Distracted From School or Learning?

In my last post, I shared an article regarding a Michigan High School that recently banned mobile devices from their classrooms. Here was one of my comments:

These articles used to really bother me, but what I have learned is that I never know the whole story. There is always more to any article or tweet you read online.  That being said, here is one part that bothered me:

The decision regarding the new cell phone policy was made after several discussions with the high school advisory committee, made up of teachers and support staff, and with the parent advisory committee, Bohl said.

Notice anything missing? Me too.

Spiri Howard, an amazing thinker who regularly comments on my blog as well as posts great stuff on her own, left this comment on my last post about her own son and his thoughts on school vs. learning:

How ironic that my son, Gabe (15), and I have been talking about this very school and article. Gabe’s view of school was shocking to me, he said…

“You know mom, school is just a place where teachers teach what they have to, you know, curriculum and test prep. When I want to learn something, something that’s important to me, I know where I can find it and who I can learn from. I build those relationships online, I can make them happen. Kids just go to the source. A lot of the time, well recently, my learning doesn’t come from a school, its not from a teacher or the relationship I have with my teachers. I just think teachers and admin. don’t understand that.”

He’s absolutely right. This generation of learners are an iPoding, texting, Googling, YouTubing and Facebooking. They live during a time of dramatic technological changes. For many of them, texting is the chosen method of communication and YouTube is the chosen method of online learning. Whether you feel this is good or this is bad, is irrelevant. This virtual presense will not go away. When we decide to ignore it, we are saying “think this way, learn this way …only”.

When I’m listening to a speaker, I begin to wonder about what they are saying. I’m questioning and thinking about ideas. Naturally, I want to explore those ideas and find answers to them, hence the use of tech.

What this high school wants from it’s learners, in my opinion, is for them not to wonder or think, but rather just decide between answers that they are given. This is dangerous. When we decide this for our learners, we need to realize we are killing off “possibilities”. This is how we become stagnant. We are killing off ALL possibilities but one (the “correct” answer). If we want learners to think critically and creatively, we need to realize that there isn’t one “right” answer. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities. So by asking students to make decisions and choosing the “right” answer rather than wonder and question the possibilities …we’re fitting students into the box of what we believe to be right or wrong. Where is the questioning, the thinking, the problem solving in that?

This is very powerful comment, but I will have to admit, not all students feel this way.

As I was working with some administrators recently, a former student that graduated recently from their schools really challenged the notion of devices in the classroom, as it often distracted from what was happening in the classroom.  It was an interesting conversation, and there are a lot of students that feel this way and are very anti-devices, but the question that I wonder if are they focusing on being good at school, or focusing on powerful learning? When people are so ingrained into any system, do they challenge it?

Kids become so conditioned to what school looks like, are they as open t challenging it? I believe in the power of student voice, but to also inform it along the process.  If they only know school can look one way, will they really challenge it?  Too often, when educators ask input from students about school, they often ask the ones who have really mastered the system, not necessarily the ones that hate it.

We need to ask questions explicitly “how they learn best”, and ensure that we differentiate that we are not only asking about school, but learning in any circumstance.  I have the feeling you will see more comments similar to the one Spiri’s son has, than what we might be hearing right now.  This is not on the students, but possibly on us for asking the wrong questions.

School vs Learning

Source: George Couros


  1. Richard Jimines said:

    I teach Health Science in a highly culturally-diverse classroom. The fact that students would suggest that the learning they experience could be better served by them to google, facebook or you-tube their education just isn’t true. This generation believes themselves great multi-taskers, people who can without loss juggle listening to music, texting their friends, checking on the nth newest fashion and still be focused and engaged in any learning process, participate with those around them in a productive way is obsurd. The internet is a wonderful tool but like any tool can be used improperly. The true skills of great value in their future include comfortable social interaction, meeting and discussing things with real humans across the table or across the room, the reading of emotions displayed in voice and space, i.e. real human interaction is not replaceable.
    Technology is moving forward at a dangerous pace and we certainly have no way of knowing the long-term effects of letting a whole generation turn-on devices and turn-off the true nature of the worldly interactions. I am not in favor of less human, more potentially manipulative electronic environments, where what is true and right is left to the website you select or the application you employ, is the primary means of gaining knowledge.
    I want my students, your childrento be with me, really with me, every minute we share our classroom space. If parents are satisfied with their children (or children with their parents) simply electronically dismissing them while dining, then maybe it’s okay. Let me say that personally it is not okay with me.

    August 11, 2016
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