Jeff Yearout, Ed Tech
, sent me a link to this article in the Wichita Eagle. Although the
article is framed around the concept that we’re losing our boys, it seems pretty
clear to me that the real issue is engagement.

As the article states, both boys and girls believe that much of what is
occurring in their classrooms is tediously boring and/or irrelevant to their
current and future lives. Are boys more likely than girls to withdraw from or
rebel against unengaging, seemingly-irrelevant course content? Are girls more
likely than boys to sublimate their desires to do the same? I don’t know.
Someone better-versed in school psychology and/or sociology will have to answer
those questions. But I do know this:

If schools (and universities) want to be relevant to today’s youth, they are
going to have to find ways to become more engaging in order to compete with the
interactive, individualizing, empowering technologies that adolescents are using
out of school.

As educators, we are in a battle for eyes, ears, and brainwaves. So far many
of us are losing (and, as a result, so are our students).

5 Responses to “Engagement”

  1. I have been worried about this for quite some time. I see the boys in class that are reluctant to participate iwth paper, get right to it with a computer based assignment. Sometimes it nearly takes my breath away to see a student that produces close to nothing in the classroom and is a self-directed learner, on task in the computer lab. I have been trying to find that balance and crossover that will allow for students to all find success and engagement.

  2. Scott,

    This should be a concern for all of us. As schools have changed over the last few decades, boys have become less and less engaged. We offer very little for them from their perspective. Being an administrator, I am concerned that we need to find different things to do for them. I don’t have any answers. I know that engaging them is difficult but some of the new tools could help us in doing that better than we are right now.

  3. It’s hard to argue with some sort of systemic change here. (Tech always seems to light up the Y chromosome.) This speaks larger, I think, to the shifting qualifications for teachers. All of my students, irrespective of gender, are accustomed to more and quicker stimulus These Days. As much as the idea of entertaining our classes seems degrading, there isn’t anything degrading about keeping transitions between activities fast, about broadening the range of activities, or about maintaining a more energetic pace from the front.

    It’s a weird situation we’re in, true. You School 2.0 gurus are making admirable progress on the systemic front, but, until we’re out of beta on that, I can only polish and re-polish those three facets up there.

  4. Usually my first question to myself when the kids are squirrelly–how did I structure things, so that they got so off-task?

    I want to not dissent but take a different tack on the engagement of boys vs. others. I find that some of my quieter students find their voice with these technologies. In particular, some of my speech students and quiet immigrant girls are stepping up to the plate with podcasting. In some cases, it’s because they have a script, but with the speech kids they are talking more even in discussions. I think this is also a great tool for the ELDs and other language challenged students.

    Okay, coming down off soapbox.

  5. Yes, it is COMPLETELY about engagement. Technology is one of those ways to engage and likely very effective with boys (and others), but ultimately, it is about good teaching as Dan suggests.

    Engaging kids is about good questionning and relevant content and effective presentation. These are not just web 2.0 ideas, these are the fundamentals of good pedagogy.

    So how do we get this to the teaching masses, because a lot of them AREN’T reading blogs?

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