80.3 F
Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, June 30, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesChanging the Way We Learn and Teach

Changing the Way We Learn and Teach

The day my students at Junior University got connected to the Internet via their wireless laptop computers was as much a day of learning for me as for the class.

The assignment I gave was simple. Go on the Internet and look up information on the rule of thirds – a basic concept of composition that has aided painters and photographers for centuries.

Before the class ended we discussed the rule of thirds, we discussed the camera shutter and shutter speeds and aperture. One student even asked about depth-of-field, a more advanced photography subject.

We discussed Leonardo da Vinci and the Mona Lisa. We discussed his painting of the Last Supper. Another student asked, wasn’t it he who painted that ceiling in the Church? He meant of course the Sistine Chapel that was painted by Michelangelo not da Vinci, but it’s all good. The important point is that interest was keen; the students were engaged; they were attentive. These are all requirements that are critical to effective learning.

Advertising (skip)

We got more covered in that one class with the computers connected to the Internet than in the previous three weeks of classes with talk and chalk.

Those earlier classes were marked by constant interruptions for bathroom breaks. This became so disruptive that I eventually said, “look, you don’t need to ask me, if you want to go, just go.” The classroom emptied.

One of my teaching assistants remarked later that what I did was madness. So an adjustment was put in place allowing for only one student at a time to leave for the bathroom. But disruptions and interruptions, for one reason or anther, was the norm. All instructors lamented about this.

It is important to understand these disruptions were not because these boys are not smart – not one of them isn’t – or are willfully delinquent – which frequently seemed to be the case. But there were problems aplenty.

In fact, The Junior University, a joint initiative between the University of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands Department of Education, came into existence to assist 48 young men gain a new perspective on education and passing up to eighth drade. They were selected from Bertha C. Boschulte and Adilita Cancryn schools and had the full support of UVI President David Hall and Insular Superintendent of Schools Jeanette Smith-Barry.

JU became an intensive five-week program during which students worked with their professors and with graduate students to improve their math, reading and thinking skills. They also built sportsmanship, self-awareness and citizenship skills, and went on field trips that were fun and educational. I was brought in to add an art component, which became the learning of digital photography. The young students were given a taste of university campus life by being allowed to spend the last two nights on campus in the university dorms.

All agreed the program was a success and that just about every student benefitted. The question is, what is going to happen when the boys go back to their regular classroom? What about the hundreds of other students who flunked and didn’t get a second chance? And what about the escalating problem of hundreds of dropouts every year?

Back in the 1960s Marshall McLuhan, who had many useful things to say about the effects of media on society, predicted what is happening in our schools today – the many behavioral problems and in particular the high number of dropouts. He explained that children today are born into a fast-paced electronic world. But when they get to school they are thrown into an educational system that was built for a much earlier generation. This antiquated educational system drives them to distraction and leads to the chaotic, disruptive behaviors we are experiencing and to our high dropout rates. Until we address this problem, chaos, disruption and dropping out will only intensify.

There are certainly no simple or easy answers, but perhaps the Junior University offers us an opportunity to begin transforming our education system from its analog base into a true 21st Century learning environment. And by this I do not mean just adding computers and other digital technology to classrooms, but building an altogether different classroom. A new classroom free of the strictures, assumptions and conventional wisdoms of the old analog world, that fully embraces the huge potential of the modern digital world into which our children are born.

We have a year to plan and establish a true digital classroom and to collaborate with others who have experience teaching and learning in a digital classroom. If we succeed in mounting such a program next year we could carefully measure its effectiveness and let this guide us in moving forward.

I’m guided to believe much can be done to improve our education system by the truly remarkable results achieved from equipping students with some of the common tools of their generation. Boys who had just flunked seventh grade each got a computer connected to the Internet. The improvement in attention and concentration was dramatic, making it clear that if we work this right, we could turn problem learners into outstanding achievers.

And we could do this throughout the territory by transforming our whole education system from its traditional analog base into the digital environment today’s students require.


Playwright/director David Edgecombe is assistant professor of communication at UVI.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

STAY CONNECTED

20,771FansLike
4,758FollowersFollow

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more

The day my students at Junior University got connected to the Internet via their wireless laptop computers was as much a day of learning for me as for the class.

The assignment I gave was simple. Go on the Internet and look up information on the rule of thirds – a basic concept of composition that has aided painters and photographers for centuries.

Before the class ended we discussed the rule of thirds, we discussed the camera shutter and shutter speeds and aperture. One student even asked about depth-of-field, a more advanced photography subject.

We discussed Leonardo da Vinci and the Mona Lisa. We discussed his painting of the Last Supper. Another student asked, wasn’t it he who painted that ceiling in the Church? He meant of course the Sistine Chapel that was painted by Michelangelo not da Vinci, but it’s all good. The important point is that interest was keen; the students were engaged; they were attentive. These are all requirements that are critical to effective learning.

We got more covered in that one class with the computers connected to the Internet than in the previous three weeks of classes with talk and chalk.

Those earlier classes were marked by constant interruptions for bathroom breaks. This became so disruptive that I eventually said, “look, you don’t need to ask me, if you want to go, just go.” The classroom emptied.

One of my teaching assistants remarked later that what I did was madness. So an adjustment was put in place allowing for only one student at a time to leave for the bathroom. But disruptions and interruptions, for one reason or anther, was the norm. All instructors lamented about this.

It is important to understand these disruptions were not because these boys are not smart – not one of them isn’t – or are willfully delinquent – which frequently seemed to be the case. But there were problems aplenty.

In fact, The Junior University, a joint initiative between the University of the Virgin Islands and the Virgin Islands Department of Education, came into existence to assist 48 young men gain a new perspective on education and passing up to eighth drade. They were selected from Bertha C. Boschulte and Adilita Cancryn schools and had the full support of UVI President David Hall and Insular Superintendent of Schools Jeanette Smith-Barry.

JU became an intensive five-week program during which students worked with their professors and with graduate students to improve their math, reading and thinking skills. They also built sportsmanship, self-awareness and citizenship skills, and went on field trips that were fun and educational. I was brought in to add an art component, which became the learning of digital photography. The young students were given a taste of university campus life by being allowed to spend the last two nights on campus in the university dorms.

All agreed the program was a success and that just about every student benefitted. The question is, what is going to happen when the boys go back to their regular classroom? What about the hundreds of other students who flunked and didn’t get a second chance? And what about the escalating problem of hundreds of dropouts every year?

Back in the 1960s Marshall McLuhan, who had many useful things to say about the effects of media on society, predicted what is happening in our schools today – the many behavioral problems and in particular the high number of dropouts. He explained that children today are born into a fast-paced electronic world. But when they get to school they are thrown into an educational system that was built for a much earlier generation. This antiquated educational system drives them to distraction and leads to the chaotic, disruptive behaviors we are experiencing and to our high dropout rates. Until we address this problem, chaos, disruption and dropping out will only intensify.

There are certainly no simple or easy answers, but perhaps the Junior University offers us an opportunity to begin transforming our education system from its analog base into a true 21st Century learning environment. And by this I do not mean just adding computers and other digital technology to classrooms, but building an altogether different classroom. A new classroom free of the strictures, assumptions and conventional wisdoms of the old analog world, that fully embraces the huge potential of the modern digital world into which our children are born.

We have a year to plan and establish a true digital classroom and to collaborate with others who have experience teaching and learning in a digital classroom. If we succeed in mounting such a program next year we could carefully measure its effectiveness and let this guide us in moving forward.

I’m guided to believe much can be done to improve our education system by the truly remarkable results achieved from equipping students with some of the common tools of their generation. Boys who had just flunked seventh grade each got a computer connected to the Internet. The improvement in attention and concentration was dramatic, making it clear that if we work this right, we could turn problem learners into outstanding achievers.

And we could do this throughout the territory by transforming our whole education system from its traditional analog base into the digital environment today’s students require.


Playwright/director David Edgecombe is assistant professor of communication at UVI.