For those like Bob Herbert who fear that the young are amusing themselves to death, they are both right and wrong. For at least six hours a day, they’re not amused or even interested. For the other 12 hours, young people I know spend hours becoming experts at those parts of the world they find interesting. The two worlds rarely intersect and the young get precious little guidance and shared input from adult experts about the world they are fascinated by. What’s wrong with schools, and with the ways we measure them, is that we are ignoring what young people’s “interested minds” could accomplish if we re-examined this puzzle together. Deborah Meier*
I've said for a long time that today's kids like to learn. They just don't like how we oldies like to teach.
Children's and especially young adults' lose of "guidance and shared input from adult experts" is my biggest fear in watching an increasing number of students turn away from an irrelevant school system and toward peers, the media and Google. I was horrified that my grandson who is an excellent reader is being required to read all the dumbed-down and dull basals to meet a district requirement in Fargo. Such idiocy means he may well be not just turned off reading, but turned off school completely.
In response to the misperception that kids know more about technology than their teachers do, I wrote a column called "Old Folks and Technology" some years ago. This was the meat of the piece:
We need to help make sure our students not only know how to use these new electronic marvels, but use them well. A short list of tools is below with some of the sensibilities about their use with which we geezers can still help:
Some technologies -> Some things with which old people can still help
Spreadsheets Math sense, numeracy, efficiency in design
Charting and graphing software Selecting the right graph for the right purpose
Database design End user consideration, making valid data-driven decisions
Word processing The writing process, organization, editing, grammar, style
Presentation software Speaking skills, graphic design, organization, clarity
Web-page design Design, writing skills, ethical information distribution
Online research Citation of sources, designing good questions, checking validity of data, understanding biases
Video-editing Storyboarding, copyright issues when using film clips and audio
Chat room use/Instant messaging Safety, courtesy, time management
No matter how sophisticated the N-Geners are technologically, in matters of ethics, aesthetics, veracity, and other important judgments, they are, after all, still green. By virtue of our training and life experiences, we can apply the standards of older technologies (the pencil, the podium, the book) to those which are now technology enhanced. And we’d better. Given the choice of having Socrates or Bill Gates as a teacher, I know whom I would choose.
I like to think that today's young people still need us old people called teachers. Our perceived irrelevance is not in their best interest.
* The (validating) quote above comes from a dialog being conducted between Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch, two national educational policy wonks, on school reform on an Education Week blog, Bridging Differences. It's worth reading. If NCLB has taught us nothing else, it's that we need to start paying attention to national education policy. 'Cause stuff rolls downhill.