Monday, October 16, 2006


Teachers: Educators or Entertainers?

Two comments from the readings this week have really been sticking in my mind. I'm hoping that by getting them out in a blog, and hopefully getting some feedback, I can get a sense of calm and complete my readings for my other courses. As it is, I keep relating WWI British society to digital is, obviously my mind is disturbed. The article that drew my abnormally intense interest was the John Bonnett article “Following in Rabelais’ Footsteps: Immersive History and the 3D Virtual Buildings Project.” In the article he expresses the opinion that it is the role of historians to encourage students to participants in their history education. Later in the article he goes on to say that in order to interest and encourage tinvolvementent of students historians should look to pop culture for inspiration.

A year or two ago my reaction to this concept would have been something like this: don't want to learn? Fine, someone's got to pump gas. Harsh? Yes. (Take this as a caution before sending your kids to a low socio-economic school.) My current viewpoint is more accepting of Bonnett's ideas but with certain caveats. My main objection Bonnett and the theories he is proposing is that I fear that there is a thin line between using enjoyable and interactive techniques and technologies to help students learn and forcing teachers to be entertainers rather than educators. I do believe that the growth technologyogy can be hugely important to drawing students interest and that this is a very worthwhile pursuit.

In museums I think that this is even more important than in high schools and universities. Museums have the difficult task of trying to draw in the general public, which includes a diversity of interests and abilities. In such situations, the conveyance of any information is admirable, and 'hooks' such as computer games, VR, etShoulduld be liberally incorporated in museums.

However, in schools the emphasis should be more on learning than 'having fun'. Obviously as a graduate student, willing to devote yet another year and shovel load of student debt to formal education, I do not consider school and fun to mutuallylly exclusive. Conversely, I have to acknowledge that most people do judging by the fact that "Why?" is the most common response when I tell people I'm in a Master's program. In educational settings, technology such as Bonnett's fascinating 3-D Virtual Building Project are wonderful tools for encouraging and enhancing student learning. But they are just that, tools. The essential focus is still learning itself.

Also, youths, especially teenagers, seem to have an infinite ability to become bored with anything, including technology. When I was teaching in a high school last year I asked my associate teacher if I should prepare powerpoint presentations. She replied that students are actually becoming bored by them, because they are the general method used; using the chalkboard drew more interest and interaction. I believe it is important to use 'oltechniquesics as well as new technologies stimulateate learning. New is not always better and anything in too large a dose becomes tedious.

I think it is also important not to condition kids to believe they they have a right to have fun at all times. When teaching, I tried to intersperse the less interactive and interesting aspects of the subject matter (i.e. reading, independent work) with more interesting lessons that used internet simulation games, reenactmentsnts, and historical puzzles (it took me most of my Xmas vacation but it was worth it when none of my students left class for a smoke break.) Please don't misinterpret what I am saying. I want to make learning enjoyable for students and encourage them. However, a part of learning must be directly internally. We must not attempt to compensate by bombarding students externally.

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