Who’s Leaving Whom Behind?

I have a difficult time watching the video Michael Wesch’s students put together titled “A Vision of Students Today.” Why I find it difficult to watch is because reading statements like “I Facebook through most of my classes” and “I spend 3 ½ hours a day online” make it seem as if the students saying these things are not holding themselves accountable for their own education. To me, these quotes make it sound like they are blaming some other entity for the time they spend online and/or facebooking, which is a sentiment I do not sympathize with and find very concerning for future student generations. It would be fantastic if I could understand the importance of everything presented to me in a classroom setting without having to think about it. In reality, though, what is needed from us, as students, are the desire and enthusiasm to find how and why what we are learning pertains to our lives, which can require more function than just listening to the words spoken to us. This view on learning makes me anxious because if future students keep on following this trend of putting all of the emphasis on the educator to spoon feed every detail to feel as if they are learning something then I will fear for future students’ abilities to critically think on their own and realize that truly the only person responsible for one’s education is themselves. That is not to give teachers a free pass to not try, but I bring that point up to emphasize that if we want to learn something it is up to us to learn it! Nobody became a great thinker by relying on someone else to tell them what, how, and why to think. Great teachers probably inspired them, but the student had to do most of the work on their own.

That being said, I do agree with Dr. Wesch that teachers have a major role in cultivating a learning environment that promotes critical thinking; an activity lacking in many classrooms today. Dr. Wesch’s article, “Anti-Teaching: Confronting the Crisis of Significance,” brings up the notion of a non-stimulatory, ineffective education system that fails to produce students that can produce original, creative, meaningful questions, which is absolutely true. I have been in a few classes that reward memorization and regurgitation of words without much emphasis on critical thinking and it is fair to say I barely remember anything from those courses. The courses I remember well are the ones where teachers were engaging and promoted discussion on the subjects at hand. The reason I am still in school today (and love learning in general) is due to teachers/professors who challenged us to participate in discussion during class and to come prepared with talking points/questions that we generated between classes. I think it is fair to say, though, that most of my professors in recent years really wanted us to be engaged and wanted to promote a friendly, supportive learning environment, but where they fell short was the implementation of that environment. This point is exactly what Dr. Wesch is talking about in reference to the medium being more important than the message. Promoting a different style of learning other than just lecturing at students from a chalkboard is a wonderful idea and I hope successful alternatives become more standard throughout education in the future.

I would not begin to say that I have the answers for how to fix the lack of enthusiasm that seems so pervasive in our education system, but I feel there needs to be work put in from both sides, teachers and students, in order to make it a meaningful experience for everyone. The point that teachers bear a large responsibility to create a great environment that supports the success of their students’ learning is true, but I feel that is just one side of the story. The other side of the story is the large responsibility that students should bear as well to hold themselves accountable for their learning and to not give up because they feel they would rather be on facebook.

3 thoughts on “Who’s Leaving Whom Behind?”

  1. Definitely agree that it is up to the learner to want to learn. I would think this especially resonates with most of us in graduate school. Why would we be here if we didn’t really like to learn and want to continue learning? However, I do wonder if it is really the students not holding themselves accountable by their online habits and activities. In one of last weeks posts, a blogger mentioned that if we cannot create content more interesting than Facebook, why should we begrudge our students from looking at it during class. Obviously, this is a lofty task, but I do think it is important to keep in mind. How are we keeping things fresh? How are we bringing the passion we have for these topics into the classroom? How are we engaging our learners in ways that will ignite that spark for learning? All difficult questions to answer, but I agree that we must try!

    1. Thanks for the comment! I am 100% behind the idea of usurping facebook and other distractions as the most interesting activities going on inside the classroom. I think it is worth trying and will probably benefit both students and teachers in the long run. What I don’t think is possible is fully achieving this goal. For example, I love learning biological pathways and truly find it enjoyable when they’re being taught, but I can say that I absolutely would rather watch Liverpool (my favorite soccer team) play vs. learning about glycolysis. I know that is cherry picking to support my point, but I think what I’m trying to get at is there are times that we need to just suck it up and pay attention even if we would rather be doing something else. It is definitely still worth trying to make learning an engaging and passion-filled experience, though!

  2. Taylor,

    I see your point. One thing to also consider is the level of the student. For example, it’s more likely to start the passion at a higher level like in graduate school, where students are more independent in their own learning.

    However, that might not be the case for freshmen students. Some of them are not sure about their careers, some of them are just moving to a new city and living independently for the first time, some of them even are in college because they were told so. In those spaces is where I believe we need to be creative and try to use several strategies to promote engagement in the learning environment, if FB is where they are, we definitively need to be there.

    I think here is crucial to think outside the box and be strategic on the ways we use the available resources to promote knowledge.

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