In his annual address to secondary school heads, John Dunford, the general secretary of the U.K.’s Association Of School and College Leaders, acknowledged yesterday that a culture of instant gratification has made the job of teaching today’s youth harder than its ever been.
“Success appears to come instantly and without any real effort,” Dunford told the conference audience. “It is difficult for teachers to compete. Success in learning just doesn’t come fast enough.”
Well said, Mr. Dunford, but hardly revolutionary.
For years now, I’ve heard from teacher friends and seen from site visits how much teaching has become by necessity almost entertainment like; we must engage the students by making lessons fun and relevant.
One teacher told me recently that she has to convince high school students that learning basic math concepts like multiplication and division are necessarily skills in life, even employing popular rap stars and their lyrics about money making within her arsenal.
That’s sad … but is it inevitable given how prolific and accessible technology and media are and make everything seem? Not only do we have 24/7 media, we have an endless supply of fame-seekers willing to broadcast their lives 24/7.
It was bound to have an impact on consumers, particularly the most impressionable ones. As a recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed, it has.
Today’s youth, ages 8 to 18 years of age, spend on average, nearly eight hours using entertainment media, be it watching television, playing video games or using their cell phones and MP3 players.
Very little of that time, unfortunately, is utilized for educational purposes, which might explain why heavy multi-media users report getting poor grades.
Enterprising schools and districts are employing technology, using it to excite and engage students around learning, though Dunford in his speech to school leaders, was spot on regarding another declaration: “We have to move from dependent learning to independent learning.”
Because it takes a talented teacher to make lessons fun and appealing to students. But it takes every teacher to make kids find learning worthwhile, even when it isn’t fun.
Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor