The one thing that intrigued me the most from this week’s readings didn’t actually come from the readings themselves. It was, rather, the contrast produced by the first comment following the “Setting Students’ Minds on Fire” article and the article itself (I’d link straight to the comment if I knew how).
The article painted this colorful picture filled with students that were excited about learning. They were invested in the content, and they were invested in the game. They were so invested it was hindering other students’ ability to party, which as we know is the priority of weekend college nights.
That first comment though, reminded me much more of the reality of my own schooling. The commentor, username richardtaborgreene, described what he learned through his school years, and it was mostly how to sit while being just aware enough to get decent grades. He had learned to be what he calls a “passive sitter.” Which is what the world wants… right? Passive sitters are perfect for corporate jobs, the commentor continues, because “they make excellent low cost machine substitutes… [and] excellent cannon fodder” when wars should arise. Passive sitters are easy to manipulate and make other people rich. The commentor describes school as a prison forcing students to assume the role of passive sitters while tamping down their excitement to learn about what interests them, and suppressing real learning.
The commentor says that he first experienced a type of inspired learning that more resembles that actual article he was commenting on at a mass research event hosted by IBM 40 years ago. Where he, along with his team, was able to go “from zero to as good as world best experts in 3 days!!” and said that “NO UNIVERSITY ever exposed [him] to as much learning, as fun-ly gained, and as much educating, as powerfully delivered, in equivalent time periods.” The commentor seems baffled that universities don’t engage in such events, but corporations do.
My education certainly has looked more like the comment than the article. Most of my classes were lectures. Some tried to include group work, but it was forced and not terribly effective. I had a few seminars where we the students did most of the talking and were encouraged to “learn from each other,” but that didn’t take much more effort than a lecture. I’ve never felt that inspired learning though. I’ve never been so engaged in a class, or in a portion of a class that I couldn’t switch school off for a while to engage in other activities. I’d like to experience that, though. More than experience it, I’d like to provide my students with that experience. Which raises the question: How do I, having never experienced this ” mind set on fire” learning, teach in that manner? How can I make that transition from perpetuate-or of passive sitters to a pilot light? Where do I find my English classroom equivalent of the IBM mass research event? Or will I have to come up with my own (a daunting task to say the least)?