One of the toughest challenges for teachers is engaging our students.
With students in-class distracted by non-stop messages on their smartphones, Facebook updates on their laptops, and shorter-than-ever attention spans, it’s no wonder that educators refer to modern teaching as “edu-tainment.”Then there’s the conundrum of how to speak to all the different learners in the room and the varying levels of interest in what we’re saying. Easily 10% of students don’t give a damn about learning anything and are in your class just to get the credit they need. Most of these students sit at the back where it’s harder to notice that they are willfully ignoring the lesson (although not everyone at the back fits this profile). Most of this 10% group will fail or drop out or barely scrape through.
About 20% are on the edge. These are students who are undecided about our class and whether we provide anything they need. Another 60% are fairly interested and engaged and will put in a moderate to fairly big effort. Then there is the final 10%, the outstanding achievers who listen intently, participate fully, ask questions when confused or in disagreement, and who give their best on each and every assignment.
No educator can speak to all of these students. So we either speak to the middle or the top-tier of students while not totally ignoring the undecided and the seemingly permanently disengaged.
We need to continue to include the less engaged because every once in a while one of them will learn something from us that makes them change camps and suddenly become one of those high—or higher—achievers that we teachers adore. And some of them are actually learning whether we teachers realize it or not.
Speaking of high achievers, my first-year Advertising students at St. Lawrence College have embarked on a major assignment for my class that requires them to write 10 weekly blogs reflecting on the lessons they are learning about their industry in class and in the world around them.The blogs are meant to help them build their personal brand and will continue to be required in all their years in the program. Students also get a chance to receive critical feedback on their writing and, through written reflection of their lessons, I hope they will better retain the knowledge they gain each week. At the same time, they have started using social media as a potential professional tool and not just as a social networking toy.
Of course, some students aren’t taking the assignment seriously and are putting in minimum effort. Their blogs are, of course, mediocre and will suggest to potential employers (rightly or wrongly) who research their online presences that they are, indeed, mediocre in their marketing and advertising industry-related abilities and/or interests.
Many students, however, have passionately embraced this opportunity and are using the lessons from class and a blogging checklist to produce some critically good work. They are harnessing their creativity and enthusiasm to create visually beautiful blogs that cleverly integrate social media. And they are reflecting deeply.
Some of these students are people who admit to being painfully shy or who have expressed doubt about their technical and/or writing abilities. Nonetheless, Several students created gorgeous blog entries last week. You should see them!Please honour the impressive endeavours of some of last week’s best bloggers and take two minutes to have a look at a few of their entries (URLs are below). If you find one or two that you like, please leave a comment or two. Or Tweet their blogs, Facebook them, or subscribe to them.
You won’t regret it. Indeed, you’ll be helping an enthusiastic student to become even more engaged. And you may learn a thing or two yourself.
http://notesgoatsandanecdotes.weebly.com (learning to love the Mac)
http://christinahewitt.blogspot.com (easy writing improvement tips)
http://alababble.tumblr.com (overcoming fear of public speaking)
http://kbouwmeister18.blogspot.com (advertising’s invisible prison)
http://littlecatinthebigcity.blogspot.com (women who whiten their skin)
http://theimcexperiment.blogspot.com (student transformed at World Business Forum)
http://hollies-hot-topic.blogspot.com (Remembering Steve Jobs)
http://oddly-enuff.tumblr.com (World Business Forum provides lifetime opportunity)
http://socialintervention.tumblr.com (marketing and privacy invasion)