Posts Tagged ‘students’
Not too long ago, The Atlantic published an column or something which arguing that Google is making us stupid, using helpful and always accurate anecdotal evidence.
Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading.
Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle. I think I know what’s going on.
For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet.
I skipped ahead to the end.
… as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.
Skimming the stuff in between, I turned my feeds, jumping from one-sentence summaries from BBC news to one-sentence summaries of opinion columnists from The New York Times. My feeds throw in a weighty mix of Neatorama, mental_floss, The Onion and a few cartoons.
Then, I came across an interesting title from The Line. I clicked on the title.
She wrote something about Internet literacy, and how poorly Internet users pay attention to long, unbroken blocks of text. I read this one a little better, mostly because it wasn’t composed of long, unbroken blocks of text.
After considering a snarky Slate columnist, Dina asks a question.
Take or leave his wordplay, but I’m going to be be thinking all summer about the ramifications of the Net reading meta-approach this discusses. Could it be treated as a new genre of reading, unto itself?
Answer: As The Atlantic would have it, this new genre of reading threatens to dissolve the accessibility of the existing, useful genres of reading. Mr. Tim also had something to say about this, too, if you really care to read what he has to say.
How could our students and this new generation get so distractable, so uninterested in maintaining focus for long periods of time?
I could have thought about this angle, writing on that topic, but I wasn’t really interested, nor have I given it much thought.
I was busy reading my feeds, listening to iTunes, writing this entry and watching the episode of Star Trek where Wesley Crusher almost gets expelled from the Academy. Such a good show.
Sometimes the best techniques come from preparation.
While my sophomores were reading Zakaria and Alter debating whether or not America should pull out of the Opening Ceremonies I realized they wouldn’t know a few words in the article. More than a few. A lot.
Immediately, I had a vision of students whining, or finding excuses, or even legitimately pretending to do the work without understanding.
I don’t understand this.
What don’t you understand?
This time around, I headed it off at the pass. I announced that if they don’t know a word, they should write it on the board. I will define it, and without a dictionary.
Not immediately, but eventually, I had students challenging my vocabulary, taking ownership of their learning and finally understanding what the Newsweek guys were saying. They recognized, then chose to write the words they didn’t know on the board, in front of the class. This is authentic learning at its best.
I excitedly told one of the teachers in my department this story, and she immediately recognized the technique.
Oh, so a Word Wall? Nice. They work pretty well.
Yes, they do. Bashful students cajole their friends to put up the word on the wall, or just see it. Rowdy students — who I’ve never been able to get to work, anyway — actually do the writing, harnessing their energies for the light side of the Force. All students have a first reference to go to when they don’t know a word or concept, allowing me to define the words on my own time, or at least while I’m not helping another student.
As I’ve thought about it, there are three specific qualities of my brand of Word Wall.
1. I tell students that I’ve written up a vocab quiz already, and that any word in the article is fair game. This is motivation to write it up on the board. This quiz thing isn’t integral to my method.
2. I specifically avoid content-related words for the word wall. I’m looking for overall vocabulary gain, here. “Palestinian” and “Darfur” are about as close to content-related as I’ve gotten with the vocab I use on the quiz.
3. Students write the definitions. I’ll just call it out from across the room, so that all students hear the definition, all can actually read the definition and at least one at-risk student actually writes the definition.
This teaching stuff is easy — he said, well aware that he isn’t the greatest teacher in the world.
Now all I need is a job. But that’s what tomorrow’s for.