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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Students Learn What They Want To Know

Last week Scott McLeod referenced Michael Wesch's 2-question School vs. Learning poll:
  1. How many of you do not actually 'like' school? (probably many hands)
  2. How many of you do not like learning? (probably no hands)
As I said last week, I would visit as many classes as possible to test the concept on middle school students.  Here are my results:

Number polled = 121 6th graders, 82 7th graders, 164 8th graders -> 367 total
Method - I asked only for a show of hands, so peer pressure may be present in the results.  I gave no reason for asking the questions before I asked them, but after the poll, I let them know what I was doing.

Results -
  • How many like school = 6th grade = 47, 7th grade = 14, 8th graders 21, Total = 82/367
  • How many like to learn new things = 6th grade = 113, 7th grade = 71, 8th grade = 121, Total = 305/367
What does it mean?  I'm not sure, really.  I don't want to really do the statistical analysis, I'll leave that to people who want to do thesis work.  What I do know is that it confirms my decade-old maxim - Kids will learn what they want to know.  So do adults.

The problem, as I see it, is that what we are told to force-feed our students is not in line with what they want to learn.  I think Prof, Wesch needs to add a third question, "What do students want to learn?"

The pessimist would say students are lazy, and they really don't want to learn anything of value.  The optimist would say students, when given the opportunity to create their own curriculum, could effectively learn anything schools would require and so much more practical material.  I would venture a neutral view that somewhere in the middle is the truth.  [I know, that's a big cutting edge, risky assertion on my part ;-)].

A post-script: I was asked to talk to a group of gifted students in a Language Arts class.  They are writing a research paper (MLA style) and their topic is WWII.  The teacher asked me ways the students, in groups of three, could use computer software to write a single paper.  I suggested Google Docs as a way to do this, so I went to the classroom to demonstrate the use.  Once an account was created (teacher's acct.) I was "invited" to share the document.  I went back to my office and participated in a mock collaboration with one of the students (still in the classroom) to show the class how they could use this tool at home, in class, or anywhere they were on different computers to complete their paper.  The student's computer was connected the the classroom TV so all could follow along.  HERE'S THE KICKER... As I was in my office, I made the mistake of writing a missive that further explained the potential of using Google Docs.  Keep in mind, none of the students had seen this program before...I got a response in the Doc, "Mr. Murry, we get it already.  It's not that tough to figure out."  I smiled at my computer screen, and wondered how many times students felt like they could tell a teacher, "Look, we get it already.  Can we do something important now?"  That is the difference between school and learning.  I'm glad I got to learn from the students.



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1 Comments:

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