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Education Shouldn't Be Easy
on April 11, 2011
On page 69, Kevin Hodgson, having led a fifth grade class through writing digital picture books, quotes one student: "I think that books in the future will have people popping out of the pages and talking, like a miniplay. In the future, you will not even have to read the books--just listen to them." This quote prompts two questions. First, since when do fifth graders understand their own best interests?
Second, since when do we think education should be easy? I encounter this issue time and again throughout this book: using computers to teach multimedia composition will help students grasp writing by making it easier. But looking back on my own education, I retained very little that came easily. As a teacher, I see the difference in my students between work that comes with little effort and work that requires sweat.
Some of this book's essays support that belief. For instance, Glen L. Bledsoe's story of writing and recording an audio play collaboratively with his fourth graders persuades me that publically showing the work's steps makes students' own expectations more transparent. Jeffrey Schwartz cogently describes how video production makes poetry more engaging and humane for high school students. I might incorporate some of these techniques.
But, just for a few counter-examples, teaching writing through blogging inculcates a rhetoric of small vocabularies, short attention spans, and little reading. Moreover, I fear that letting them "research" with RSS feeds and a Google blogsearch rewards a passive attitude that information should come to students, while writing doesn't require students to lift their butts from their chairs. This approach is, at best, incomplete and lethargic.
This book has many excellent approaches and techniques. I agree that electronic literacy forms education's new, uncharted frontier. But for each essay that details useful, considered writing pedagogy for the digital age, one more rewards passivity from students and teachers alike. Maybe I'm old school, but I think education should be at least slightly difficult. Only that which requires effort really improves the student.