Friday, September 25, 2009

Why do students hate school, but love learning?

A few weeks ago my wife and I had some friends over for dinner.  Just before they left we we got to talking about blogs and I mentioned, somewhat casually, that I have a blog that I post to about once a week or so.  At that point my wife turned and looked at me like I was a stranger she had never seen before and then said, rather emphatically, "No you don't."  You see I have never been particularly fond of or good at writing (as many of my posts reveal).  But, for the past year or so I have been a regular blogger.  What's more, it is one of the more enjoyable things that I do in my work.  This didn't make sense to my wife and has only recently started to make sense to me.  

In high school, and to some extent in college, I cringed any time a teacher mentioned an essay, research project, or even Haiku (I still wince at writing reports, memos, and evaluations).  I hated writing.  I was forced to do it, couldn't write about anything other than what the teacher wanted, and no one other than my teacher (who I didn't really care about anyway) was going to read it.  So, I've always been a little intrigued by the fact that writing for a blog is something that I do willingly.  Last night I got some answers that shed some light on this split personality I've developed.   

I listened to a talk by Clay Shirky ("Where do people find the time?"--for part 2 of the talk click here), a professor of new media at NYU, where he describes what he calls an "architecture of participation."  This architecture consists of three factors:  an ability for individuals to (1) consume, (2) produce, and (3) share all of which Shirky argues are critical for meaningful participation.  The more I listened I started to realize that my blog has allowed me to do all three of those things and I started to believe what Shirky was saying.  My blogging is different from the academic writing asked of me in school in very important and fundamental ways.  First, when I blog I get to write about what I am interested in and it isn't restricted to a particular discipline.  I am, at heart, an educator so many of my posts center there.  I've also written about politics, language, design, and health care. . .things I know little about, but am interested in.  Blogging also allows me to produce my own digital footprint.  I enjoy creating a post that links to books I've read, talks I've listened to, and other blogs.  It's also gratifying to google a term like "deep practice" and see one of my postings come up in the search.  I feel like I've created something that matters.  Lastly, because blogs are public I know that what I'm writing may actually be read by someone (I recognize that may not be true, but the theoretical idea sounds good to me).  That, incidentally, makes me care a lot more about what I write about and how I write it.

This all leaves me wondering how we can make school a little more like blogging.  What if schools were more thoughtful about creating an architecture of participation that would support the type of learning we hope happens in our classrooms?  How would assignments be structured differently?  How would the teachers role in the classroom change?  How would relationships and roles among peers look?  

The idealist in me wants to believe this would make a difference and that students would start learning in school in the same ways we see them learning once they leave our classrooms and campuses.  Am I being naive?    


gary said...

Intriguing post. In my role as an administrator, I'm most worried about the "share" part of the architecture of participation. How can a school structure itself so that sharing becomes part of its practice and builds to learning at the level of the school? Blogs go part way, but my sense is that students share with friends (most of whom aren't in their classes or schools). In the web 2.0 world, sharing would seem to be the main justification for schools and classes (otherwise why not just let students work individually?). I don't have any good answers to this question. At Westminster I've floated the idea of a campus learning day, where every student has to do something to make their learning public--present a poster, share an e-portfolio, take NSSE and the CLA, etc. Little traction so far, though.

sample papers for physics cbse board said...

According to me education is the principal instrument of developing human capabilities that provides the instruments for liberation from ignorance and oppression. It is both the cause and effect of development.We have to implant these type of qualities in students so that they will become a good human being.

Jeff said...

Hello my name is Jeff I'm a College Student at Emory & Henry College-located in Emory, VA- I appreciated and enjoyed your blog as it coincided with my own personal frustrations with the education system.

Anyways, if knowing that people read your blog truly excites you the way it was portrayed in your blog that you might appreciate my story of how I stumbled upon it in the first place.

I was looking through magazines for a picture of a stonewall that my brother could use for his book report and as I flipped through articles in Fast Company-my favorite magazine-My search turned into occasional skims which turned into reading which then turning into sharing,with my girlfriend what I had learned. 2 hours have passed since I've started reading I've learned about new ways of saving energy-google "super cool biz"- to things about the new eugenics when it started what problems could I arise from it.

And then I became puzzled at how I personally could show so much inclination for learning in these moments of reading and sharing. But not have the same motivation and satisfaction in a school setting.

Which finally led to me googling,"Why do I hate school but love learning." And that's how I got to your fantastic article that introduced me to the concept of "architecture of participation."

It's very interesting, thank you for sharing this, even though it was posted a while back I appreciate it all the same.

Unknown said...


I don't know if you'll ever see this. But, thanks for taking the time to read and respond to the post. I'm glad you found it helpful. If you're writing at all about your thoughts or experiences relating to education & learning, I'd love to see them.



Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Modern Nature said...

wow, so glad I came across your blog. excited to read more posts by you! i am a high school student and your blog also compliments my thoughts on the current education system. trying to start a blog myself on a similar subject.

Unknown said...

Thanks for reading. I'm glad you've found some ideas here that are useful. Best of luck getting your blog started. I'd be interesting in reading your posts when it's up.


Rouger said...

I think a new approach to education is needed. I have attended some community college classes to get some college credit. After some time I thought I would give full time a shot. After three weeks I dropped out.

Every class on the first day regurgitated the same 'group' learning study, and that was the basis for imposing a one size fits all policy. Strangly enough, these studies also found that some students did not learn well in the social context, but that did not seem to matter.

I really enjoy learning. Youtube, online tutorials, book, and forums are great. However, there was something about stepping onto a campus that made me upset and I do not know why. If I am given a task or just curious I will go above an beyond whats needed.

I am now working full time and learning new things at work and on my own, and am happy as can be.