Today I showed all of my 8th-12th grade students the “Iowa, Did You Know?” video. They laughed at the more phones than toilets statistic, cheered for Facebook and Twitter, gasped at the 49th in entrepreneurial (yes, according to Pages I did spell that right on the first try) activity, and were appalled when they saw that their classrooms (mostly) look like the classroom in the 1890 photo.
After the clip and after we talked through their initial questions and concerns (Is Iowa really THAT bad?) we discussed and wrote about the accompanying discussion questions. Here I’d like to share the reoccurring themes from the approximately 85-90 students who viewed the film and discussed it’s contents.
Question 1: Do you feel like you are being educated for the last 50 years or the next 50 years?
The students answered all across the board, with the majority answering “the last 50”. Some did feel that they were being taught for the future, but several felt they were being educated by the present.
Question 2: What do we need to do to make students better communicators, collaborators, and problem solvers?
The overwhelming responses included more technology and more group work. While some are leery of technology and wish we could just use textbooks and worksheets (because they are good at them, not necessarily because they find them interesting), many wanted to take advantage of opportunities available to them through technology such as working with groups outside of the school building.
Question 3: What percentage of your day would you say you spend using modern technology in school (I asked them not include items they weren’t supposed to be using or word processing)?
Of course the answer varied, but most were below 20% and all were below 30%. They said that it varied from class to class and what was going on in class. More technology is used, they said, during projects and for research.
Question 4: What percentage of your day outside of school would you say you spend using some form of technology (I asked them not to include watching television)?
Again, answered varied, some kids have more at-home restrictions than others, but answers averaged at around the 50-60% range. I saw some 80s and higher - and yes, even one 100%, though I’m not sure when he sleeps if it’s 100%.
Question 5: What percentage of the school day would you say you are bored? What should be done to ensure that students are engaged and want to come to school to learn?
This ranged from 2% to 98%, but the most common answers landed in the 50-70% range, though 40% and 80% made several appearances in my analysis.
Again technology was the overwhelming winner. Students wanted to be able to use their cell phones, more computers, they want iPads and to invest in new technology. Projects were a close second. Students want “fun”, hands-on learning experiences, more group projects and non-traditional learning. One student asked for flipped classes.
Question 6: What should Northeast Hamilton do to address the concerns of the “Did You Know” video?
Number six may as well have been a copy and paste of number five, although they also included making tech use more equitable between classes, getting rid of textbooks, and asked for air conditioning so that they would be more comfortable during classes and could pay attention better (well, it IS August in Iowa). A couple asked that they be included in education discussions.
Question 7: What should the state of Iowa do to address the concerns of the video?
Most students asked for more money, but some asked for the government to be less strict in educational laws concerning seat time, required subjects, and grade levels. They want to be able to have more voice and choice in the classes they take and more freedom and flexibility during the school day. Several noted that they would ask for college to be made more affordable.
Overall I think this lesson had a positive impact on the students. I got a lot of great feedback from students who don’t typically offer an opinion, and many were still talking about it well after class had ended. It helped give them some background behind why I am doing what I’m doing in my classes and about what changes might take place in the future. The felt like they had a voice; that somebody was listening to them.
Not everyone wanted more technology, though. Some fear change and some fear technology. I saw that the fear or resistance was more prevalent in the younger grades, while the older students begged for new technology to be put in their hands. My hope is that these conversations today set the tone for a productive, engaging experience. I gave my students permission to call me out (respectfully, of course) if I was truly not teaching in a way that would help them become better prepared for their futures. We will be partners in learning this year. We will be better together.