Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Shop Class

As students arrived for the first day of Wood Shop, they noticed at the front of the room a table filled with tools of the trade.  There were various instruments that seemed to be for cutting, several others that looked like design tools, and many more that these first year students didn't recognize.  Imagine their surprise when the bell rang, the teacher stood at the front of the room and announced that they weren't going to be using any of them.

He explained that he didn't know how to use them, and so the students wouldn't be using them, either.  It would be dangerous for students to use things if he wasn't familiar with their proper use, he said.  It would be distracting to students if the sounds of the different tools hammering, sawing, and sanding could be heard during class.  Rather than risk anything unsafe, unfamiliar, or distracting, they would instead learn about how to make things without using any of the tools.

They would watch a video now and then, but mostly they would receive instruction in lecture format and practice the basic knowledge with worksheets.  If they wanted to use any of the information they might pick up between naps, they would have to do so at home, on their own time.

If this sounds ludicrous to you, think about how you teach your own subject.  Are you allowing students to use the tools available?  Are they using the best tools, or the ones that you are comfortable with?  Are they using or learning to use anything they will likely need in their own lifetimes, or the ones that you became comfortable with in yours?

Another scenario could have described a table with only the tools used hundreds of years ago, and none of the modern tools of today's carpenter.  This would be a fairly accurate comparison to schools today, as most classrooms operate they same way they did when they were modeled to fit the needs of the Industrial Revolution.  We operate as if in a time capsule, assuming that what was good enough for us, our parents, even our grandparents is somehow enough for today's students.

Teachers need to know what tools are available, how to use them, and how to teach students to use them effectively in their own lives.  To make the assumption that kids know enough about technology already and don't need anything from their teachers is to assume that knowledge of video gaming and texting will somehow transfer to corporate success.  Here is the truth:  kids aren't technologically savvy.  They know how to do what they want to know how to do, and nothing else.

Students need their teachers to be knowledgeable about the things that they will need for their futures, not be limited by what was good enough for their teachers' pasts.

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