By Eric Jeffery
I type this article as I sit quietly in my seat at the back of an Intro to Political Science lecture. This particular class is two and a half hours long. Every student in the classroom has their computer opened on their laps, perhaps taking notes as they try to make the time pass.
The average human attention span as of 2013 was eight seconds. If one can only pay genuine attention for eight seconds, how is a student supposed to retain all of the information spewed during a two and half hour lecture? In fact, it is impossible. This leads me to question why we continue to follow the structure of traditional education rather than adapting to new technology and access of information.
As is the case in many college courses, my professor wrote the book that we are learning from. In lecture twice a week, she presents a power point based on our reading, reiterating a portion of what we read. While this may help prepare students for a test by way of repetition, there is little for students to take away from lecture if they have already done the reading. Essentially, we are wasting our time sitting through uncomfortable lengthy lectures as the teacher tells the students what they already know. This is valuable time that could be used much more effectively
Modern day students are some of the most elite Internet navigators of all time. If we have a question, we ask Google first, and almost always get the answer we are looking for. During classes that allow the use of laptops, very little class time is spent typing notes and following along with class. Students take advantage of the long class period by doing homework for other classes and surfing the web. The only reason students attend classes is because it is required, and they lose points if they are absent.
Obviously there are benefits to having a professor who is an expert in their field. They can answer specific questions and explain confusing material in detail until you understand. However, these items can be addressed during a professors office hours in just a few short minutes.
The structure of education that exists today tends to focus on test scores. For example, the final grade for my Political Science class is comprised from four tests taken throughout the semester. While the simplicity of this grading scheme is nice, it does not necessarily reflect what the student has learned in the course. In most cases students study the night before the exam. Students do not retain information this way, instead they attempt to memorize as much information as possible to regurgitate on the exam. In addition, some students are better test takers than others. Sometimes the wording of a question may cause a student to miss points even if they have a good understanding of the subject. Some students struggle with the pressure of exams that have such an enormous impact on their grade. Others may struggle to work quickly enough to finish exams in time.
A much more efficient method for measuring a student’s true knowledge of a subject is through research papers. In this practice, students are obligated to organize their thoughts and present what they have learned about a given subject. In constructing their paper students have no choice but to research a given subject in order to write an effective paper. In this way, papers reflect a student’s complete understanding and knowledge of a topic based on how well they are able to convey their thoughts. This allows the student the opportunity to put as much or as little work into the assignment as they feel is necessary, and receive the grade that they deserve.
School teaches us that the most important thing in our lives is preparing ourselves to work. A paying job is a necessity in a modern capitalistic society and there is no way around it. School is intended to prepare the youth for the future by providing them with an education. By ignoring technology and continuing to educate students in the same way they have been for hundreds of years we are neglecting to recognize the progress of humanity.
Education today should be focused on divergent thinking and helping students figure out what they want to do with their lives, rather than preaching what they need to do. School should be about presenting students with a gamut of opportunities and exposing kids to options at a young age.