Saturday, September 6, 2008

Edu-tainment vs. Stick and Sand

In our generation, there has been a turning tide, a tide that has been eroding true education. In a desire to be brief, let me cut right to the chase. In short, I call it "edu-tainment." What do I mean by edu-tainment? Let me expound...

Edu-tainment replaces modeling, dialoguing and thinking with flashy tools or games, thus leaving the student in a passive state of receiving stimuli, but not really processing and owning the material or skills needed for a successful learning journey. Classical educators have referred to this approach as filling a bucket, pouring information into or around a student (the bucket) until they can't take any more. The student is viewed as a passive receiver - a bucket. Long term this edu-tainment or filling-focused approach is very unsatisfying for the student, leaving the spirit of the student disengaged, which eventually leads to disinterest in life's great learning adventure.

Classical Conversations programs, tutors, and parents strive to light the fire, to engage the student in learning process. This is primarily through modeling, working alongside the student with extensive dialogue and encouragement, and finally the student working through their studies more independently and confidently because they have had a sound model and encouraging mentors.

Now is there anything inherently wrong with tools? Of course not, but they should never replace discussions and engaging the student's brain in the thinking process. As a parent-teacher, it is easy to be fooled into thinking we are "teaching" when in fact we are simply gratified by the impressed excitement around our tool (or perhaps the quantity of worksheets we have completed), while leaving the student unchanged and relatively untaught. Beyond the immediate albeit exciting experience (or sense of accomplishment), no skill or true knowledge was effectively transferred. Teaching tools have their place, but are secondary to the hands, minds and hearts of the teacher and student.

True education employs powerful modeling and teaching, and does not merely reveal how much the teacher knows or the fancy tools they can create that reveal the teacher's creativeness... but rather true teaching and education draws thinking and connections out of the student, engaging the student in learning. Let's keep it simple. Note I did not say simplistic. Modeling, dialoguing and encouraging our students in their learning journey is hard work, and in many ways more difficult than creating a presentation or game. Let's be diligent to recover and restore true education.

Here's a simple test Leigh Bortins, Founder of Classical Conversations, uses when approaching teaching her program class and her own boys... If I only had a stick and sand, could I engage and effectively dialogue with my students about the concept I want to teach them? This helps us to rely more on modeling, dialogue and relationship then on the false sense of accomplishment a flashy presentation can leave. Minutes of effective modeling and dialogue are exponentially more effective than hours spent on presentation.

Let's be careful not to get swept up in the undercurrent of edu-tainment or should I say let's not ride the edu-tainment wave, but rather ask yourself, If all I had were a stick and sand, how would I engage and dialogue with the students concerning this skill or subject?

More on the classical model

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1 comment:

  1. I am so glad that chose to expound on this "stick and sand" concept. They briefly talked about this at our practicum and it makes alot of sense.

    As always I appreciate the time you take to inform and teach us!




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