“You have to” vs. “I want to”


cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by sun dazed

I saw this interesting post regarding Harvard University posting videos that act as a course syllabus (or a supplement to the syllabus) that anyone in the world can view.  You do not necessarily have to go to the school to see what students at Harvard will be learning this year and who they will be learning it from:

The videos are publicly available on the site, which means that those of us not lucky enough to attend Harvard can catch a glimpse of what students there will be learning this semester, which is a positive effect of the use of such technology, opening up the workings of one of the most prestigious universities in the world. But on the other hand, it may just make some of us green with envy that we aren’t students there.

The last sentence in that quote really struck me.  Mostly in K-12 education, students are told what they need to take and are forced into a class whether they like it or not, like it is the learning equivalent of vegetables.

“Just take this class…it will be good for you!”

Now I know that as we grow, we also gain more responsibility to pick and choose what we want to learn about.  I know that when I was 5, reading would have not been my first choice for learning but obviously I am happy I have that skill as an adult.  My question is how often do we just accept that students have to come to our classes and are okay with that?  When would we ever create a video similar to the one created for this course, and get kids excited about what they are learning about?  I hate using the term “customer” when talking about our kids, but in reality, we are there to serve them and should we not be getting them excited about what they are learning about?

I think little opportunities like creating a video are not only an opportunity to share what we will be learning but also to get students excited about the class and convince them to take the course.  Would that be bad?  I would love the thought that as a teacher kids would be excited about what they were going to learn in my class from day 1 and I knew that they wanted  to be there.  It is also a great time to challenge them, ask questions, get them to create questions, and even build a connection before they walk into class.  A written paragraph on a piece of paper would not do that for me for most courses and I am guessing that would not work with most of our kids either.

  • Elizabeth

    I wish my instructors had done this with all of my classes. I spent a lot of time trying to decide what classes fit me best, but this would have helped me make more accurate decisions for sure. Knowing all the things I would learn that interest me before the first day of class–what a concept.

  • jack Hill

    I lkie your thinking George.
    While video would be more inviting than a paragraph, just like steak (for some) is preferred over a hot dog, the question is,"where are the supports and resources?" How can we serve a high protein technological product that fosters inquiry?
    Teachers,like students, need the bridge, to be able to a design questions and methods for inquiry.. Just like doing a science lab, we need to plan for those at different stages to explore how to design and express their understanding.
    Maybe (just thinking out loud) having a recording booth like at malls that allows students/teachers to express their views before a course is offered about expectations?
    Good article.

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      I would love the thought that as a teacher kids would be excited about what they were going to learn in my class from day 1 and I knew that they wanted to be there.

  • http://glensedtech.blogspot.com/ Glen

    Great post. Getting kids excited about learning has always been a big part of what drives me as a teacher. It is no fun when the kids are not engaged and tuned out. Luckily for me, as an ELA teacher, I had a great deal of choice in the content and activities I did with students. Making things more exiting may definitely be more difficult for a math teacher..but not impossible.

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