Sunday, May 29, 2011

Different Expectations

I'm sure most teachers have had some variation of this experience:
It's time to review a homework assignment from the previous night.  One student has nothing but a blank paper.  When you ask that student for his/her homework, he/she says, "I didn't know how to do this."  You then respond with something like, "I can't give you credit because you made no attempt.  I expect you to at least try."
We expect our students to try things that are difficult.  We understand that learning takes effort at times, is sometimes difficult, and requires a certain level of perseverance.

Other times, we hear this:
I didn't have time to do my homework last night because I had to ___________________ (go to soccer practice, go shopping with mom, wash my hair, etc.)
We expect our students to make their job as a student a priority.  Spending time on other activities instead of homework is unacceptable.

Do we have the same expectations of ourselves?  

Most teachers acknowledge that today's student will graduate into a world where information is stored and accessed on-line.  Most agree that our student's jobs in the future will require the use of new technologies to video conference, collaborate with others in distant locations, quickly judge the validity of a great deal of information in short periods of time, and perform many other "21st century tasks."  Those who don't recognize these facts are either egregiously uninformed or delusional that the 1950's are going to make a comeback.  

Alek Shresta/
If we are truly preparing our students for the world in which they will live, our schools should incorporate the same technologies mentioned above.  Too often, they don't.  Even when students are able to use a computer in our classrooms, too often it is for standardized test preparation or as some form of digital babysitting where they spend a period playing an "educational" game that requires little thinking.  A look at a 2009 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools, shows how lacking we are.  85% of our high school classrooms never use videoconferencing.  66% of our high school teachers don't even have their students use a computer on a regular basis.  

I've heard two common responses from teachers when they discuss why they don't learn to use technology to teach the 21st century skills our students will need in their classrooms:  "I don't know how" and "There's no time."  If we don't accept these excuses from our students, why do we accept them from ourselves?  Isn't it our job to learn?