Some days are so boring you almost want to blow them away. Like most things in life, there are days that are bright lights, days that are dark, and some days are maybe a combination of both. Today is probably one of those days for me. Because of the media going absolutely crazy about the “dropout” issue, I get more than a little annoyed when people ask me about it. After all, if I’m playing a game, what am I getting paid for? Besides, if I’m playing a game, why should I take my attention off the kids who run the local public schools?

Okay, moving on. recent news items have been filled with reports of students who have either dropped out of school or who have supposedly committed suicide. When I first heard about the issue, I had to do a little investigating. After doing that, I found that claims of students either jumping or taking their own life are not only incredibly rare, they are also dramatically over-estimated.

I understand the concept that students might “freeze up” at certain times. I also get that teachers have to be extra careful because a key tenet of education is the continuity of teaching across all subjects and curricula. For that to be possible, students should be continuously involved in the “dirt” of the lesson – the parts that are taught and re-taught over and over again.

The reality of it is that it’s not that easy to teach kids. It’s not like wearing a fifty-piece jigsaw puzzle and not having to put it together again. There are just so many kids in the classrooms, it’s going to take a lot of time, energy, and repetition for them to learn the relevant skills and concepts for “real-time” instruction.

I do agree that keeping kids focused on the class as a whole is more difficult than teaching them in individual modules. That’s because of biological reasons. Kids have short attention spans – you have to find a way to give them consistent, lengthy exposure to information or they’ll go right back into cover-up mode. Unfortunately, most teachers aren’t equipped to do this alone.

What I thought was going to be one of the most ingenious (and yes, awesome) classroom innovations of the century – teach kids using real joysticks!

Homo sapiens have a pretty amazing afterlife. We tend to think of our species as relatively advanced compared to other animals and indeed other humans. But we do have some weaknesses. Studies suggest that even among advanced societies, less than half of those kids walk the streets of London on their own.

Faced with this problem, some have turned to “technology”. The most famous (and appropriate) is the “joystick”, a hand-held remote control for a video game. But this isn’t just for kids. It’s also used for medical purposes, for teaching English to patients, for driving lessons, and (most popular) for learning basic keyboard skills.

The idea is that you get to connect with students by using nothing more than a stylus and a “joypad”. Each school has their own software program to supplement what you already have. The really exciting part is that the stick becomes a second screen, integrating into your classroom, and it actually becomes part of your students’ presence in the classroom.

I got to thinking about this the other day while reflecting on the benefits of using technology outside of school for the purposes of education. The idea that you can integrate technology in the classroom really appealed to me, as it seemed like a simple solution to a common problem. And yet, as I pondered it, it got me thinking about how far we’ve actually come.

In 1900, the State of Michigan passed a statutory standard for curtain rods. They must have “at least one outside hand rail.” Since then, curtain rods have been required in most schools, in approximately ninety countries, and in all fifty states (other than the District of Columbia) in the US.

Now, here’s an interesting fact: “hold it!” My assumption (and maybe this is a stretch) is that this statute is based on pre-existing school policies that permit pupils to have outside practice for skills such as crossing the street in busy town centres, entering and crossing main roads, going home, and generally going “both ways” in urban centres.

The question is, where did this attitude originate?  I don’t know.  Maybe it was an indication that at that time, more mechanical clocks were used, and possibly the attitude was, “let’s get the kids used to clocks, let’s give clocks another try.”

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