Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Boredom vs. Engagment -- the neverending battle

Often, when I leave work for the day, I leave a few browser tabs open as I close my laptop, intending to go back to them, perhaps to read something I didn't have time for while at work.  This morning, I had two such tabs still open when I finally settled in at my desk after meetings that kept me off my computer.

The first, a HuffPo blog post by Elizabeth English entitled Why So Many Schools Remain Penitentiaries of Boredom, challenges us all, yet again, to question the predictable and tired "model" of schooling in which the teacher is the center of attention and giver of knowledge, and students are subjected to the torture of sitting still, unplugging, and being fed information as passive, empty vessels.

Right next door in the tab to its right, I see peeking at me from the Charlotte Observer's Education column, "Education and video games are no longer enemies."

Now, it's not that I think someone would jump from one of these articles to the next and suddenly be ready to lead a revolution under the banner of student-centered, engagement-rich learning experiences right after stepping down from a podium and burning one's old overhead transparencies.  I just think this is further evidence of something I am often heard to say aloud: "This is an amazing, exciting time to be an educator."

I really just wanted to share these two articles because I want to help everyone see that these conversations are happening.  Here at Harker, we're doing a lot of things right.  Students are at the center of the learning experience, even though at times it takes a lot of old-school information transfer to get them there in some cases.  Our students ARE creating, performing, inventing, learning, and living.  They are pursuing research topics related to their own passions.  They aren't just starring in shows put on by the adults on the payroll; they're directing their peers.  Daily, we use software created by alumni while they were students here.

And they're gaming.  Granted, a lot of that is happening during free periods and after school -- especially on Friday evenings.  I step over bodies and wade through crowds of gamers just to get out to my car to start my weekend.  And in the next few weeks, I am going to have an unsuspecting group of kids teach me (and themselves) how to play Minecraft.

Through these experiences, neither sanctioned nor forbidden here at school, we see our students' eyes light up, hear their voices raised in high-pitched chatter (and the occasional profanity), and sense the unbounded energy they pour into these alternate realities that capture their imaginations and enthusiasm.

I look forward to exploring the chance to try things like these with our students as part of our classes.  And I welcome anecdotes about the kinds of things already happening in classes that I'm not aware of yet.

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