A taste of honey


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Imagine that, day after day, all you have to eat and drink are bread and water. When that’s all that you’ve ever had, it tastes good. Even wonderful, sometimes. 

Imagine that on one special day someone gives you a little taste of honey. Maybe a small smear on your piece of bread. From then on, of course, your normal diet never tastes as good again.

So what? Well, I think that increasingly our schools will have to recognize that…

Our kids have tasted the honey.

When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to interact and connect and collaborate with people all over the globe. If they wish, they can do this on a regular basis.

When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to learn about areas in which they’re interested and to act on issues about which they’re passionate. They get the opportunity to be creative. They can make and share videos and stories and pictures and other things and, if others see value in them, find audiences in the hundreds or thousands or even millions.

When our kids go home, they get the opportunity to be immersed in personalized, individualized learning environments. We call them ‘the Internet’ or ‘video games.’ These environments are characterized by active inquiry and – in the case of video games – continual problem-solving.

What do our kids get when they go to school?

Do they get the chance to regularly and frequently interact with diverse people from all over the planet? Nope. If they’re lucky, they might get the chance to interact with other students in their class, who like as not come from the same place and/or culture that they do.

Do they get the chance to be active content producers rather than passive information consumers? Do they get the chance to reach authentic audiences? Nope. If they’re lucky, they get to be creative every once in a while for a ‘special project’ or occasionally exhibit their work one evening at school for the local community.

Do they get the chance to experience individualized learning? Nope. Instead, they’re exposed to a mass model of education, one in which they’re lucky if occasionally the lesson is at “their level.”

Of course there are some exceptions to what I’ve written here, but for the most part this holds true for most students in most schools. 

Our kids have tasted the honey and they have no interest in going back to what was.

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

40 Responses to “A taste of honey”

  1. Very nice post, Scott.

    Question is — have our teachers tasted the honey as well??

    And do they wish to??

  2. Scott, I agree that interactive games allow for problem solving opportunities but I’m not sure I’m witnessing any real self imposed content production going on outside the classroom. In fact I would say students are very passive consumers and seek a high level of entertainment not necessarily engagement.

    I teach 3rd grade and my kids still very much enjoy creating organic content over digital content. They want to use their hands. What do you think, should I sweeten the pot with more edtech honey?

  3. Kathy, I think you are right – it isn’t neccessarily the technology – it is the active learning that is the key motivator. However, sometimes, the motivation might come from the ability to share what they’ve created with a wider audience – get feedback, and engage in conversation, or defend a point of view. Web 2.0 technology makes that possible – and it is “real world.”

  4. While I tend to agree more with the generalizations than disagree about how school is like “down-shifting”, I do think we need more information about what kids really do when not at school.

    The argument about “tasting honey” could easily have been held in the days when TV was king. When kids went home, they had rich access to video content from their tv. It would only stand to reason that we needed to make sure every kid had a tv at school – thereby making sure there was no downshift; provide that honey!

    Now really, wouldn’t that have been silly?

    Is it true that kids spend time motivated by engaging in personal learning away from school? Do kids engage mostly in forms of entertainment (and now seek to entertain each other)?

    Do we automatically assume that it is “all good”; and therefore we must meet them on their playing field?

    While I am skeptical, and have no data that really drills into what they are doing while using technologies, I still would agree with Scott that schools need to be something different. I am just not sure it is because of simple abundance of technology in student’s lives.

  5. Hi Nancy, I teach first grade and the type of students I have vary from those that have computers and DSL and immediately complete anything I assign online to students with no toys that take things apart for entertainment. Most of my students own game systems, four wheelers, or even dirt bikes. I am competing against this type of entertainment for their attention. As a result, little value is placed on learning. When I look at my students, I have realized that I am teaching to 20 different minds. Consequently, I have been forced to differentiate my instruction vastly. At times, I will have ten groups with two students each assigned to tasks that engage and challenge them at the point of their need. This is a scheduling nightmare. Furthermore, our state is now posting all of the required teaching standards online with units already built along with performance activities that are supposed to show student learning. If all of my students had internet access at home and were provided guidance there, my job would be reduced to the role of a facilitator and babysitter. Technology does have its place in our classrooms but with mainstreaming and including special needs students along with regular education and gifted students, technology cannot be the only source of instruction delivery.

  6. I think it all comes down to the type of tasks we are asking students to engage in. I’m convinced that kids don’t want glitz or technology in classroom just for the sake of technology. We need to be creating meaningful and authentic work for our kids – and mirror the way technology is being used in the world outside of our classrooms. I also agree that kids are often not making generative and productive use of technology outside out of classrooms – but are we as teachers opening up their eyes to the potential of technology? Are we inspiring them to participate, collaborate and create? You can find my humble contributions here: http://thinkinginmind.blogspot.com/ Thanks..

  7. I think this is a very interesting thread. I see a great many of our students as passive consumers looking for entertainment and immediate gratification through the accumulation of points etc. I also see my children and their cousins activively engaged in quickly accessing information and passing this along to their friends, some of whom do not live in the area anymore, but are in constant communication with my children through technology. I think that we need a balance. WE need to spark student interest and creativity through the use of technology, but also be aware that at times the technology can become a distraction, in fact that is what much of today’s technology is meant to be. It was created to allow us to escape from our everyday stresses. An example of this would be television, you can learn a great deal from T.V. but you have to be watching the right channels. I am not sure that Two and a Half Men would rate nearly as educational as those shows on the History Channel and Discovery Channel.

  8. The general feeling I get from reading this post and comments is that most of us are not happy with a mass model of education. However, for a long time it was the only practical way of teaching to large groups. Ideally we would all like to have customized tuition, but in the past that was only reserved for the rich. I think we have all tasted the honey and see that technology may allow us to provide a more personalized, collaborative and directed education. A few of us are braving this new world, experimenting and feeling our way through the technology landscape to find the right balance, but it definitely isn’t easy and often requires much more work on our part. Nevertheless, it is certainly more enriching and engages the students on their home ground.

  9. I have been teaching for 19 years and have seen the attitudes toward school vary from year to year. Technology has had a huge impact on students. When I give “traditional” assignments, many student elect not to do them. I have better luck when I include a technology component, but not all students have access at home. My school has 3 computer labs and 5 portable labs, but they are difficult to reserve–priority goes to Language Arts classes and then the rest of the core classes. I teach an elective and therefore am low on the totem pole of importance. Another area of frustration is the firewall–it blocks almost everything in our district.

    I would really like to see the day when all students have their own laptops and access to technology.

  10. Honey is tasety, but I wonder if the hesitation for our digital immigrant world is the vinegar memories. How many times have we been tempted with honey and it has been more vinegar? TV was a great example…that honey surely has not been something to enhance education (my apologies to Discovery and the History Channel as exceptions to the rule). Yes we can enhance technolgy and improve communication, and yes schools need to adapt and improve, and yes there are hurdles that need to be overcome. It may be important, however, to see that the honey is as sweet as we assume in order to make the transformation.

  11. In that I believe highly in the power of conversation and meaning making especially in an English classroom; I feel agreement with the fact that students have an interest but we aren’t always tapping it to play up their strengths. I’d like to see them passionate and responsible for their own learning and meaning making and we owe it to them, as educators, to give them avenues to do this.

  12. We need to utilize the internet as a learning tool rather than use the heavy filtering so many schools have in place. Right now, only about 1/10 of our students have “research” access. What a waste of money (the technology is in place) and opportunity!

  13. JL Wagner in the very first post in this thread asks: “Question is — have our teachers tasted the honey as well??

    And do they wish to??”

    Great question! I’m interested knowing what my teachers think, so at our next faculty meeting on April 15th I intend to find out by having them respond to this blog and to this thread.

  14. I will look forward to those comments, Robert. I know that I am one of those teachers that has tasted the honey, but I think I am in the minority. I would never return to the days of paper and pencil now that I’ve twittered, facebooked, blogged, and googled. I’m not even a native, and I feel this way. Imagine how students feel–they are digital natives!

  15. The Purchase School Faculty (Purchase, NY) read this blog entry this morning, and submitted their responses to either the blog, or the postings.

  16. Samantha and Carrie Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:26 am

    As K-5 teachers, we think this could be sooo huge and great for education BUT in regards to a social network, it would have to be closely monitored as the dangers can outweigh the benefits if not used properly.

    If there was a specifically education based social network geared for students that had rules and guidelines then it could be a great tool for learning about all different cultures and peoples around the world.

    Definitely a good forum for students creative outlets to thrive.

  17. I would love my students to “taste the honey” more often. It’s difficult to decipher how to more efficiently use our technology time with all the other demands of the day. Perhaps more teacher training/education would be beneficial.

  18. Danielle & Betsey Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:27 am

    We think it is important to find a happy-medium between the use of technology in the classroom and hands-on educational lessons and activities. Although children love their interactive computer time and have tasted the honey, they must also be offered ways to use the internet more productively, educationally, and meaningfully. Without guidance, or specific expectations made by the teacher, most children will naturally gravitate towards social networking sites and online games.

  19. Our main concern is, is the tast of honey that kids are getting at home, the honey that we want to promote in school?

    The idea that kids are engaging in productive, mind expanding activities online is idealizing the situation. Most times they are being exposed to excessive violence, sexual content and inappropriate communications, which are just as exciting to them.

  20. Heather and Cristina Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:29 am

    We’re not really sure how much learning is going on when our students get home and play their video games, check their Facebook accounts, or watch their favortie TV shows? It seems that it’s mostly for entertainment. We’re pretty confident that if we were to ask our students what they learned last night when they were home, we would hear about the latest video game codes or how to beat the next level of Guitar Hero.
    If we were to bring this type of technology into the classroom, it would have to be MUCH more educationally focused and filtered. We agree that technology can be a powerful tool for learning, but it does have its downfalls. Our students today have been exposed to many inappropriate things and this has really effected the innocence of our children today.

  21. Like our students, teachers have individual levels of risk taking as well as personal technology experience. Most teachers have had limited formal training in terms of using technology in education, and although they use it in their own every day life, it is difficult to decide where to let go of curriculum, or adjust things, in order to more effectively use the technology that we have access to. We still believe that kids need to see their products right away and get immediate feedback, which they get by doing hands-on “organic” activities, as Kathy Shields (above) stated. But, there is also value as we know, in using technology. Though, we need to train kids not to expect immediate feedback from working in this way and that not everything is for the purpose of entertainment.

    We as teachers also need to see the difference between using technology that has already been created and using the internet for the purpose of generating or creating new information.

    Technology can allow teachers to use the students interests and strengths (gifts) in all assignments as they are able to create things and see eachother’s work to learn together.

  22. John talked about his first grade class. We agree that differentiation is key. The bread and butter (Writing and reading skills) are the staples that all kids need to survive that allows them to discover the honey. It is our job to provide all children regardless of need with those basic staples. 2.0 leaves out the kinistetic activities that are missing from our children’s lives. Children need to spend time in engagement activities in the real world. We agree we need to expose kids to the technology to work collaboratively on appropriate sites that can enhance their learning experiences. Teachers’ roles have certainly changed and need to continue to help children meet the demands of 2.0. How???? Training, facilitation, and collaboration all take time by everyone in each district to bring us ALL up to speed!!
    Administrators, help us, help our children! Are all administrators doing their role as leaders and learners.

  23. We think we should taste the honey but also add more to our diets. Kids do need guidance how they are accessing knowledge. Who is montoring what kids are viewing and posting? There needs to be a balance between tradional ways of accessing knowledge and this new tech trend. Let us not abandon the value of face to face social interactions and cooperative learning. It is our job as teachers to keep this balance to meet the needs of all.

  24. We think there should be a balance in life. Children need to work with technology as well as paper and pencil and all that is in between. It is wonderful that we can explore the “world” but we also need to develop social interaction skills face to face.

  25. Maria and Christina Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:35 am

    We agree that it is important for children to be exposed to technology, at home and in school. It is important for children to be aware of all the different means of communication, information gathering and exploring the wider world. On the other hand, children still need to develop basic skills in order to allow them to explore the technology to their greatest potential. We also need to remember that all children are different and have different needs in order to achieve their potential.

  26. More computer time is fraught with the possibility of more wasted time.

  27. Tasting the honey is certainly a wonderful concept and we all are presently experiencing it. We think the experience differs depending on the age of the students. As the concept of Web 2.0 becomes for prevalent, it may benefit school distrcits to integrate interactive forums and blogs within the grade level. Students in different classes within a building or other schools in the district can have the chance to interact on a topic. The level of interaction can depend on the grade level. For example, a first grade student can reply to a questionnaire from a teacher and other students can see their comments and agree or disagree with their own comments or simply select “agree” or “disagree”. Having such communication would enhance the learning experience in a safe learning environment.

  28. Did you know that a recent study of college students came out and they have directly linked the amount of time spent on social networking sites and grades? No surprise to learn that students who spent more time on these sites, had poorer grades! The question is then, how do we correlate the students love with a passion to learn?

  29. We believe that our mission as educators is to encourage children to be “active content producers.” We think we should do this using whatever resources are available. Learning is a habit of mind, and what we are learning is constantly evolving and changing. There are a variety of tools that we use as educators and our students employ in thier learning. The greater the variety of tools we use and expose the students to, the more prepared the students are for their “missions” in life.
    Creating “active content producers” creates an active mind that’s going to always seek, explore, and filter any experiences.

  30. Jeannine and Suzanne Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:38 am

    We feel our kids taste the honey every day in our school. We offer our students differentiated instruction, a writing workshop model where creativity is celebrated, inquiry based math/science lessons, and kinesthetic experiences. Technology is incorporated into our daily routine, but is only a piece of good education. Important parts of good education include kids learning from one another, learning how to interact socially, and receiving support from a nurturing teacher. We agree that technology has changed our way of teaching, but is not a replacement for the invaluable experiences that go on a classroom.

  31. We love the concept of tasting the honey, but it all HAS to start with us, the teacher. Or further up the chain with the Admin. We have to teach the kids how to deal with both the appropriate and the inappropriate. And our task becomes more frustrating when the parent put constraints on what we can and cannot expose their children to technology wise. Part of the problem is that parents haven’t tasted the honey!

  32. Teachers are open-minded by nature. They are always seeking new methods to inspire learning. Our goal has always been to motivate our students and this “honey” can provide a wonderful opportunity. However, it is also our responsibility to teach them the implications of their actions. It sounds like a banlancing act to us.

  33. Angela & Phyllis Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:39 am

    Although we agree that providing the technology as an avenue for opportunities to interact with others globally, have learning experiences, and tap into their interests and passion for digital learning there is an extreme lack of interpersonal skills among our youth today. It is very important that there is some type of monitoring by parents as well as teacher and guidelines to ensure safety. If teachers are encouraged to do away with the traditional paper and pencil tasks, shouldn’t the standardized testing also match.

  34. Sarah, Jessica and Crystal Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:39 am

    The entire school community (administrators, teachers, students and parents) must see the benefits of life with honey.

    Educators can play a vital role in teaching kids how to separate the honey from the vinegar (filtering, sorting the entertainment vs. educational information).

    Accessibility to honey isn’t prevelant everywhere. We’re fortunate in our school that we can be honey-farmers.

  35. Colleen Piekarz/Dana Pojednic Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:39 am

    While technology is an essential tool for 21st century learners, there needs to be room for both digital and actual student to student social interactions and cooperative learning experiences.
    We are wondering how it will be possible to provide enough laptops, teacher training and common planning time in order to implement this type of instruction and learning in these tough economic times?

  36. As educators, we have tasted the honey and think it is an excellent way to get through to the students. However, since it is our job to provide our students with a core learning experience we must not forget the bees in providing the honey. Students need a foundation which cannot always been provided in online interaction. Social skills, turn taking, and pragmatics cannot always be learned on a screen. If students were actually engaging in appropriate global interaction at home, then we could say we are competing with that and must provide the same avenue of education in the classroom. At times though, with many children, they engage in technology through the use of violent video games and networking websites where there is constant action.

    Saying that students are not exposed to global interaction is not necessarily accurate. Students today have penpals from different parts of the world, run fund raising events to support different countries, and occasionally share a classroom with students who are new to this country. This all shows that the educational system is starting to recognize this need. When considering the use of technology with younger students especially, the idea of balance is key. Using technology to enhance students’ experiences, highlight their strengths, and improve motivation is vital; however we should not forget the basics in education such as fostering appropriate social skills, thinking skills, cooperation, and reflection. Too much honey will eventually become as mondane as bread and water. So, what comes next?

  37. Jenn, Anne, Janice Reply April 15, 2009 at 7:40 am

    We agree that technology is a medium that children are using and invested in. It is exciting, interactive and highly motivating. We also believe as educators that we share the responsibility to educate the students about appropriate and effective ways in which to use the technology. Our hope is that when tasting the honey at home, students utilize it for expanding their educational growth and communication with the world while understanding the parameters and consequences of irresponsible use. Yes, JL Wagner, teachers have tasted the honey and are taking measures to educate ourselves and the learning community in which we work.


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