I feel like I spend a good chunk of my time in meetings as a naysayer, as a “wait a minute and slow down” kind of guy. It’s not because I want to be a killjoy, not that I want to rain on the parade of the newest and coolest development in things. It’s more that I’ve learned to be a little more aware of what can get lost in the process.
That’s especially true in times of significant change, which is a big part of what is happening with education, as one quarter online looks to turn into a longer, indeterminate reality. Which is why I have found Mark Bauerlein’s recent First Things article titled “The Problem with Online Learning” so encouraging. A snippet:
Academic content is now implicated in a technology that youths have been primed to use, interpret, and value for different purposes. It’s not that the screen is inherently contrary to academic learning (though I doubt the physics of the screen are as generative of advanced literacy as are the physics of the printed page). Rather, it’s that years of a certain behavioral conditioning at the screen make it difficult for students to treat the screen primarily as an instrument of learning, not an instrument of diversion, and teachers don’t have the time or the power or the knowledge to recondition them.
Even the space the kids inhabit when learning at home hinders the shift: American teens have converted the bedroom into a social space, not a private space. When kids go to their rooms and shut the doors, they’re not secluding themselves. They’re opening up to the world (and shutting out the parents down the hall). Now, this game room/chat room/screen room is supposed to be a classroom, too.
That might not seem like such a big deal to many, but it is something worth reflecting for a while, at least.
At the article’s end, Bauerlein gives a list of suggestions for parents to implement as a way of “correcting” for their child’s digital environment. It’s a nice list:
When your kids have to complete a writing assignment, have them do the first draft by hand with pencil and paper, a print dictionary and thesaurus beside them.
Do not let them read assigned books online—print copies only.
When they watch instructional videos, have them take notes by hand in a spiral notebook dedicated to the subject (research on the advantages of note-taking over any screen method is solid).
Finally, keep the leisure screen shenanigans completely out of the homeschooling hours—no breaks for video, no browsing until class is over, no social contact while the teacher is talking.
Collaboration over homework is fine, and texting and phone calls after “school” ends are, too. But the school day must be kept intact and uninterrupted.
The whole article is worth a read. I imagine most teachers aren’t necessarily thinking about that as they prep their lessons and most parents aren’t thinking about this because they are trying to make sense of the logistics of whatever their child’s school will be asking of them. Regardless, it’s encouragement worth heeding.