no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

...taking no passengers.

had our first observation day yesterday. i was sent to a primary public school, and it was a pretty good way to get into the flow of things. we helped with class activities and generally felt more comfortable with the whole environment. the kids were very curious and accepting - i forget that kids have less inhibitions than grownups. its very refreshing. finally saw one of the fabled IWBs, and hilariously it was on the fritz. the kids thought it was very funny - the class had a nice open vibe, so there was plenty of laughing and chattering during the lulls in activities. the pen-thing on the IWB wasn't working, which was pretty annoying for the language teacher actually. the principal mentioned that she had spent so much time trying to get away from the blackboard that now she was re-afraid of IWB's making teaching just passive looking-at-a-screen again. i think that was part of my original worry - interaction on a discussion board has never seemed the same to me as actually disagreeing with people and managing a group dynamic. i hope that more of the one does not mean less experience with the other.

i found myself paying more attention to the teaching methods and styles, trying to tease out what the teachers were trying to achieve, and comparing it to what i know the kids were getting out of the experience. primary school is very different to highschool, or even to the tutoring centre where i work. i don't think (and this is not necessarily a bad thing, just a syptom of their age and development) that the kids really comprehend such a thing as a syllabus, and while they obviously want to learn, they might not have that facility for long-term ideas of curricula. while the teachers made reference to Why activities were being done (especially the 'fun' ones) the students were so easily distracted it was easy to windup off topic.

a paper we were set this week by Knobel and Lankshear bothered me because of its assertions that kids were completely able to blog and participate in several online activities while paying attention in class. they say that mulititasking is now an important tool in professional life, and critique those teachers who ban being on the computer during focussed classes, but i every instinct i have says this can't be right. i remember reading all through high school english during class - but this was because the teacher was dead boring and i had already finished the work. i can see why laptop activities might be good as an extra task after classwork has been completed, but being on facebook and reading gossip while people are reading and discussing must surely be taxing to cognitive load. yes, multitasking is a skill, but you have to be proficient in every single thing before attempting to do them all at once. why do young people need to constantly be bombarded by external stimuli? and why do the authors of this paper think this is unquestionably a Good Thing? why do they think that web 2.0 has created a new kind of Person, one that is unable to sit and entertain themselves in their own mind, unaided, for more than 2 minutes?

compulsory education has made everyone believe that a standard education is a god-given right. and sure, in a society like ours it has basically become this. but i think a lot of people have forgotten it is also a privilege and a responsibility. some of my older relatives could not finish school because they had to support their families - i think a lot of migrants understand that this thing, this opportunity, is precious. but how do we tell this to young people, who think that IWBs and new laptops are now their entitled Right?

to the other end of the spectrum, in the mteach program, our syllabus documents are scattered over several sites: a moodle, webCT and the faculty SUMO. i'll agree its annoying, but i can see that our teachers are trying to expose us to the different platforms for experience. but its week 3 now and someone in class still mentioned that they didn't know what a sumo was or where/how to find it. i looked around and everyone looked awkward and/or worried. also - why is the How now more important that the What in learning? just cos wikipedia knows everything does not mean that you don't have to know something.

i wanted to say some nice things about alice in wonderland - it is one of my favourite books of alltime, and i am partial to a tim burton movie. i even have a soft spot for his mars!attacks, and while i did like the film (i have yet to see a single film in 3D - mostly cos i'm a tightarse), i think the critics were right about it not quite living up to the hype. at least johnny depp looked awake (which is more than he did in public enemies). and it was pretty. the only part i really hated was the dancing. other than that, it was probably just too long and long-winded. perhaps burton fell in love with too many of his scenes and couldn't get rid of them. the cat! the mouse! bonham-carter! the bandersnatch! (very frumious indeed)

being on the computer a lot more for uni has coincided with me getting some quite severe headaches. i think i need to start doing that 30minute-5 minute break thing more religiously. either that or get my eyes checked again, which i've been avoiding cos my lenses cost so much it hurts.

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