Posted by: markhowell101 | March 1, 2010

Edutainment and Edutainers

It occurred to me whilst watching Avatar yesterday (which was mind blazingly brilliant) that the quality of entertainment these days is very very high. Whilst I appreciate that much of what is on TV is terrible, in amongst this, a lot of modern media forms offer a quality of entertainment which is unparalleled in the past. Modern video games are absorbing and engaging in a way we would of thought inconceivable even ten years ago. Equally modern film and TV can be so engaging and brilliant. Through Sky TV and the like we all have access to such a range of programmes that we cannot fail to find something to enjoy on TV. Is it therefore any wonder that modern students want a certain level of entertainment in lessons which I certainly don’t remember even the 7 or 8 years ago I was at school and certainly not if you go back even further.

Whilst I have many failings as an NQT teacher one of the major successes of my early career has been in developing and delivering engaging and dare I say even entertaining lessons. I do not see myself as an entertainer in any way but have to confess that when planning lessons I always endeavour to make sure that there is some aspect of the lesson which I hope most students can engage in. My philosophy being that if you can get them interested in the lesson, learning is more likely to occur. I have an very low attention span (similar to that of the average 13-16 year old) and in general if a lesson plan bores me I assume it will bore them too and try to add something to it to add enjoyment / engagement  / entertainment.  

I assumed until recently that all teachers thought like this. However, in a recent conversation with a senior member of staff I was discussing some of my lessons and some of my thoughts on this matter. She replied to me that she resented the idea that we were supposed to be entertainers and why should we pander to the wants of our students. This has given me plenty of food for thought over recent days as I weigh up the balance between offering entertaining lessons and delivering in a more traditional (not a word I like but can’t think of a great alternative) way and wanting students to conform to this. I can see great value in conditioning students into accepted lessons for their learning value. However, in my short experience the desire to learn is not enough for a majority of students to engage in lessons. This is why for me it is easier to opt for an approach which first encourages engagement in the topic and then delivers content once interest has been established.

Now, I can see the dangers long term in my approach. The fact is that most jobs and further education are not a roller coaster ride of thrills and spills and so we must prepare our students for their future which will include times when they simply have to do something despite it being boring or uninteresting.

So the thought occurred to me that do I tailor my planning to the group in question. Offering more ‘tradtional’ lessons to my top sets, who’s engagement will be greater anyway and opt for more edutaining lessons to my more challenging groups to try and sustain interest. My concern with this is that it almost feels like I am punishing students who have a greater natural interest in my subject by delivering to them less engaging lessons.

I have therefore decided that I will continue to do what comes naturally to me and that is to try wherever possible to deliver lessons which offer enjoyment and engagement but at the same time deliver content. So far this approach has served me well and in a world of increasingly exciting media and entertainment I feel that unless we offer students an engaging and entertaining school experience students resentment of school will only increase. I feel I can and will keep trying to alter the contrast between their exciting home lives and the perceived boredom of school.

Once again thoughts would be greatly appreciated and massive thanks to anybody who takes the time to read this.

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