I have been teaching now for going on 15 years. Not a lifetime yet, but long enough to feel like I sort of know my way around the classroom. Student evaluations seem to suggest that I am a decent educator. So, here is my problem. I want to talk myself right out of my current job. We use this factory model set up by the industrial age to make students literate and teach them to show up on time, do the work asked, not make trouble, listen to bells so they know when to start, stop or eat lunch. In today’s world, Wikipedia, which is edited by everyone, is just as accurate as any encyclopedia and has many more entries. The internet isn’t about just publishing stuff, it is about people being interconnected. I admit that much of that connection is banal chatter, but in the midst of that chatter, there is a wealth of both stagnant knowledge and flowing knowledge. What I mean by those terms is that you can quickly look up who the 4th president of the United States was, or what is a quadratic equation which would be stagnant or static knowledge…it doesn’t change. Flowing knowledge would be things like facebook, twitter, chat features and even comments on blogs that can lead to people finding out about disasters hours before any news coverage breaks. People can send a facebook status update from their cell phone even when the power is out because a tornado hit to let their family and friends all know that they are OK or that the first tower at the World Trade Center had just been hit by a plane.
Students in the current generation still need to be taught! The problem is that they are used to having all these tools to keep them interconnected with the rest of the world, and then when they come to school, we tell them to turn off their cell phones, put up their laptop, sit still and pay attention in an environment that is bluntly put, much more conducive to boredom than to learning. Most of us, and I include myself in this category, got our degrees before the internet was invented. Many of my colleagues typed their dissertation on a typewriter…though at least it was most likely an electric one. We learned in the environment that we teach in, so we assume that the student should too. There must be something wrong with the kids if they can’t learn this way.
This summer, I plan to do some experiments in my classroom…or out of it at times. I hope to use the phones and laptops, create together, blog, tweet, make a wiki etc…and either, the whole experiment will go horridly wrong and a bunch of poor Spanish IV students shall rue the day they chose to sign up for my class, or it shall be a crazy and wild time full of learning in an environment that more closely resembles the world in which we really live in. I will be sure to keep you updated.