Saturday, 14 May 2011


In a very hands-on computer technology grade 12 class, we've built our own network from scratch and students have been working through the A+ CompTIA technician's course. The final goal of the course is to get students into the position of actually getting certified as PC technicians. If they go on to college for courses, they'll already have the first certification they need. If they go to work, they'll be able to work in Futureshop, Staples or whatever (all those computer support people must have A+ certification).

The goal was a relevant, purpose driven class with real world value and as much technology as I could possibly provide.

I've spent a lot of time and energy getting my hands on equipment and making space for the students to be able to develop technology from the ground up. I hadn't spent as much time walking students through some very information heavy review, my hope was that the hands on technology would offer us in-class opportunities to review the material.

Some students, once they got the network to a functional level, got very distracted by the fact that it can play networked games. This conversation happened recently when I suggested they needed to be ready to review the entire course because we were running out of time. One student felt that he hadn't been handed the learning on a silver enough platter:

Grade 12 student: "but you're the teacher, shouldn't you be making us learn this?" (instead of letting us play games)

Me: "I've done back flips to get you guys access to multiple A+ courses, material and testing practice. I've also drilled you on the material on a daily basis. When we get done with that, you are given time to read ahead on future material, review what you missed, or apply your theory hands on. At that point I want to help people on a one on one basis. If you choose to play games with that time, it's my job to force you to learn?"

student: "..."

me: "I'm not here to force you to learn, no one can do that. You're senior students on the verge of graduating. If this were a junior class, we'd have more regimented lessons, but it isn't. I expect you to be able to address yourself to what's going on. I'm not about to force your head into the learning water here, if you don't want to drink, that is your choice. It puts you in a bad place in post secondary though, they don't spoon feed at all."

student: "but we're not college students, you shouldn't run the class like that."

me: "you're about to be, at what point would you like to transition into post secondary if not in grade 12? Do you think they are going to spoon feed you next year?"

Not ten minutes later we wrapped up the chapter review and students were let loose on the network. Guess what he did...

me: "After our recent conversation, what you're doing there is quite provocative. Are you trying to aggravate me?"

He didn't stop, he just minimized the window. I feel sorry for the guy.

This class has a truly awesome amount of technology at their disposal, I'm jealous. When I took my certifications, I had to take apart and reassemble the only PC we had in the house, and look at pictures of other ones because I had nothing on hand. I didn't have a certified technician there enthusiastic about experimenting and throwing everything from imacs to netbooks, to laptops to multiple desktop formats into the mix. I also had to pay four times what I'm getting the certs for this group of students for. This guy is spoiled for choice, and all he wants to do is play (fairly lame) old games and whine about not being treated like he's ten years old. I'm not saying they shouldn't take a break and blow off some steam, but they seldom put in the effort to deserve the break.

I've got some good students in that class, but they're all bitten to a greater or lesser degree by their wealth; it makes them complacent and lazy. When I think about what the students in my computer club at my old school in the suburbs would have done with all of this equipment, it makes me sad. Even when you make the learning, meaningful, individualized and pack it with technology, you can't force a spoiled, lazy horse to drink it up.