Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interaction With Others

"The first half of life is spent mainly in finding out who we are through seeing ourselves in our interaction with others." -June Singer

Whenever I encounter students over the sumer vacation - in a store...at the county fair...here, there and everywhere - they tell me that they're having fun but can't wait to get back to school. It's not the worksheets or testing that they miss, of course, it's their friends.

This desire to socialize is a natural one for children and young adults. Interacting with peers can enhance communication skills, build confidence, and help create a positive self image.

Yet it seems like we spend a lot of our school day working counter to this need to connect. Much of our instructional time is consumed by lectures and quiet seat work. Administrators frequently equate a noisier, more interactive classroom with poor teacher management techniques.

There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of discussion in education circles, regarding the validity of cellphones and other communication devices as learning tools. Many district filters routinely block Google Documents, blogs, wikis, and social networking sites.

If we truly believe in the 21st century skill set, which emphasizes communication and collaboration, then we must determine how to use the students' need to connect with each other in an effective, meaningful way.

Rather than discourage children's sociability, let's channel it, using whatever tools are appropriate to the situation. Our millennial learners are already networked; it's up to us to show them how to utilize their skills for success in school and in life.

“I'm a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they're interested in.” -Bill Gates

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” -Anthony Robbins

"Best Friends" by Yogi


Paul C said...

Nothing to dispute with here. I am saddened when some parents just plunk young children in front of TV screens the whole summer with little meaningful interaction with books, educational software opportunities, or even community sports. Come September it's the teacher that can provide the important socialization that all children need. Web 2.0 activities is hopefully one of the vehicles.

M Coleman said...

A nice synthesis! I concur and wonder what you see as the biggest stumbling blocks to making the changes...

Also, I would guess that there's a similar value in the 'true' interaction between student and inanimate material (be it text, audio, video, etc.) - not just social beings!

It becomes more and more obvious each day that the current structure and function of existing classes is less than ideal - anytime teachers/students can invent a different learning environment, there's something *special*!

diane said...


Most parents have resorted to media babysitting at some point. But to substitute it for active pursuits of the minds and body borders on neglect.

Teachers can't - shouldn't be expected to - compensate for a sterile home environment.

M. Coleman,

A small start might be instituting designated areas at school where students are allowed to communicate - talking, texting, working together on projects. We need to validate their socialization requirements.

Loosely organized activities and access to district resources outside of school hours would be welcomed in districts like the one where I taught, since rural homes and dial-up Internet connects tend to isolate some students.

And why not cash in on their interest in hunting, hiking, etc. by introducing more active outdoor electives?

I feel the biggest stumbling block, at least in a school setting, is discounting Student Voice. They are telling us what they need; we just have to find ways to accommodate their desires in an educational environment