Marc Prensky, writing in ASCD’s Educational Leadership, wants principals and teachers to know that their classrooms are dark places. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
His point is that, for most of our history, schools were pretty much the only intellectually bright spots in their lives, places they went to learn about the world outside of their immediate communities.
However, for many kids in the US, the world outside the classroom is much brighter.
There’s one big problem with this noble thought today: Today’s kids grow up in the light. They’re deeply immersed in it long before educators ever see them.
Kids today are connected to the entire world around the clock, in real time, through their media and their myriad personal devices, both electronic (such as TV) and digital (such as the Internet and cell phones). In the 21st century, young people certainly don’t grow up with perfect understanding of the world–after all, they are still kids. But can we still characterize their intellectual state as one of ignorance and darkness? Hardly.
So, most of our kids have some powerful tools for linking themselves to the world and they know how to use them. Or at least they do for personal and social use.
We could leverage those devices in the classroom and help them understand how to make them learning tools as well. In most schools, that’s not what happens.
But we’ve chosen something else. Somehow, schools have decided that all the light that surrounds kids–that is, their electronic connections to the world–is somehow detrimental to their education. So systematically, as kids enter our school buildings, we make them shut off all their connections. No cell phones. No music players. No game machines. No open Internet. When kids come to school, they leave behind the intellectual light of their everyday lives and walk into the darkness of the old-fashioned classroom. What are they allowed to use? Basal readers. Cursive handwriting. Old textbooks. Outdated equipment.
Not exactly bright concepts.
The one quibble I have with the article is Prensky’s side trip to the “boredom crisis”. I’m not sure it works since kids have always been bored with school, even when it was the “bright spot”.
He should have stuck with his argument that including all these portable communications devices kids carry will improve teaching and learning.
Anyway, Prensky ends with some suggestions for school administrators the best of which is “Annouce that henceforth students will have a meaningful voice in setting all school policy regarding technology use.”.
Excellent idea. But shouldn’t we have involved our kids in the determination of all parts of their educational structure, even back during those “dark ages”?
[Thanks to Darren for the link. Go read his take on the article.]