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Do Students Want to Transform School?

Do Students Want to Transform School?

Kelly Christpherson |

My new class this semester is a grade 12 Social class. One of the topics we are discussing is the idea of models and how they work, why we have them and reasons they change. In the class, we discussed the one model they are all familiar with and know very well; SCHOOL.

The present model in which we function has served us well for many generations and has served society. However, it has become apparent that the model is not doing as well as it once did. As a class, we began to discuss the model and examine it as being a model. We broke it down into different aspects of the model framework: patterns, people, perception and environment. As we went through these different aspects, we began to look at what things we could change to improve the model. I then assigned this to students, who were free to work together to discuss and then come up with their own model of learning.

It Wasn’t That Much Different

As I went through the assignments, what became very apparent was that these students are already shaped to think inside the model. Instead of exploding the model and looking at it from new perpsectives, students were still focused on classes, bells and the delivery of knowledge. They did discuss the environment and “rules” that they would like to see changed. However, they didn’t really expand beyond where we are presently. In fact, when I began to throw out some ideas of changes, some of the students were even resistant.

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We’ve moved on from that discussion and those assignments but it really made me wonder why these students hadn’t tossed out the current model. So, my curiosity made me go further and I went back to ask why students hadn’t exploded the model. For their part, it was the idea of change, the idea of the unknown and the uncertain that really kept them in the present model. They didn’t know how a new model might work and are comfortable with this model with a few minor changes. In fact, when I suggested that we move the model away from the 2 month summer break idea, they rebelled. “How will I earn money to go to university?” “What will be able to keep up my car payments?” “Three weeks isn’t long enough to rest!” They had many more  reasons for sticking with the current model for just the holidays. 

How did we do this? We’ve a group of young people who, in the short time at school, have become so use to the model that the thought of changing it too much really made them uneasy. Now, I know this may not be a typical reaction by students but it does make me wonder if it is just the adults who would have trouble with a new model of school.

We’re All Learning

Learning is something we continue to do. Sometimes it small increments that we don’t really notice and sometimes it’s the “aha” moments. It doesn’t matter how old we are or our profession, our gender or race, religion or political thoughts, learning is something that we all do.

At a few different blogs  and other online places there has been a renewed discussion regarding the whole “immigrant/native” thing. I bring this up here because students, in the discussion, didn’t see the technology they use as adding to their learning. In fact, it was only by discussing the features of their cellphones and what they were capable of doing with them, that the whole matter became a serious part of the discussion. What was more important to them was the time at school, the quality of the teachers, the assignments and their being relevant, the school environment (no more hospital colours!), the furniture and access to better and newer texts and information. (I’m not making this up!) They wanted to be able to use their cellphones and such but not for learning but for communicating – keeping in touch with others. Yes, the students have the access to technology but, like many teachers, they don’t use it in the learning arena for learning. Their use is just as limited as many of the adults around them. They may have been born surrounded by it but, regardless of what the proponents say, they still need to learn how to use it to its greatest advantage. Like all things, there are those who are exceptions but my experience is not that students, growing up “immersed in the digital technologies” know any more about using it beyond simple communication than the adults around them.

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