My wife came home the other day and started describing a new problem arising in her school, where students were claiming to be tired of using devices for everything. The students were apparently saying “Can’t we just do a lesson on paper today or you just teach us.” As she told me this, my wife didn’t notice that she was simultaneously picking up her iPad to check Facebook and that made me think.
In my observations around my school, it’s those same students claiming device fatigue in the classroom that are not hesitating to turn to their device for ‘life updates’ as they leave that very same room. I would propose that it’s not fatigue caused by device use but that caused by the pain of trying to carry out conventional, 20th century classroom tasks on devices that are designed for a world that conducts itself very differently.
20BD (Before devices)
When I was a student and my teachers were handing out the standardised task to every student, I too remember asking, “please sir, can we do something different today?” I wasn’t asking that we not do something on paper, I understood that in those days paper was always going to be the prefered option, but that the challenge was different and looking back, any task that had me working with my peers was always more engaging but a rare occurrence.
Some classrooms don’t suffer
I have evidence from my current workplace that two teachers teaching the same subject will share very opposite quotes from students on this topic. Whilst one shared with me that the students were tired of devices, the other shared that students were asking how the subject was ever interesting before devices. What makes the difference?
Device fatigue would mean life fatigue
Touch screen devices of all shapes and sizes have become a part of our existence and the way we now conduct our lives is partly shaped by them. Why should education be separate from this. To focus on the positives, the combination of mobile device and social media has made young people experts in:
- Sharing ideas and discoveries
- Debating those ideas
- Communicating in groups
- Organising events and resources
- Working on the move.
Schools and teachers need to embrace this and design learning around these strengths rather than fight against them. They need to look at how the world now operates and not attempt to rein-in these developments as bad things and attempt to shape educational activities with outdated moulds. The world is moving on and learning has to do likewise.
Many classrooms still use numerous approaches which do not reflect the practices the creative industries, businesses, universities or even individual professionals expect to see in their new recruits and don’t do much to prepare young people for the rapidly changing reality of life after school.
5 tips for avoiding claims of Device fatigue:
- Keep the learning Active. Ensure that at least part of the task involves moving around.
- Keep it Social. Kids must discuss their learning as it happens. Only through reflection will true learning take place.
- Keep it flexible. Don’t prescribe the app they must use. Lay out your expectations but allow for individual expression.
- Keep demanding. Have high expectations and be clear about the depth of evidence required.
- Make it personal. Ensure the task allows the kids to personalise the result. Have them link topics to their own experiences.
The western world is no longer paper-based, factory-based or slow-moving. please ensure your classroom reflects this.