(Snipped and reduced) I found myself asking: have American students lost their tolerance for a little boredom? .... I’m referring to the short term malaise that arises when we lack a ready source of novel stimulation — the pressure behind your eyes that builds twenty minutes into writing a paper or reading a tricky article. .... At the first sign of boredom, we reach for e-mail or refresh a Facebook feed. A shockingly large amount of schoolwork gets done in a last minute frenzy, fueled by the adrenaline of an impending deadline, and proceeding in a confusing, inefficient slurry of short work bursts constantly interrupted by quick hits of boredom-busting stimulation.
I am not surprised at this revelation and I can point to its source. It is not technology based, primarily, although technology and tv and instant access to text and flix and pix over our phones have contributed to it. This malaise, as study hacks calls it, is based on the constant insistence of teachers to make learning "fun."
The refrain runs through every in-service: "What can we do to make education fun? How can we relate this math to their lives? What will make it meaningful to them? If they aren't engaged, they aren't learning so we need to make them engaged. We need cross-curricular, group learning situations where the students can access 21st century tools and technology and actively participate in the global community, blah, blah, blah."
Now, the instant it doesn't meet any of these criteria - the students shut off. The minute we stop being actively entertaining, they want to stop "learning." I have been told that practicing math problems is "Drill and Kill" and "Not what we do here." Then we send them to the driver ed teacher to practice their driving and the soccer field to run drills. In their own time, they stay glued to the video game to practice the same move over and over until they get it right. Ever watch them practice same skateboard trick for hours on end? How about the same basketball trick?
Learning is hard. Learning takes focus. Learning takes practice. If we keep on insisting that it always be fun, then it will disappear whenever it isn't.
"I do. We do. You do."
It's not always fun but it's effective.