“Amuse me, teacher!”

It is clear that intrinsic motivation is at the heart of learning; I can think of few experiences more exhilarating than to work with a class that is inspired by a project. And I know nothing so depressing than to be in front of a class that is not interested.
The Internet, books, television, DVD and email give us access to almost unlimited opportunities to learn. This allows for a student-cantered approach to learning in a way that was never before possible and I see my students take full advantage of it: “Where did you learn that?” – “Oh, on the Web”.
I got depressed this week because I saw school as an institution that is actively preventing learning rather than encouraging it.
Yet this is one side of a more complicated story.
We, and students with us, are faced with too much information:

“We are a culture consuming ourselves with information, and many of us do not even wonder how to control the process. We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend, believing that cultures may suffer grievously from a lack of information, which of course, they do. It is only now beginning to be understood that cultures may also suffer grievously from information glut, information without meaning, information without control mechanisms.”
Neil Postman, “Technopoly”

Moreover, we are faced with the seduction of a sophisticated commercial system that encourages us to consume; and information becomes a product to consume like any other, rather than to process. Students now compare school against entertainment – that which does not amuse is of limited interest. Being a teacher is becoming a stressful and difficult profession.
It is difficult in these conditions to persuade students that satisfaction is not amusement and that it is the result of great effort and difficulty that requires attention to detail and rigour; and that clarity of thought, structure and expression requires endless reworking the same thing.
This blog is a discipline for me and coming back the same theme day after day is bringing me closer to an understanding of my ideas.

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