Found today, unpublished in blog form– c. 2011
Sitting in a meeting today I heard teacher after administrator and teacher do battle with the soul of the machine, the system and an environment yet realized. On the discussion plate was a slice of fifteen minutes reading in a day of six hours. That fifteen minute time period is held like a light in the darkness of olden day for this community at times. “If only kids would take a break from the machines that control them something might be better”; a humanitarian view indeed but one that misses the point.
Educators so often seek clarity and demand an attention from this generation that according to Wesch (2010) has had a media introduced and will not go back. The machine becomes a burden when the system they are in, one built for the 20th century fails to reach the young. It is the system, not the child or machine is at fault, for if you give the young freedom and self determination, collaborative and democratic spaces inside a school or out–more often then not they will engage wildly with any task at hand (yes it might be messy, but so are they….so is human learning). Adolescents seek freedoms as a function of their biology and not one bit of schooling can do the end job of getting rid of this. Yes we’ve all seen generation after generation stuffed through the square hole, their triangular and circular edges (the parts we want in the 21st century) shaved off, but the spirit is still there. This spirit exists within the stories we hear of wasted years in school, heartache, and struggle to regain a spirit–(except for the square shaped kids who fair OK, or remember sports events and prom instead of school).
The problem is not the machine. Machine use in most schools represents the only freedom and self-determination a young person often has. “Read a book because it is good for you” goes only so far without a solid reason for doing so in a generation that can as easily learn from MIT online as they can in your classroom (and at MIT they give solid reason why it is important–everytime)….and alluding to the need to go outside more–in the minutes before or after a six hour sitting day–does little for this generation who actually spend a fair deal of time outside (at least in Maine).
I love reading and come from a family that read. But it was the freedom given me in school to explore, and the consistent support given me by elders that fueled the passion on a daily basis. I was given the choice of what to read, and took it. The choice and a reason as I engaged in a learning environment that tested ideas and values not content.