Recently I have been thinking about how we teach our young people, both during classroom hours and beyond.
One thing I always focused on in my teaching was to create my own resources for my students. The teacher knows their class, they know that everyone learns differently, then why should they all be using the same textbook or resource? Were is the diversity, the engagement, the opportunity to speak directly to your students.
You could dig through my archives on this blog and see the approaches I took in this (making things up as I go being new to teaching). Creating original, interactive Multi-Touch Books (iBooks) and Online Courses, Recording my lessons, Creating original videos and animations, gaming, opening up discussion and collaboration, and most importantly, allowing the students to create and explore.
Wellbeing of our young people is of great importance, and one it seems that teachers don’t feel is their job*, they are busy teaching content. What I hope is teachers see that by changing the content you teach, and how you teach it, you will be doing wonders for student confidence, engagement, and more. If you provide your students a room (be it your classroom or an online space) that fosters creativity and choice, you’re going to make the room a great place to be in (our students have no choice in being there remember!).
*We don’t have time for mental health: teachers – SMH 4 May, 2015
This brings me to my main point. Our young people are distracted, and I don’t say this as something that they are totally responsible for or have complete control over. Society has changed, gone are the days when you would come home from school and all you had was the Power Rangers on TV and maybe the Nintendo (if you were lucky enough that your mate Ryan who had said Nintendo was home)*
*(Sorry about that small window into my childhood)
Young people now are exposed to huge levels of distractions, from commitments such as sport, hobbies such as gaming, and of course the many social networks that surround us. These also extend to parents. Parents of our young people, the exact people that they look up to, may also be finding their time torn between these platforms.
This is an escapable fact of our society today, and one that can’t (and should not) be attempted to fix be limiting or removing these distractions altogether (that will not fix the wellbeing issue, as much as some people may think it will). What I am telling my teachers is to try to look at ways to make their students learning part of this distraction.
“Young people are exposed to huge levels of distractions, make their learning part of that distraction”
Let me give you an example. You want to teach your students Weather, you could set a homework task that is many pages long (or in most cases I have seen a poor photocopy from a well used textbook) and send that home. The young person has to actively set time aside for this to happen, all the while having those distractions beating down their door. You could create a wholly original, engaging lesson in the first place, but let’s start out small, why not try creating a short YouTube clip (or reference one of tha many out there) for students to watch, follow that up with a short blog post with some info, have an online discussion space for students to chat about the work, tweet out some positive comments of ‘how are you going?’, or ‘check this out if you need some help’, finally allow students to answer in a way that suits them, a post on the blog, a YouTube reply, movie, series of tweets, Facebook timeline… these are platforms students are already using, and in most cases will be switching between as they do the homework. Young people are some of the best multi-taskers I have ever seen, give them something to put those skills to use in.
I know what you may be thinking ‘well, that seems like a lot of extra work thank-you very much’. But, just like we tell our students, these things become part of your teaching, part of your workflow. If you ask me, going to page 144 of Humanities Now (circa 1998), making 30 copies, handing these all out, dealing with students that lost the sheet in the first 30 seconds, marking any work (feedback and positive comments optional), handing it back… is a lot more work than creating a new lesson and tweeting it out (not to mention you can then reflect upon and reuse your lesson next time).
The change will take time, but change is needed, if you need a hand, ask your class what they want, how they like to learn – I am sure they would be happy to help.
I encourage you to read a great paper by the Young and Well Research Centre; Game On: Exploring the Impact of Technologies on Young Men’s Mental Health and Wellbeing. Its focus on link between technology use and men’s mental health and wellbeing can go right back to what I am trying to say here (I have used some of thier stats in this post).
One thing that stands out to me is the information presented in the table below:
Ways young men aged 16 to 25 years commonly spend time using the internet,by level of psychological distress.
The top areas that our young people spend their time on the internet (other that for school or work…but is a lot of this out of necessity?) are areas one could describe as a distraction, YouTube, Social Networks, Gaming, email and Music (I put the reference of Podcasts in there – something I use to learn everyday…and morning run).
Social Networking is more popular than School Research, and an area they have chosen freely, our students are already in the room – let’s help put with thief learning and wellbeing while they are there.
This is not an all of nothing approach, and yes, I don’t expect a student to tweet me their major assessment piece on the Russian Revolution in 759 tweets of 140 characters, but small things can go a long way, especially with the connection to and wellbeing of our young people, so try to give it a go.
Where to start? – Well I have a handy list right here…