Friday, June 3, 2016

How Students View Education in 2015

At the start of the 2014-2015 school year our MS/HS principal shared a video created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with students of the Kansas State University. The video titled “A Vision of Students Today” posted 8 years ago has been viewed over 5 million times on YouTube.  The video shares characteristics of the students at this University when posted in 2007.  As faculty we were challenged to think about what this would look like in our high school. A rural high school, in a small village, in southwestern Ohio. Cedarville is home to Cedarville University and a majority of the “residents” are non-permanent university students. The school, and village prides themselves on tradition and well you don’t really know what students are thinking until you ask the students.  A survey was created and students replied via an anonymous Google Form.  Eighth grade students compiled the responses and shared the data and selected quotes via a video of their own. 

I would like to add that this 8th grade project was one of the most engaging projects students participated in all year in my class.  So, beyond the video and what it says I learned a lot about this type of assignment

Students were engaged because they were
(1) Out of their seat
(2) Out of the classroom
(3) Had a voice

Eighth graders felt a responsibility to deliver the overall message of the survey results. You can see it on their faces in the video, it may not be their words but they want to share the message.

This video was shared with staff in the hopes that they could get a sense of what the students are thinking and feeling about their education.  Some adults may say "students don’t know what they need to know yet.  We know because we’ve been to college, have a job, etc." My friends that teach Family and Consumer Science and Business courses may say "I teach how to get a job and how to do taxes but students aren’t taking my classes." How do we change that?

The meme at the end wraps up the Vision essentially stating that technology alone is not engaging to students.  I think this is so powerful because I’m a technology teacher.  But beyond that, when I went back to school in 2011 to obtain my Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction I was told time and time again to bring things into the classroom that the students could relate to such as their cell phones and iPods.  What I learned is that iDevices, Chromebooks, and phones alone are not engaging students in learning.  How we use them in the classroom is important and even more important is that students buy in to the concepts that they are learning.  Our students have never known a world without the Internet and they are expected to know how to use a computer almost inherently without being taught. Computers are just another part of school, a tool like a pencil. Not an element of engagement. Most students don't even know how or why a computer works but only that they are required to use it.  But that discussion is for a different post.

Do your students see value in what you are teaching them? Do they understand why?  Are students sharing what they know in various ways?  How are they showcasing their knowledge? Are they engaged? Do they feel valued? Do they have a voice? Do they have a choice*? 

*Disclaimer: Please know that when I give my students choice it’s not as freeing as they may want it.  EVERYONE is going to edit a photo.  The method, or tool to edit may be choice, the photo edited might include a choice, and the tool used to take the original photo may include a choice.  But everyone is going to edit a photo and no matter how many students use Instagram to add filters before posting their selfie… not every student enjoys learning about masking, and pixels, and file extensions. But by giving them a choice, and giving them ownership of what they are learning I find it easier to engage.


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