Chris Guillebeau says:
Many people believe that the key to an improved lifestyle is less work. I think it’s better work. I believe that most of us want to work hard, but we want to do the kind of work that energizes us and makes a positive impact on others. That kind of work is worth working for, and the other kind of work is worth letting go of, finished or not. (The Art of Non-Conformity, p. 10)
I think that pretty much sums it up for our students, doesn’t it? It’s not that they don’t want to work hard. It’s that they don’t want to expend too much energy on work that isn’t meaningful. When we see reports of rampant plagiarism or tales of students who want to do as little as possible in order to get a grade, isn’t that an indication that they’re doing work that’s not meaningful to them? When students are working on something that they’re passionate about, rather than apathetic, don’t most of these so-called generational ‘values’ or ‘character’ issues disappear?
Contrary to what many believe, our students don’t want to just get by. They just want better work.
Image credit: Waiting for time to pass
Authenticity of projects, skills and assessments was key to buy in with my at risk media arts students last year. And the fact that I had actually worked in new media as a creative professional also meant a lot to them as I was teaching them real industry skills – rather than skooly media assignments. They learned industry level production practices (like how to manage, correctly name and organise media files/assets), team/production meeting skills (negotiating roles and responsibilities, keeping track of progress) as well as the real language and terms used to describe their process. They felt that this kind of learning could actually help them outside of the classroom – to get jobs, to make it into a college program, etc. One of my students arrived one morning to tell me he had gotten a job creating a website for his friends band thanks to my course. I’m not suggesting that all learning have some commercial or industrial outcome to be meaningful but that for our students – especially those like mine who want relevant job skills – palpable, “real world” application is a prioritiy.
One thing I noticed about high school media courses (after teaching pro courses at the post secondary level) is that a lot of the end products are pretty lame. They’re often not especially technically challenging (which students really need) and this is sometimes due to the fact that the teacher might lack the technological/production skills required to conceptualise, produce or assess something more authentic. A possible remedy to this would be for schools to invite industry professionals in different areas (science, math, arts, etc) in to do PD – rather than PD being driven by insiders from within the board/schools. Some of my favourite classroom2.0 pals are already doing this on their own but I think schools and boards need to put supports in place to make this a real priority – especially for those teachers who may not have access to people in industry.
I cannot tell you how time-appropriate this is for our situation at home. Although I am a tech integrator by day, I am a full-time mom. Our 13-year-old son has struggled so much in the last few years with school. He is incredibly creative and self-motivated to learn, but he hates school. In all honesty, he does his best learning on youtube. Just last evening, while pouring over his homework, he kept asking me why. Why the amount of homework? Why the worksheets? He knows it is busy work. He is very fed up with work that is meaningless in his world, and I don’t blame him. So much of what is taught and assigned for him is the same as what was taught and assigned 30 years ago when I was in school.
I was intrigued with Scott’s reference to the k12.com advertisement on cnn. Like it or not, I really think that type of platform is what is coming in education. And for parents like me, the words “Custom Education” are pretty darn tempting.
Thanks, Scott – glad you’re enjoying the book. Keep up the dangerously relevant work.
Yours in World Domination,
Allowing students to study the topics that interest them can promote a love of learning. Teaching them how to learn in their own unique learning styles will give them the tools to understand, apply, analyze and create. Allowing them to study the topics that interest them expands their knowledge base, which serves as the foundation of thinking. The study of a single topic still requires an understanding of intersecting ideas or concepts. Some effective teachers “trick” their students into working hard and being creative with projects. This may lead to a significant increase in the amount of work actually performed by the student. Still there are certain tasks that are best learned through repetition. If the students agree that what they are doing is meaningful then learning becomes that much easier and effort and creativity should be rewarded.