Guest post: Just teach the normal way, she said

Today’s guest post comes from Kate Mildenhall, Education Officer at the State Library of Victoria and a participant of the 2012 Victorian Personal Learning Network. The post was written in preparation for Unit 5 of the PLN, which poses the question ‘Which comes first, pedagogy or technology?’  Kate’s post following a conversation with her niece is a fascinating insight into the thoughts of a student about the role of technology in the classroom.

“I have to take a moment to get down a conversation with a year 9 student (also a niece) I had last weekend. Let this stand as a prologue – or perhaps an aside – to my thinking that will happen with Unit 5. Around a restaurant table laden with an Indian feast, I asked my niece (let’s call her C) how school was going and what was happening in her life. C has always been a conscientious kid; precocious, with two much older siblings, engaged in the world, passionate about injustice, an all-round lovely person to spend time with. So I take with a grain of salt some of her tirade against teachers in general and put some of it down to ‘year 9′ness’ and a general need to buck the system, nevertheless, her attitude towards school, education and teachers in general was a bit of a shock to me.
The best classes, she said, were those where the teachers were careless enough just to leave the kids alone so they could get on Facebook and Tumblr. Ah yes – Tumblr, I said, I use that a bit.  She looked at me blankly when I asked how she was using it with her mates and guffawed loudly when I asked if she would consider using it for ‘school’ stuff. Nah, she said, our mates just use it to post videos and stuff we like. Oh, I said, that’s basically what we do too – probably what a lot of your teachers are doing with blogs. Yes, she said, but when a teacher asks us to use it, it just makes it completely uncool. They’re trying too hard. Just leave us alone with the technology stuff and just teach the normal way.
My eyebrow raised inadvertently as I asked what the normal way might be. You know, she said, like projects and stuff. Our conversation trailed off in to how the most successful graduate from her school would be the kid who sorts the proxy for Facebook and hacks the network regularly.It’s an understatement to say it left me thinking. Are we stuck in a catch 22 in schools at the moment? How many kids feel like this? Is C struggling because she is bored and unchallenged and unengaged or is the system such that it can not work for her in its current model? Ironically C is about to head off to a place at Alpine School for a term and said she was really looking forward to the challenge of being without her phone and uncensored internet and communication. Is there a backlash from kids about the way technology is fed to them in the classroom – too slow, too controlled, too directed? Hmmmmmm – I leap in to Unit 5 and 21st Century pedagogy with so many questions!”

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