with technology, but not just technology, but the sharing and publishing of information globally. Great points and passionately expressed, Christina.

  4. I really enjoyed this post & meant to leave a comment earlier but it’s been a hectic week. One thing I managed to accomplish in the past week was attend Mike Wesch’s presentation on Web 2.0 teaching tools at K-State. We are so fortunate to have him on our faculty and I’ve learned a ton from him that I’m only beginning to implement in my own classes.

    We have individualized education plans for kids with “special needs” but when will the IEP become the norm for every kid? In truth, every kid is different and learns in a different way. We have standardized lesson plans because of their efficiencies.

    Somehow, we are going to have to develop better methods of customizing education for individual students without creating a huge increase in the workload for educators. A technological solution to this dilemma seems appropriate, but I’m not sure what is currently available.

  5. Nice of you to drop in again, Bill. What stood out about Mike Wesch’s presentation?
    Yes, you’re right about every student needing individualised learning, and surely this can be done with less prescriptive tasks and more choice. Let them go with what they’re interested in and driving themselves, and they’ll learn along the way. Don’t you think?

  6. kinderblogger

    I think this was a great blog. I have always enjoyed learning, from a very young age. When I am not learning something new and something I am interested in I tend to get bored. I can see this with many of our students. I am fortunate to work with kindergarten students, they are still excited about coming to school. However, I see it in the faces of the older students…not another test, etc…

  7. Yes, but I’m hoping that somehow it’s possible to re-awaken that kindergarten student in the high school student!

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