I just watched Dr. Tim Tyson, former principal of Mabry Middle School, give a keynote address on using technology in the schools to provide a more relevant, interesting curriculum for students. He brings up the idea of meaningfulness, and it’s definitely a subject worth pondering when you’re responsible for 130 people’s ability to read and write.

Tyson’s all about using podcasts and digital filmmaking in the classroom so students are more involved in their learning. I couldn’t agree more, but even he admits that the real issue is not technology, but meaningfulness. And not just meaningfulness in the when-will-I-ever-need-to-know-this sense, but more along the lines of accepting that these students in the classroom have value as human beings, and they can and should contribute to society in some way. You don’t become a citizen when you graduate high school–you’re a citizen as soon as you’re born. It’s high time these students started, um, citizening.

Now, should I take my fifty minutes a day to pick trash up along the highway? Of course not, but there are plenty of project-based assignments I could work out that could relate to English just as effectively as the Shakespearean sonnets I’m throwing at them now.

The technology enters into this meaningfulness as the internet (I’m done capitalizing it, aren’t you? Somebody tell Microsoft) allows global access to anything a student creates. Tyson asks his students to consider what they have to say that’s so important the whole world needs to hear it. It’s a lofty goal for his middle schoolers–and it would certainly be for my students, too–but getting involved in the world takes a lot of hard work. It’s time these kids figured that out.


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