Saturday, April 13, 2013

An Alarming Disarming of Skills?

Lost among the many higher order skills my students demonstrate on a regular basis is a significant developmental weakness--many struggle with the concept of a table of contents.

As I plan for next week, I find myself making notes for my students that pin-point exactly where a particular story or essay can be found in their textbook. To a certain degree, their behavior has reprogrammed me.

Girl Reading, by Pablo Picasso
When I write the name of a story or essay on the board, students immediately want to know, "what page?" This is true whether we are reading something together in class or if I assign something for homework.  And, of course, when they ask, I tell them. And, of course, like any compliant rube, I head off those questions by anticipating them and writing the pages numbers on the board or on any notes I distribute.

When students have questions, I love it. But are these the types of questions I should a) be answering and b) avoiding by giving them the answer in advance?

Some would argue that I should give the students everything they need in order to have the best chance of success--including a page number in their textbook. Can't you hear the criticism, "Well you didn't tell him/her where to find the essay." or "Did you write down the page number?"

And then something has been happening over the last few weeks that dragged this issue to the surface: they have difficulty exercising a similar skill online.

We have been using a website and app called VoiceThread for some digital creation activities. Usually, when we work on it in class, the students grab the iPad, tap the VoiceThread icon, and everything is smooth.

And then they go home to try or sit at one of our school desktops to access it online...and one of two things falls from some of their mouths, "I can't find it" or "What is the website?"

Why can't some find a very easily found site online? Why do some need the specific page number when the book is right in front of them? Is this lapse in executive functioning developed by the current state of the world? Is it taught and encouraged by parents and teachers?

Irrespective of the cause, I see that a clear gap exists in this regard among some of my students--it doesn't matter if it is a paper and text world or a digital world--some students do not possess the ______________________ to find what they need.

What do you fill in the blank with?

  • patience...
  • knowledge...
  • stamina...
  • desire...
  • tools...
As I complete my plans for the week, I am starting at the specific page numbers, websites, and locations that I written...and I am questioning myself:

Am I arming them with tools or disarming them of skills?

1 comment:

  1. I struggle with this all the time. I have had students tell me that they did the wrong homework because I gave them the wrong page. When I ask them which lesson we are on, they can tell me, but yet did homework for a different lesson. Sometimes I am not sure that their critical thinking is intact...ugh!

    The Other Side of the Equation