29 May 2007

How can we encourage autonomous television watching?

Some teachers speak of autonomous learning. Some teachers feel their students are too lazy. Some teachers feel students need to always be pushed to learn.

Why is it difficult to get students to study English but it is not difficult to get students to watch television?

Is it because watching television is, to put it simply, brainless? Do people have an inherent need for brainless entertainment?

Are all television programs brainless? Do viewers never learn anything useful from the tube? Is there no useful educational content in television?

Or is it that the makers of television programming have learned to be "student-centric"? Do they work under the pressure that viewers can switch to another channel with one click? Does this propel them to captivating content?

If our students could get up and leave our classrooms at anytime with no negative repercussions would it change the way we teach?

Are there any teachers out there that could compete with television? Are television programs always more engaging than English lessons?

Is there anything we can learn from television?

I am not recommending television watching or movies here, although I think those are great tools. My point is that we can learn a lot from these people, like television producers, who must, every night, attract the attention of what is a fickle public.

Rather than take the approach of making a boring processes more palatable to students, what if we really challenge ourselves to present materials as interesting as TV to make our training thoroughly engaging to the students?

I think that would motivate students to be truly autonomous.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Dave! Barry here. I think you should try getting some of your students involved with the spokenskills oral competition that you asked me about over on TESLCA-L. What could be more motivating to students who are eager for television-like experiences than recreating scenes from television shows and then benefiting from any incidental learning that comes along with the exercise. As for your question about whether or not teaching changes if your students could get up and leave, I say heck yes! Those of us in the adult education arena deal with that from day one. Virtually all of our students have other things to do and lots of family or work responsibilities and if they see that they could spend their time better elsewhere than they don't stay. New teachers learn the saying "Students vote with their feet" as it relates to teaching abilities quite quickly. In my context, not having the minimal number of students (25 a class in my district) means losing your job.

    Teachers with experience correlate what they teach to student needs and expectations and then deliver the material in interesting and motivating ways. Teachers who like to experiment with new ideas and techniques can get away with a lot more innovation if they don't neglect what students THINK they need.

    As a reminder and for others not familiar with it, find the ESL video-based competition at www.spokenskills.com.