Spent some time working with a couple of Year 8 geography classes today. The work we did – or rather they did – stood in marked contrast to the ‘understanding’ of some teachers and the role of books in the learning of kids these days. They want books – old and new. But the students? what do they want?
Without going into details, the students were working on a research task, in pairs, on a country that they had chosen.
(Yes, I know, that is not a good research task, but stay with me here …)
What struck me were these key points:
Students did not want to or need to use a print atlas.
Mostly the students jumped onto Google Earth, and found their country and captured that image! Mostly they zoomed in on their country and checked out the terrain, and the cities, and the size of things. Sometimes they checked out the beaches, or how many people they could find. This was not what the teacher had in mind when she said ‘include a map of your country in your presentation’ But it was the natural way for the boys to go check out a country.
Every boy automatically went to Google images for their pics – because they can, and no-one has ever told them otherwise.
Every boy automatically went to Wikipedia for their information – because they have never had any need to do it differently!
So you can see, its a bit of a challenge. This is about covering material, not teaching students to think. It’s also about being out of touch with the way students learn in their online world.
School subjects, taught in isolation, represent the worse of 19th & 20th century education models transposed into a 21st century environment. The mechanics of teaching information skills are easy when its about creating a learning experience that requires use of every bit of thinking skill a student can muster. But in the context of the lessons today it was a waste of time.
We can’t blame our curriculum or our students – we have to blame ourselves if our students are unskilled in using a full range of thinking skills to tackle issues straight out of the complex work in which they live.