Skydiving, bungee jumping, zip lining, these are all things my students tell me they would definitely love to try. I believe them and encourage them to pursue those opportunities as they grow older. In the classroom, however, my students don’t all present themselves as such risk takers. They play it safe over and over again, even when given the opportunity to branch out. My concern is that overwhelmingly I am asked for neat, well-defined assignments from my kids and from the adults I teach. Why is that? What are we afraid of? And what role have I played in that mindset?
The majority of us came through school receiving these neat, self-contained, easily gradable assignments that checked to see if we read, or memorized, or could explain a concept. We all turned out fine. (Well…………mostly.) Teachers moved us through the curriculum and we all marched in line towards the goal. That has been the educational model for a very long time.
Many of us are trying to change the way content is delivered, consumed and used in our classrooms. In implementing a blended learning model in my room this year, I have run into this expectation that assignments will stay the same as they have always been; look the same, require the same level of effort, and be graded the same. And when students realize that what they are used to is not what they are being asked to do, things can get ugly!
At first I found this a pretty disheartening, considering I am working in what should be a place of experimentation and discovery. I am not blaming the students and teachers, but where is this attitude coming from? Is this what the current educational process is communicating to our students and faculty? Am I? If we want technology to become an everyday part of learning, we need to make sure we first encourage a love of exploration, experimentation and discovery and a willingness to stick with something even if it is hard.
So back to the sky diving, etc. How do I make engaging with content and creating new knowledge as appealing to my students as those adventures? I don’t think the answer is going to be the same for everything we do, but if I try reframing how I look at designing the work, maybe I can get a little closer to exciting my students than I am right now. There is truly nothing worse for a teacher than the look on students’ faces when you present them with a new unit and they are thinking, “really?” I hope I can change that!