I am fascinated by the conversations that emerge due to a 1:1 computing environment:
- how should assessment evolve?
- what is cheating vs collaboration?
- where does memorization and recall fit into the classroom?
- what constitutes engagement and how does it occur with such competing possibilities?
- what experiences are (aren’t) important to learning?
- what is literacy? critical thinking?
- what type of pacing and paths can be created instead of one path, one tool for all?
- and many more…
While these conversations are not new, access to the Internet at any time creates a heighten sense of urgency to understand and act upon these topics.
With these great conversations, I found myself reading My Insane Homework Load Taught Me How to Game the System by Elif Koc and connecting all of these questions into one central idea that Koc nails:
Doing all of my homework no longer felt realistic. My friends and I realized we didn’t have to do everything assigned to us in order to succeed in high school. We found shortcuts and we minimized our efforts in order to get the grades we wanted. The middle school “memorization not rationalization” mindset that Karl Taro Greenfield describes in his recent Atlantic essay turns into a more insidious “How can I do as little as possible and still get an A?” mentality.
Elif was a high school student just over a year ago and he soon found that learning something deeply wasn’t the purpose of school. It was getting the best grade with the least amount of resistance:
We were maximizing our academic success while minimizing our effort in certain subjects. We understood our teachers’ expectations and aimed to meet them, not to exceed them. There is a difference between being a good learner and a good student, and in high school, my peers and I learned how to be good students.
And it is hard for schools to think this equates to their students. It is easy to think this isn’t us. It is much more challenging to accept that this is probably closer to reality than not and there is a need to rethink what we want to accomplish.
All of the questions at the start of this post lead to the ultimate question that Elif seems to be trying to understand: is high school about becoming a good learner or a good student.
Maybe the objective of high school is to become a good student. I hope college is where I can become a good learner.
And I have to agree that when one looks at how most high schools approach the classroom and the focus on college/career readiness, it is all about becoming a good student that gets the scores and application needs to get into college.
All of this circles back to the questions in the beginning. The only way to begin answering those is to determine which direction: good student or good learner.