In my Honors Geometry class, when I ask my students the definition of a word, the students begrudgingly look in the appendix of their text for the 1991 explanation of the unknown word. In the hallway, minutes later, the same student will pull out his or her phone and quickly either Google it or use a dictionary app.
Why does the classroom door dictate how our students treat the acquisition of knowledge? What have we, as teachers, done to them to make their Pavlovian response to our questions an often outdated one? Why doesn’t the classroom mirror real-life, in their eyes?
It’s because we haven’t allowed it to.
I don’t memorize anything in my life. Nothing. Not even my mother’s home phone number. Yet we, as math teachers, are supposed to expect students to memorize the various equations for conic sections, symmetric about both the y- and x-axes, just to name one example. It makes my head spin just thinking about it.
No thank you. It would take me 20 minutes to come up with some clever way to remember the equations and, even then, it would just be some meaningless tool to get through the test/quiz. Those 20 minutes could have been spent doing something meaningful. So why do we do it? What 21st century skills are we teaching our students by having them spend time memorizing, when we could be letting them use that time collaborating or creating???
Here are five skills that we should be incorporating into our lessons. But are we? And if so, how?
- Manipulate Pictures
- Write a Blog
- Record Audio Tracks
- Create a Website
- Make a Video
I am not advocating ridding my Honors Geometry class of its formulas and proofs. But I AM suggesting that instead of having students memorize facts, they should be allowed to create their own booklet with definitions, theorems, and formulas that are relevant to them. I am advocating that the students should be given a chance to design a lesson and create a video that teaches that lesson.
I’m not saying that all of these goals can be accomplished in my class. I am, however, saying that these skills are a group effort and should be a goal of the teachers as a whole.
Can we all work together to get this done? I sure hope so…for the students’ sakes.