Student engagement has been a hot topic in education recently. It appears that an increasing number of students are not active participants in their learning despite new technologies, teaching methods, and the best efforts of educators. It is my opinion that students are not as engaged because they are not getting authentic information experiences.
I define an authentic information experience as: an experience whereby an individual or group is actively engaged in collecting, creating, and sharing information – photos, video, text, or ideas – in a real world context. These experiences happen when people instrinsically want to learn and create something; not because they’re being told to, because they want to.
In one world, youth have dynamic and engrossing information experiences. They exchange, create, and publish information with just a tablet or smarthphone and an Internet connection. With these tools they can:
- find out an answer to almost any question through a Google search
- learn almost any skill from YouTube
- create a viral meme in a matter of minutes
- share thoughts and experiences through Twitter and Instagram
- find joy in random stuff on Tumblr
- critical think and problem-solve in video games
In the other world, youth are told what to learn, how to learn it, and why they ought to.
I am not against curriculum, or teaching in traditional ways, but times have changed. Information is ridiculously abundant and the youth of today want it more than ever before. They don’t just want to take it in, they want to help create and share it! If educators want their students to be engaged, the students need to be made an important part of the process, not just the recipients of information.
I’ll use a quote from David Warlick’s article entitled Information Ethics that I think articulates the “two worlds” idea that I was describing.
Preparing children for an information-driven, technology-rich future requires us to redefine literacy in a way that reflects the changing nature of information. You and I were taught to read what some body handed to us. Our students will read from a global digital library that anyone can publish to, just about anything they want, and for just about any reason.
The bottom line is that participating in an informatoin experience is learning. Students are yearning to share their experiences on a grander scale. I like to use technology and social media to provide my classroom, not only a window to the real world, but a communication line where ideas can be shared, heard, viewed, and discussed. This is the way I’ve chosen to engage students. How will you?