Is this the future??

The above link goes to a Doonesbury cartoon that hits so close to home. Thanks to my friend Diane Cordell who shared it via Twitter this morning, I had a small chuckle. It reminds me of that new video circulating among bloggers called A Vision of Students Today. If you have not had a chance to see it, please do. I haven’t blogged about it because so many had already–I didn’t want folks to read my post and say been there/done that (since I find myself muttering that all too frequently myself.)

Is this what our schools are afraid of?? Well, I challenge educators to look at it from the perspective of the student. Obviously there is a talking head at the front, and by all indicators, the student is zoned out, but busily working on other content. Yes, he’s physically there, but not mentally. But his network (obviously some right there in the same class) has clued him in to getting ready to be caught OFF TASK. They strategize a plan through their virtual network, giving him time to cover so he can get right back at the task at hand–reading his email. LOL!

I have to admit I have done EXACTLY this myself! Not this school year, but in years past at faculty meetings. I would sit at my desk (b/c the library would be full for faculty meetings) and work straight through oblivious to just about all going on. No, I didn’t have my network to look out for me or clue me in when it was noticed, but I did strategize, none the less. I listened intermittently so I could chime in just enough to give the sense that I was on task and paying attention. I also made sure the focal point for the speaker (guest, principal, etc.) was set up at a table far from me so that i could work away that hour. It’s amazing how my hospitality of setting up a place for the speaker by clearing a specific table, getting them a bottle of ice cold water, and providing an empty basket for exit slips or papers that would be taken up successfully kept the speaker far from me, allowing me to totally go unnoticed in meetings. (I’m so evil with all my ulterior motives!!)

Now I wonder how many kids do this? Just enough “fake involvement” through asking questions, raising hands, agreeing and disagreeing to get by. And I thought I was so smart.

But knowing EXACTLY how I am has made me question the set up of our computer labs at school, the computers in the library, and even seating arrangements at conferences. I know how easily i get sidetracked and my focus can be easily stolen away. I complained vocally to my principal about the rows and rows of tables all facing the front of the room, asking who decided on this layout. I told her they needed to all be facing the wall and the interior be open for flexible use of space. I pointed out that with the workstations facing the wall, a teacher, visitor, or speaker could stand in the middle and simply rotate to see that all were on task. As it is now, there will many opportunities for students to slip under the radar and like me, multitask away the time, or worse, deliberately focus on other things. They will be able to hide right there at their computer b/c as it is now, they will have time to strategize a way to cover their true focus. My own actions have caused me such paranoia.

Ah well, so far this year all faculty meetings have been engaging enough to keep me on task. I haven’t called on my network or read my email a single time this year. But I did do JUST THIS recently at a conference when I went in sessions, sat in the back, stuck my earbud in one ear (leaving the other open so I could be conscious of room activity) and then just chatted away with the other virtual participants of New York’s TechForum so kindly Ustreamed for anyone interested.. I was TOTALLY engaged in that and TOTALLY oblivious to the session I was sitting in, save for being able tp tell when it was over.

This comic has totally made me think now about students who are slick and do the same thing I do. I also have to wonder–is it a bad thing? I’m still undecided.

5 thoughts on “Is this the future??

  1. Cathy,

    I echo your last question: Is it a bad thing?

    The student in the cartoon was able to locate and verbalize factoids, which is what the professor was obviously soliciting. No critical thinking required; no critical thinking done.

    We probably should admire both his networking/social support system and his ability to quickly retrieve facts!


  2. Hey Cathy:

    Great connection to the recent video and the comic strip. When I read the recent NY Times article, New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology – New York Times, I keep hearing the word “fear”. Fear of having to change. Fear of losing control. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not knowing if this is the “correct” way. Fear of a world passing some by. Just general fear.

    And I wonder, what am I, what are all of us, doing to help ease this fear…

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  4. Hey, Cathy. I’m glad you visited my blog. I am not making full use of the blog for feedback; I started it to make posting assignments simpler. I just email it, as you know, whereas my website required me to log in with Frontpage. That’s why I have really not paid much attention to commenting permissions. I am thinking of ways to use either a blog or a wiki page for developing some thoughts around themes in Macbeth, and I want to learn how to have students fill a .pdf form online that I can check and save. It’s all about finding the time to figure it out. I’d welcome suggestions!

  5. I’m laughing at the strategy of sitting far away from the “front” of a session, keeping busy, keeping a low profile and trying to remember to keep half an ear on what was going on… Except for me this was junior high and part of high school as I hid my Agathie Christie and Jane Austen books behind my math and social studies. How is it different from what my students try to do now? Maybe it gives me a little more sympathy and makes me a little more savvy as I circulate around the room or even give them a little bit of permission when they are finished the work I assign.

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