Get Your Blog in Shape

March 4, 2009

How to disengage!

3004527244_13f77149d71Okay back up on my soap box……just read Marc Prensky’s piece on ‘Engage or Enrage Me’. Sounds like we are talking about a spoilt brat, or a well catered client at the very least. Challenging and thought provoking! Where do I start….today’s children seem constantly engaged, or maybe, occupied might be more apt, – so much so that they come to expect it – and don’t necessarily know how to deal with life when it is not so engaging. This is not always a good thing. Just ask any 9 year old to turn off all electronics on the weekend and go play. What about a power outage for more than several hours! Luckily we have rechargeable laptops, Nintendos, Cell phones, IPod players – or else we might be bored!     

Children today grow up in a world where the big media giants spend billions of dollars on marketing technology to…..well……to children.  In 2002 Nintendo invested 140 million in research and development alone while the US federal government spent less than half as much on research and innovation in education. Children today are consumers like never before.  We have affluent parents who think parenting is a contest and treat children like a client…….catering to every whim, looking for the competitive edge so they will stand out, making sure they have access to all the latest gadgets, constantly offering a barrage of scheduled activities to keep them occupied 24/7, never wanting for anything, instantly gratified, always ‘engaged’……..is this a good thing? I think not. Should we as educators be expected to do the same?

A kid can’t even go for a drive with the family and daydream out the window as there is a movie to watch and handheld on screen games to play so as they are ‘engaged.’ 

Many children have had piano lessons, tennis lessons, swimming lessons, the latest gadgets, (think Wii, Nintendo, Playstation), the list goes on,  long before the child ever wanted or asked for any of it. What does this lead to? Lack of motivation.  No passion.  Disengagement. But not boredom, they haven’t had time.  So we continue to rush around trying to ‘engage’ them. Are these the kids that Marc Prensky refers to as “tuned out”? They sit up the back, nothing excites them. As a teacher trying to engage these kids I would need to be a one man act, bring in the clowns; bells and whistles; swing from the chandelier and maybe they might take notice.  I have tried this approach and it feels like putting on a birthday party for 22 kids, repeat times 6 each day! We are not in the entertainment industry, we are educators, and while yes we do need education that is rich, authentic and real world experiences…there is a bottom line of what teachers can achieve in the restraints that we work within and what is actually good for us. Sometimes there is a lesson in itself by having to do an activity that is not ‘engaging’. Real life is full of these moments! Sure, the online world of gaming is a great escape from real life drudgery at times but it is an unrealistic expectation that every activity has to be’ engaging’ or we run the risk of enraging our students. This is setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.  I think we need to look carefully at the environment we are exposing our children to from an early age. It is a ‘hurried’ childhood for many, they get to do it all and see it all and have it all and then what? What is there to look forward to? So they ‘disengage’.  Maybe we are doing children a disservice by constantly engaging them in all manner of activities from an early age? I say it is okay to be ‘bored’, out of boredom comes creativity (ask any parent that has strived for balance and turned off all electronics for more than thirty minutes – the kids are at first ‘bored’ and at a complete loss as to how they might occupy their time…..but hang in there….wait another 30 minutes and watch the creativity begin….conversations…..connections….with people in the same room. ) 

Carleton Kendrick Ed.M.,  LCSW says

So when you see your kid “doing nothing,” whether she’s sitting on the front steps, seeming to stare into space, or making a space colony under the dining room table, or re-reading a comic book for the 100th time, let her be. She’s just taking a little time out of her busy day to have a childhood.

So seemingly not engaged. No, just taking time out to be a child.

Okay this blog is all over the place, I am thinking out loud, drinking red wine, and now need to get to the point! Find a balance in life.  Engage children but also let children be bored. My mother called it benevolent neglect – she used to snib the back door and we were not allowed in until it was dark. It allowed me to develop creativity, enjoy my own company and daydream.  Probably didn’t look like I was always engaged, I was not enraged either. Sure, the big media giants can engage kids for endless hours. That’s not always a good thing. Educators don’t always engage kids in everything we do, and that’s not always a bad thing.

March 1, 2009

Has ‘On Screen Activity’ replaced ‘Physical Activity?’

Filed under: Physical Education — pekina @ 10:08 am
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img_09371After much time spent today watching “how to blog” tutorials and way too much time spent scanning various websites including podcasts, facebook, blogs and wikis I am ready to finally pull out my soap box blog, climb up on top and broadcast myself! I am still feeling overwhelmed and suffering from a massive dose of information overload. Blogging is not something I am really comfortable with (assuming I ever figure it out!) and I am probably more suited to be a wiki person than a blogger. I have been on the computer for 5 hours today and only just starting to feel productive. Although reading and searching for relevant sites is certainly considered productive it is not until I put pen to paper (well that’s becoming obsolete) rephrase that – not until I hit the  the keyboard does it feel like I have made a start. So here we go………my field is physical education so I initially set myself the task to see how technology has impacted physical education. I found videos and websites dedicated to motivating people to become more active (one hour a day minimum) ( I would have put a link here but after half an hour of unsuccessfully trying to link I am giving up – obviously all the time I spent learning to blog was not that successful)  The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention identified 12.5 million Americans as obese in 2004. The number of obese children has tripled since 1984. Senator Tom Harkin in a press conference in Washington DC to release a program called PLAY Everyday” (unbelievable that we have to ask children to play!) was quoted as saying

Expert’s say that there is a very real prospect that today’s younger generation will be the first generation in American history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

(Just unsuccessfully tried to use the quotation marks….this is frustrating) So this may be not surprising to some – it’s America right. Well, a search into literature emanating from Australia tells me that my home country Australia now leads the obesity stakes per capita. (another link needed here when I figure it out) This is from a nation who was previously stereotyped as leading a healthy outdoors lifestyle. Why is our nation’s heath so poor? Is it because  ‘on screen’ activity replaced ‘physical’ activity? Is being a kid no longer synonymous with being active? A look into the various videos and podcasts being made by health experts and PE students are primarily about motivating children to turn off computers and get active. Maybe these kids should spend less time making podcasts and videos about being active and actually be active! Would that be a better role model? Physical Education has undergone a paradigm shift in terms of curriculum and appropriate practice. It is not appropriate (never was!) to cater primarily for the naturally athletic child, it is all about catering for every BODY. We have come out of the draconian ways of PE past where teams were often picked by captains, children that were not naturally athletic often felt humiliated as they would be picked last, and were also frequently eliminated from games first (although were the ones who needed the most practice!) and exercise was used a punishment (drop and give me ten!) Think Mr Woodcock for those who are familiar with the movie. Games like Duck Duck Goose where all but two children were inactive for most of the game are gone from today’s PE curriculums.

When it comes to physical activity for elementary children, the only word we should associate with young children and exercise is fun, and lots of it. After all we are now competing with Nintendo and other media giants for their time.  

When I first started teaching we had to occasionally justify the inclusion of Physical Education into the curriculum. I was often asked why consider exercise for young children at all? Don’t children naturally get all the exercise they need just by being children? After all, how often do the words “Why can’t they just sit still?” or “These kids are bouncing off the walls!” come to mind? Certainly, it seems as if young children were active enough. Not today! Recent studies (another link needed here- you will just have to believe me) cite the fact that children 2-10 years old spend an average of 25 plus hours a week watching television as evidence ‘being a kid’ isn’t what it used to be. And that statistic doesn’t include any time spent playing video games or on computers. For some children the only activity is “on screen activity.” The American Heart Association recommends one hour of physical activity per day. Sadly this seems to be difficult for many children to achieve. Of course it is not just the inactivity that is destroying the health of our children – it is as much about the food we eat and other lifestyle factors. What limits do we place on “on screen’ activity? How do we help ourselves and the next generation maintain the balance? Is ‘on screen’ activity now synonymous with being a kid? Has ‘on screen activity replaced ‘physical activity’ that we associated with childhood a generation ago?  I am logging off to go for a bike ride with two children – if only I can convince them to turn off the cell phone, TV, Nintendo. Wii, and laptop!

Okay I am coming back to this tomorrow to add media files (but need to figure out that one as well)…..unbelievable how much time this takes for someone new to blogging. Anyway I am off to work on my bod rather than my blog!

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