computers, classroom, climbing, etc.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What on Earth are we up to, Part II

Here we are again. I wonder if I should write this blog in Norwegian, since I am sitting in Norway, but I did have my reasons for chosing English. Not least that my Norwegian is somewhat limited...

Since my last post, this topic has exploded in Norway, mostly because of an articulate and opinionated high-school student, CingT who has appeared on the teacher's social network, del & bruk. The picture she paints is similar to that from my last post on 1:1, What on Earth are we up to?, if not worse.

Oddly enough, the post she has got the most response to was one more focussed on the presence of students in the teacher's social network. Some teachers welcomed a critical student perspective, others felt that she had no right to be there. In del & bruk, there has been less commentary on a far more explosive post on 1:1 and PC-use in school. On her own blog, the topic has generated a lot more interest and the whole issue has started to get legs in the Norwegian blogosphere.

I'll quote you one of the comments from CingT's blog:

"At the beginning of the year, I took notes on my notepad. Then I began taking notes on my laptop. Then I began playing computer games on my laptop. Now I have no idea what the teacher is saying, in most of my classes."

Wow. This is a high school student who does not feel that what goes on in class has any relevance for her grade, so she has no incentive to change her behaviour. As far as relevance for real life goes...are you kidding?

CingT closes her post with a quote from two classmates:

"Sometimes I wonder why we go to school at all."

"Right! We could just go out and work. We have no use for what we learn"


  1. Thanks for writing about this important subject ;)
    And yeah, a lot of students really don't see that what goes on in class has any relevance. I would say that goes for 95 percent of the pupils, in about 70 percent of the classes. Of course there's a difference between a Norwegian teacher going on and on about Ibsen's writing, and a Social Studies teacher talking about how the pattern of sex roles changes our lives, but still a lot of pupils don't bother to pay attention to what goes on at the blackboard (or SmartBoard, for you lucky bastards who have one).

    So the question they ask themselves, is why should they bother to log off FB and MSN if they don't believe that what the teacher talks about has any relevance to their lives, and the only reason they're there at all is that they don't want even more absence notes?

  2. I guess my point is this has gone on for a long time. I had no computer to distract me but still found 90% of what my teachers were saying to be useless. Instead of facebook, I drew, or wrote notes, occasionally I did huge murals on the floor (apparently the teacher didn't notice b/c she was less interested than even the most bored students).

    It seems computers have just finally made disinterest a little more concrete while at the same time providing a nice scape goat. It's not that I'm boring or a poor teachers- it's these infernal machines and the devil of facebook.

  3. Wow. On the floor? Your school was even worse than mine.

    But you have a point - the problem is school, not FaceBook. Computers give the students something to do - something that school has trouble competing with. I wonder where this is all going - 1:1 seems to be rolling in so quickly and it has the potential of bringing school's problematic nature into the spotlight.

  4. Well, we might look at this as an existential crisis for school, but if we ought to do that, we might end up with simply surrendering to the fact that a lot of pupils will never learn what they’re supposed to. Why should the society and government care to use such a vast amount of resources on the education a whole bunch of kids don’t even want? Why do even classes and teachers exist, when the pupils simply could do their online gaming at home? Why do most of the kids receive a kind of “payment”, or as we call it, scholarship, to attend school, when all they do is sit there, using social networks and games that they simply could have used at home? Isn’t that a great misuse of public resources, of the taxpayers’ money?

    What we could do, however, is look at this in another way. Let’s say we do the best we can? We do the best we can to use the resources that are available (teachers, classrooms and the technology provided to us, that is) in the best way possible, to accomplish what school is all about (learning, if anyone is in doubt). The question now, is how can we do this?

    There’s no help in complaining about the system. You might take this to Solhjell, Stoltenberg and any other person with a great amount of power, but it will take years to even be able to get this change through, not to mention, carrying it out.

  5. This is just getting completely out of hand...

    Now I have a pupil defending school to a teacher?

    Well - you put me in my place here. I can understand that you find this all a little negative - but then the point of this blog is the difficulty I find helping people learn in an institution that is not well designed to promote learning.

    You're right, of course, we're all going back to school on Monday and what am I going to do? I can't really lie down and give up - that would be unfair to my students (especially those two in the front row who are not logged on to FaceBook). I have this blog to thrash out the dilemmas I have while trying to do my job by day...

    When the revolution comes, though, I'll be on the inside. Watch out.

    In the meantime, what am I going to do on Monday? Well, period 1 we'll watch a film in French (computers closed, I'll supply a sheet of paper (!) for exercises). Period 2 my students will gather info for a role-play while I wander and help out. The teacher as leader - clear instructions for use of PCs - research that the pupils need to accomplish a task, etc.

    So, yes, I'm trying to make do with what I have. I owe it to my pupils. But I'm not sure it's enough and I reserve my right to say so, here on my own blog. And if... if the institution of school starts to wobble because of all this, I just might get in there and push. I'm not sure which way.

    (and once again, I'm impressed by your forthrightness, bravery, and your English)

  6. Well, defending may not be the right word. It's more like I've given up on the system, and feel like this is something that needs to start now and it needs to start with every single teacher (oh my, that didn't sound like it came from a wannabe politician at all!). Pupils don't care about school. Another reform won't help. If you're actually looking to change the way pupils in general look at school, you're going to need a lot more than a change in systems. You are going to need a lot of years and quite a lot of very passionate teachers. You might have many years left as a teacher, I wouldn't know, but I've only got one year left in general school. I might be selfish, but to me, what happens now is more important than what happens in twenty years.

    I didn’t mean to repress your right to use this blog as a place to thrash out the dilemmas you have in your job. You have every right to do that, just the way I do in my blog. But there’s also a reason to why the “comment” section exists. A lot of people have responded negatively to my blog posts these last few days, and I believe they have every right to do so.

    Of course, a revolution would be great, and I’ll be there to join in the fight! But in the meantime… Well, I believe I’ve said this before.

    It’s great that you and a lot of other teachers engage in this discussion. I have to say, you’re very good in English as well (:

  7. This discussion is fast becoming one of the most interesting I have followed online! For my part, I do not have to go back to school on Monday, but reading this, I really would like to!

    I guess the next step is to actually come up with some good ideas for new methods, instead of just saying what we have does not work. This is just as much a challenge to students as to teachers: How would you like to be taught? What would make going to school interesting? Or is it really just a question of making it all voluntary, would you rather go to work?

  8. The school I go to, upper secondary, is voluntary, so most students would rather go to school than work. I believe that a lot of pupils attend upper secondary school because they don’t want to work. They know that if they start working, they will actually have to work, but if they attend upper secondary, there’s three years of Facebook and online gaming in front of them. In my blog I quoted two students in my class, who believed that they just as well could start working, as they didn't need what they were taught in school. But they didn’t want to actually work, they want to be able to use FB and play games all day long.

    I have posted at least one suggestion as to what teachers can do. Basically, it says that teachers should post their notes and ppts online, and then, during lectures, they could actually tell the students to shut down their computers. However, this kind of undermines the students’ responsibility for their own learning, and makes the teacher a “cop” that has to control the students. If students are forced to work even in school, they might actually become interested, or they might drop out or simply not apply for upper secondary unless they really want to. That way we could use the society’s resources better, but on the other hand, less people would be educated, which, obviously, is not a very good thing.

    The increase in the number of appliers for teacher education is great, because it means we will have more teachers, more one to one contact and smaller classes (I suppose?). I believe the time spent on every student is essential when it comes to interest in learning.

  9. Wasn't quite sharp when I replied here. I'll continue this on a new post: What on Earth are we up to, Part III

  10. After Carinas answer I feel the need to specify what I meant by my challenge, but with writing my exam paper and back-pains that severely restrict my time in front of the computer (bad combo!) I have to prioritize. I will come back to this in a later blogpost though - promise!

  11. Hello Simen. I´ve just stumbled on your blog here for the first time. Yes, I´ve been trying to guide our way into this maze at MK dept for some time now! Have yuo seen this on "mindlessness" or anomie - the homeless mind: ref,: http://kevinchampion.blogspot.com/2009/03/crisis-of-significance.html#sources

    It shows that there is some light at the end of the tunnel!!!