“If I had only an hour to live, I would spend it in this class because it feels like an eternity.”
That was one student’s comment to Jason B. Huett, a technology guru and University of West Georgia professor, when evaluating one of his courses.
Maureen Downey, education columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoted Huett for the Dec. 10, 2012, edition. Huett was making the point that education is slow to change the way students are taught, despite the technological advances.
But a larger point might be: must students be bored in school?
As Downey paraphrases Huett, a frontier teacher from a century ago would be agape at the changes in the world, but the classroom would still largely look the same.
That teacher probably was taught that school needs to feel like work to a student. School should be the student’s job. When the student finishes school, he would go to a job that would be tedious and hard, so they had to learn to endure that in school.
If you read a typical textbook of yore, it’s hardly something you’d take to the beach to read – unless, of course you were cramming for an exam in the sun.
But what if teachers concentrated on ways to make learning more fun, or at least enjoyable? Sure, learning IS work, but a century ago, it seemed we taught students how to be good employees – how to duplicate repetitive tasks that they would do in the workplace when they graduated. We taught routine. We taught doing what you are told, and only asking questions if there was something you didn’t know.
In yesteryears, we gave students information in the only way we knew how. Today, however, students can get their own information through technology, faster than a teacher can convey it. The jobs of the future are going to require more innovation, because machines will handle the repetitive and tedious tasks.
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But, if we want kids to be more innovative, the education system has to be more innovative. If we want kids to be more collaborative – employers are looking for good, team players – we have to teach them that collaboration trumps competition with those on the same team. Sure, we have to evaluate students in terms of what they’ve learned, but what if the grading system were less about beating the person next to you, and more about the student’s and the person next to him’s mutual achievement?
Technology is changing our workplaces, but it is changing our education system at a much slower pace, Downey paraphrases Huett. Huett refers to the education system as a factory model that puts students on a conveyor belt at medium speed.
The workplaces of yesteryear had few innovators. To compete globally as a nation, innovation has to be encouraged at the earliest stage of life possible. Technology can make education more productive, and, perhaps, more interesting to students.
How refreshing it would be for educators to have more students in their classroom who WANT to be there? The jobs of the future will be less repetitive, less duplicative and more innovative – no matter the level a person works in an organization. Workers will relish the mutual success with those around them. It will be work, but it will seem less like WORK. Why can’t school be work, but seem less like SCHOOL?