Most young people today are versed in the use of the Internet and its search engines. They have a question, they search Google, Yahoo or some other preferred search engine and find what they believe to be their answer. They may or may not have verified the validity of the site from which they are drawing their answer, but in the haste to find an answer, who cares about the validity?
These are the students who teachers today have to deal with in the classroom. They are more apt to check the instructor’s words than ever before. At their fingertips is the knowledge of the world, easily accessible with one click of the mouse. Teachers are expected to know what has been written, blogged and videoed on any and all subjects they teach.
In the past, teachers could afford to be incorrect on minute points, because the world’s knowledge was not readily available to the world. However, with the Internet as prevalent as ever, the “butterfly effect” makes minutia no longer acceptable. Teachers must check for students’ knowledge on a regular basis, no longer taking for granted that what is presented in the classroom is clearly understood and readily accepted. Teachers must continually assess students’ background knowledge, where and how they have learned or created bias in their knowledge and their learned knowledge, when and what they have been taught in relation to their knowledge.
Teachers must become aware of each student’s knowledge level in the area presented and evaluate the student’s willingness to gain additional knowledge in the area. Daily technological advances are moving students ahead at a light-speed pace. For teachers, the art of education has never been more challenging. Students are no longer content to sit in a chair and listen intently to knowledge being poured out by a highly educated teacher. As we consider the challenging problems of today’s educators, student family life, technology, rigorous curriculum or social interaction, we must realize that the real test of teaching skills rest in the ability to assess the students’ knowledge level and their willingness to understand the use of that knowledge. We must continue to increase their knowledge level and hone their willingness and ability to utilize the knowledge gained.
Purpose of instruction
The purpose of instruction must be two-fold: to teach students “stuff” and to ensure they know when and how to use that “stuff.”
Immanuel Kant (1960), himself a very self-disciplined personality, cautioned educators, “But on the whole we should try to draw out from their own ideas, founded on reason, other than to introduce such ideas into their minds.” Students come into the classroom today knowing a lot more “stuff” than ever before. Technology has given them knowledge that previously one gained over a lifetime. Teachers who do not readily recognize this are not going to be able to evaluate students’ current knowledge level and will be unable to evaluate their willingness to gain “new” knowledge from instruction.
Successful teachers are extremely aware of their purpose. They understand that they are the connection, the conduit that will enable the student to bridge the use of knowledge with the willingness to learn that knowledge.
Gerald Morris was a school board member for Traverse City Area Public Schools in Michigan for eight years and president of the board for four years. Morris taught at Kingsley High School in Michigan. He is founder of G & G Consulting. Follow him on Twitter at @tcapspresident and read his blog.