It has to mean something if it has to matter.
- ME (and a lot of other people)
Disengaged. Bored. Lazy. I have heard ALL of those used to describe today's students. If you listen carefully, what your really hear is an excuse to NOT change - a deflection of ownership of the real problem: most classrooms and mainstream instructional practices haven't changed too terribly much in about a hundred years.
"He's disengaged" - Student "playing" on their cell phone? Reading a book instead of looking at the teacher during a lecture? Hmmmm....are you sure the student is disengaged? Many of today's learners (not all) are actually paying more attention than you think. Turn those perceived problems to assets. The student on the cell phone might actually be looking up information you are talking about or taking notes. And that student that reads - that may be how he blocks out stimuli - my oldest who is on the Autism spectrum is one of those.
"I'm bored" - Too often, the translation for this becomes "the work is too hard for the student" when that really is often NOT the case. This reaction is triggered by a topic that is too easy or not interesting to the student or - GASP - they already know the information! It happens, people. Most often they are just uninspired - let them be creative! Somewhere around third grade, kids are turned into compliant learners...well, most are. They learn that thinking differently or being creative is a punishable offense in some classrooms. How do you encourage creativity?
"She is so lazy" - nope nope nope...more likely they are uninspired. see above for remedies for that. However, sometimes they are just tired. Kids today have a lot going on - sometimes that is pressure placed on them by family. Sports, dance, familial obligations, poverty....they take a toll. Are we as educators aware of that? Too often the child deemed lazy has a lot going on that we fail to see. Take the time to get to know them. A simple conversation or two can be life changing.
How often do we create authentic learning experiences for our students? When was the last time you gave them a chance to identify a problem that matters to them and do something about it? These days, versions of 20% Time and Genius Hour are becoming prevalent in our schools. In some schools, there is still the mind set that this learning isn't going to raise test scores - a point which is a) grossly inaccurate and b) irrelevant. Students are NOT test scores. When teachers are told they can't let students learn through Genius Hour or 20% Time activities because this "isn't in the curriculum" I get a little grumpy.
I like to share the story of Richard Turere who identified a problem and created a solution that made a difference for his family and his community.
I can guarantee that his actual project wasn't in the curriculum, but the skills he learned while perfecting his invention - and giving this speech - certainly were. I'm sure that given the opportunity to identify a problem and work to solve it, many of those "disengaged, bored, and lazy" students would thrive.
One thing I find myself emphasizing frequently is that today's students often need access to a different learning paths than what is the daily reality in some classrooms. Compounding matters is that Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010) is hot on the heels of the Millennials - and many classrooms never changed their approach for THAT group! And Generation Z...well, they bring some great reasons to shake up the status quo.
The video above is the creative rendering that came out of an experience of Paige and Frankie, the two main characters of Bizaardvark. Trapped in the back of an ice cream truck, they have just enough battery life left to send one text message. Instead of sending "Help" or another string of text, an emoji was sent...and it was the wrong emoji - inspiring the creative duo to pen the tune "Oops, Wrong Emoji" in the video above. As I watched this episode with my resident member of Generation Z, I noted the conversation between the chartacters as they discussed the choice to use emojis over words. It made me think...
In an earlier post, I referenced the book Brain Rules. As I watched this episode of Bizaardvark, I thought about the rules regarding gender, attention and most significantly, vision. In this section of the book, Media explains the value of using pictures to help with information retention. Text alone is less effiicient than pictures. To our brains, there are no words. The brain sees words as tiny pictures. This explains why some of us get stuck when a word is misspelled - it just looks wrong....and our brains struggle.
"Words are only postage stamps delivering the object for you to unwrap"
Information communicated via pictures is not only the preferred means of comminication by Generation Z, it has been proven to be "superior in capturing attention" (Brain Rules 196)
So what are we, as educators, doing about it?
Traditional methods of pedagogy often fall short when it comes to educating those in Generation Z.
This generation is about doing and creating. Are we embedding enough of these opportunities into our classrooms? They are civic minded entreprenuers who, believe it or not, do think about global issues. Are we creating classrooms that allow them to explore these issues and solve real-world problems? As I started this post with, they send and receive information with pictures. Are we allowing them the chances to illustrate their mastery of the content and take visual notes or are we forcing them to copy copius amounts of words? There are still classrooms where teachers complain when students doodle...a practice that is sometimes forbidden - even punished!
There is so much about the way Generation Z learns that is supported by neuroscience, and I do see many educators in our district making strides to account for the different learning styles of their students as they plan activities and content delivery. As of late, those I see making the most pronounced effort to change (based on both observation and our district's Be Awesome applications) are secondary teachers - and that is a great thing for Generation Z.
When we know where to find information, we’re less likely to remember it — an amnesia dubbed The Google Effect by a team led by psychologist Betsy Sparrow of Columbia University.www.mercurynews.com/2011/07/14/google-is-changing-your-brain-study-says-and-dont-you-forget-it/
There has been research on how Google is changing our brains. I can totally see that...in fact, I do believe that with the immediacy of information and the need for it, it is ever more important to know HOW to efficiently find the information - we have before us a generation of strategists not simply memorizers. This is Google, as a verb. It's definitely changing things in our world.
But what if I said that Google Tools can be used to make your brain work better? Google as a collective noun referring to the ever growing number of tools available. Our school district is a GAFE district. We are big users of Google Apps for Education for all teachers and students in grades 2 - 12. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend an EdTech Google Summit this summer. I attended a session I chose because of the title: Your Brain on Google. While it wasn't quite what I thought it would be, it was inspiring nonetheless.
I finally finished this book over the summer. And as I read it, I thought about all of the Google Apps for Education that we use in our district EVERY DAY. I made notes in margins, in journals, in an app on my phone, on post it notes, on my hand...everywhere. I finally decided to start putting the pieces together for a presentation on not just Google and the brain, but how to harness the power of GAFE specifically to make learning experiences for students. It's still a work in progress...the cover image is at the bottom of this post.
My goal is to hit all twelve of the rules Medina discusses in the updated and expanded issue of his book. I'm having a lot of fun putting this together. The activities are designed to make teachers think about not just the the brain rules, but about how to teach the way our students learn - not the way WE learn. In many ways, and in different ways, Google has changed this for everyone. It's time we started taking steps to keep up.