If the teacher dances faster will students learn more?

“I’m an entertainer. I have to do a song and dance to capture their attention,”

These are excerpts from a New York Times article Titled, "Technology is Changing How Students Learn" suggesting student attention spans are decreasing and teachers struggle to engage students in classwork. I added my own somewhat flip reactions.

Teachers who were not involved in the surveys echoed their findings in interviews, saying they felt they had to work harder to capture and hold students’ attention.

There are things in the world far more interesting and worthy of a student's attention than a teacher. Let them look, let them ask questions, let them find the answers.

“I’m tap dancing all over the place,” Mr. Mendell said. “The more I stand in front of class, the easier it is to lose them.”

Stop making the students watch you dance... Let them dance! Dance with them. "Look at Me! Look at Me!" needs to become "Look at that! Look at that!

For her part, Ms. Baldwin said she refused to lower her expectations or shift her teaching style to be more entertaining. But she does spend much more time in individual tutoring sessions, she added, coaching students on how to work through challenging assignments.

Students saturated by entertainment media, he [Dr. Christakis} said, were experiencing a “supernatural” stimulation that teachers might have to keep up with or simulate.

The heavy technology use, Dr. Christakis said, “makes reality by comparison uninteresting.”

To think of the Internet and online interactions as something apart from or separate from reality is misguided. The device I hold in my hands, the people with whom I interact, the transactions I carry out, the learning that occurs, the changes to the world that occur online absolutely have physical manifestations.

A teacher's role is changing. We should not be the focus of attention - rather the student's interests should be the focus. Teachers help the students ask questions, help structure frameworks for investigation, teach the skills to assess and reflect, hone the child's ability to communicate.

One teacher quoted recognized the need for change in how education is done:

Other teachers said technology was as much a solution as a problem. Dave Mendell, 44, a fourth-grade teacher in Wallingford, Pa., said that educational video games and digital presentations were excellent ways to engage students on their terms. Teachers also said they were using more dynamic and flexible teaching styles.

Journalists craft stories to make black and white out of many shades of grey, and I trust that the teachers featured in this article had far more to say than the sentence or two quoted in the article. It is hard to make the shift from "sage on the stage to guide on the side" (and how old is that phrase?) Radical visions, enabled by technology, of how we can do education are exciting but no less scary for teachers. Technology makes the shift easier. Ubiquitous technology makes the shift necessary.

The times they are a changin'.

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