“WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED IN YOUR FIRST 22 YEARS OF LIFE?
How to sit.
How to stay awake while sort of listening.
How to organize a few thoughts impressively enough to get decent test grades.
How to talk with people my own age about sex, drugs, games, parents, weather, and nothing.”
This was the first comment I saw after reading Mark Carnes’ Setting Students’ Minds on Fire. My initial thought was “Huh, pretty funny” and then I really thought about it. If I were given a test based on these four “objectives,” I’d ace that thing. When did education
become less about learning and more about participating? Can we even call what our students are doing as participation? Let’s call it “passive participation.” The author of the comment is right. Every day students step into classrooms, sit down, stare blankly, occasionally comprehend a few words, and then wait till test time rolls around to cram as much information into their minds for a 36-hour period. Sounds like a roller-coaster ride but this cycle is apparent in classrooms across the nation.
So how do we take “passive participation” and turn it into, what I like to call, “passionate play?” It’s transforming perceptions of learning into a two-way interaction with engagement and an exchanging of ideas and opinions. Sounds fun, huh? BUT HOW???
I think it’s important to meet students in the middle. You’ve got to relate to them in some manner just to get the conversation going. Talk about life, love, the pursuit of happiness. Whatever you need to do to get people talking, do it (as long as it’s professional). I open every class by playing music. Sometimes I’ll ask my students if there’s anything in particular they want to listen to and if not I throw on some 90’s Alternative Rock. This gets them at least out of that awkward silence before class and talking with their classmates.
As my class is already structured for me, it’s difficult to customize it to some extent. I’m using powerpoint to explain the speeches themselves but adding memes or short videos to keep things interesting. Luckily, on the days students aren’t giving speeches, there’s typically an activity of some sort. As this is a public speaking class, it’s hard to move away from talking “at people” rather than talking “with people.”
All the examples Carnes uses about learning through gaming are all related to history. It’s difficult to incorporate games into other fields. If anyone has any suggestions on how to incorporate it into Public Speaking or Communication, I’d love to hear them.
P.S. I will not accept the game “telephone” as an answer 😉