Saturday, April 5, 2014

Content and Design: Pushing Learners Beyond Mediocrity

Source: ASIDE, 2014
In today’s world of fast-paced touch screens, snaps, clicks, and tweets, we increasingly find it difficult to get our learners to see that design and presentation matter. We are not sure if this is the result of the over-scheduled child jumping from one activity to another, or the increasingly shorter attention span to stay with something to make it their absolute best. Now more than ever before, content and design matter in tackling a problem, iterating an idea, building a prototype, or constructing a presentation.

What is clear is that many of our learners think it’s just fine the way it is. When they are assessed on their work with a clear outline of the expectations based on instruction and modeling, they often fail to meet those expectations. As educators, our delivery of content is evaluated on presentation of material, integration of technology, engaging activities, and differentiated instruction. Yet, it seems our students think that delivering text-heavy presentations spinning out of control in Prezi, shallow research to demonstrate understanding, or shoddy work put together in haste is okay.

Design does matter, and it is not good enough to think what is created cannot be improved upon through iteration. The key to good design, however, is content. We are beginning to feel a little dictatorial about it, too. We often see students busily changing fonts, picking colors, and adding pictures before crafting the content into an organized, well thought out way. On the opposite side, we see students putting work together without using any of the evidence they’ve gathered in their research.
Source: ASIDE, 2014

We provide the time for deeper learning, choice in delivery method, and integration of technology. Sadly, we still see mediocrity. How many times have we heard “I’m done” two minutes into an activity, only to realize that they left out key requirements because of a failure to read instructions? While we don’t mind doing something over to make it better, there’s a certain responsibility in not getting a “do over, and over” as a result of sheer carelessness.

We’re sure that many have heard the expression “failure is not an option;” well, what about “mediocrity is not an option?” The problem is not a matter of flipping, blending, empowering, engaging, or any other buzzword; it’s a constant push for sustainable, deep thinking on the part of our learners. They need to know that it is not fine to be run-of-the-mill. The “everyone is a winner” mentality drives mediocrity, and learning that is a “mile wide and inch deep” leads to pedestrian thinking.

Source: ASIDE, 2014
We spoon feed our learners so much with testing, multiple choice options, and detailed review sheets that they cannot organize their own thoughts to learn. Parents besiege us when the “grade” is a B-, requesting extra help for nothing more than a failure to read instructions or follow requirements. It’s an attention to detail and organizational issue; it’s also a sign of a lackadaisical approach on the part of the learner to put in the effort. Barely satisfactory (BS) is not an “A.”

We’re not giving up; we want the kids to sink their teeth into things. So we will keep pushing them beyond mediocrity, because the “ah hah” moment becomes a life-long curiosity for wanting to know more.


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