We always say that one part of engaging kids with learning, is to engage them with reality. Ensure that school is not a place that prepares students for some far off mythical life that they will get to only after being finished in our buildings; but instead have kids work and think and engage with real problems.
But is that true? Are we really prepared to push our kids into thinking about real problems?
I was thinking of this the other night. I’m away from home on a trip filled with mayoral meetings and spent part of an evening on twitter the other night playing name that tune (until I got banned from the game – but that’s another story) with people from all sorts of places. While we were playing and generally just letting a little time roll by, I noticed much more important events rolling by in my timeline:
The world is a strange place. One that can be filled with beauty and love and things that astonish me every day. But it can also be brutal, and violent and terrible. Most of us thinking about ed tech issues are fortunate enough to live in parts of the world where we have enough to eat and a clean, safe place to sleep every night. But of course, this is not the reality for large parts of the world’s population.
How would parents and other stakeholders in our schools feel if we really engaged the kids in our classrooms with this, other reality? Do they really want their kids to know?
I used to always have the kids in my class read the Nata Village blog, A space kept by two nurses in a village in Botswana where a large portion of the population has active HIV, I always found it a heart rending read for small town North American kids. But it was effective and never failed to get them thinking and talking. Unfortunately, the space is no longer active, but it always served as a good reminder of how fortunate we are.
This morning I ran in to another space that faithfully represents reality. Eastside Stories is a blog kept by a beat cop who works in Vancouver British Columbia’s East Side. A neighbourhood filled with drug addiction, homelessness and problems by the dozen, this blog represents the pain and despair, and at times, the beauty of a community such as this. By would parents really want the students in your class to be reading it?
One of the greatest opportunities we have with ed tech is to engage people and stories outside of the realities of our students and communities. To show them new people and new stories. To bring them the world.
But how much reality do we really want? Are we prepared for what that can look like?