Monday, February 21, 2011

Edutainment and the modern education system

I was listening to a program today and they were talking about some more gimmicks to get kids to learn. I've seen everything from rap songs to videos to teachers dressing up in full on costume. That's nice to try to mix it up every now and then, but I think that these gimmicks actually hinder true long term learning. What I mean is that when a teacher goes the route of props and costumes it becomes the expectation that this is the only time we need to learn. The day the teacher has to give the students notes or general information about a topic the students are no longer interested because there are no dancing bears and fire hoops. We have gotten away from actually having students use their brains to think, instead we are teaching them that unless a topic is so fun and interesting that they just want to burst then they don't have to care about it. This is a tragic turn of events. When was the last time you went to work and had a day where the boss pepped up the weekly meeting or the foreman at a construction site came with a clown suit on to boost morale. The simple truth is that outside of the classroom real life doesn't cater to your likes and dislikes. The way we are trying to "encourage" students to learn does not prepare them to take on what life is going to really throw at them. I'm not saying learning should be boring or dull, but I do suggest letting the edutainment be an accessory to real learning rather than the blueprint. Suggestions - 1.) Get student input on how they learn, but then critically questions them on the choices they make. Why do you want your teacher to look like a fool so you can learn? Why don't you study? How will one effect your learning over the other, etc. 2.) Learning should be more individualized. Students are assessed and put on learning programs based on their strengths and weaknesses. This currently seems to be reserved for special education and private schools. I think it should be extended out into public school. With that, comes an overhaul to the school system itself.

The conversation not being had is the fact that we’re using a WW2 educational system to educate a 21st century student. We can no longer expect students to come out of high school and be able to find a job that could eventually land them in the middle class. Years ago that was feasible. Now we must train students to use their talents and prepare them for a more uncertain yet competitive job market. Students need to be able to recognize what they are good at and find ways to utilize those skills. We also need to prepare today’s student for the reality that they may stay in a job for 5-7 years and then may need more training. They need to realize that we are no longer in a time where your career is a 20-25 year guarantee. These are the life skills that need to be included in the modern education system. The school system is in need of a complete tear down and rebuild. That rebuild should be lead by people in the class room and should end with the lawmakers and not the other way around. When that day will come no one knows, but the sooner we start tackling these issues, the sooner we can see our education system turn around.
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