There were two articles in the New Zealand Herald yesterday that caught my eye. One was about student disengageent and what can be done about it and the other was about e-elearning and how e-learning can be used to improve student engagement and learning. It was all very depressing really and has sparked off more questions than answers. These articles instantly reminded me of Stuart Middleton’s statistics from his 2010 Learning at School keynote.
Out of this I am again reminded of the following quote I heard but can not recall the source: “Of all the governmental, commercial and industrial sectors, education is the only sector that commissions its own independent research and consistently fails to act upon the overwhelming evidence for change.”
The internet has been and continues to be, a massively disruptive technology. Look at what is happening to industry sectors such as news, music, books etc. They are all undergoing massive changes and education sails on mostly oblivious or conciously ignoring the societal changes happening around it as a result. It is as if we are saying; if the education system of my father’s generation worked for me, it is damn well going to work for you! (despite the fact I was bored too!)
We know that there is massive underachievement in New Zealand schools. Students do not suddenly disengage in year 10, therefore every teacher in the system from pre-school to Year 13 is part of a process that produces this disengagement. Yet, collectively, we do nothing about it. Do we believe that it does not happen in our school, but the school down the road? Both of the Herald articles point to e-learning as a tool to re-engage and make authentic learning opportunities for the students. Yet, overwhelmingly, teachers still resist changing their pedagogy. Why?
Is complacency at the heart of this? Subliminally are we as a profession saying to the students in our charge; I choose to be here, but you have no choice, so get used to it? I hope not, but we do a pretty poor job at marketing learning to our students. Maybe we should put a little more PR spin into our lesson planning, making the efforts we are asking out students to make a lot more explicit. Sounds like relevance to me. Are we also not walking the talk we espouse in class? We want our students to be innovative, to be life long learners, to collaborate, to be resilient. Do teachers really demonstrate that in their classroom pedagogies? When it comes to integrating e-learning teachers tend to be resistant to change, insular, and traditional. Why?
We keep seeing articles about disengagement, we see class disruptions increasing. I think that the two are related. Students do not not want to learn. With the wealth of information at their fingertips via the Internet they have started to cut out the middleman, us. In an agrarian export economy such as New Zealand’s we need to ensure that our next export boom is the innovation potential contained in the brains of our students. It is up to teachers to start to be the change, not to wait for permission from the torpor at the top. We need to re-engage our students in their learning by making it engaging relevant and authentic to them. E-learning is the key to that innovation.
This is yet another clarion call for change. But is anyone listening? Who amongst you has the appetite for change, to be challenged, to re-engage all of our students for the benefit of us all? Ultimately the failure of our students is a societal failure, one that will make us all the poorer morally and financially.