One of the things that continues to amaze me about today’s educational systems is how difficult they are to truly change. Before I go any further, let me say that I love teachers, educators and administrators. Like literally, I love them. My mother, father, aunt (four of them), uncles and wife have all been teachers and administrators. I myself planned on being one, but did not get a job (story for another day and the reason I am the black sheep of the family). This is not a slap at them, but rather at the “system” that is education. Society wants it to change, screams we are not doing a good job educating our children, but gets mad when it changes and never wants to spend any money.
One of the things that make me shake my head today is that students are not allowed to use cell phones, or personal tablets in classrooms. Really? I understand the argument that is made, about how all they will do is text and not pay attention. But smartphones and tablets are an amazingly critical part of young people’s lives. To tell a student they need to put these devices away is akin to telling them that school has no bearing on regular everyday life. Our teachers may as well say, “You have now left the real world; please put away all devices that connect you to it.”
Why don’t we engage these students where they are? Why don’t teachers integrate Twitter in their classroom presentations? Let the students in the class ask questions or contribute to the discussion via Twitter. One reason is that along with Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and many other real worlds sites, Twitter is blocked from most of our schools. Makes a lot of sense right?
Why don’t we let students use their phones in class as research devices? Certainly you have never learned anything new by popping on the Internet to research more about something you heard on the TV. Certainly not — I am sure you still get in the car, drive down to your local library and check out the Encyclopedia Britannica. By the way, those are a little out of date, as their final print edition was put out three years ago.
Why don’t we let them use their phones in class as in-class polling devices? Why can’t teachers reach out to their students via text messaging? FYI, in case you don’t know, email is old school. No one under 21 even checks it anymore.
Although I have had these thoughts for a long time, a Tweet from space finally inspired me to write about it. I figure that if we are going to treat schools like they are not the real world, maybe something from out of this world will bring us back to our senses. Commander Chris Hadfield has been Tweeting from space, where he is aboard the International Space Station. His recent viral video of him singing “Space Oddity” has put him on the Nightly News, but his tweets for months have been educational and inspiring. The picture that accompanies this article is one that has to make you wonder about the earth and how it works. Check out his other pictures and you will find yourself asking, how big is space? How did we develop a ship that can get people to and from the ISS? Yes, even, how does someone go to the bathroom with no gravity? When you start asking these questions yourself — guess what? — you start looking for the answers and learning. You know what else is pretty cool? You can Tweet back to this guy who is up there in space and ask him a question. He may or may not respond, but you can reach out to him. This is HERE, this is NOW!
But children, please put away your phones and look on page 57 of your history text at the black and white picture of the moon landing. Yes, it says that this happened 15 years ago, but that was when this book was published in 1975.