Time on Task II

01/03/17, 9:18 PM

Time on Task II –


In the last blog post, I was reacting to a finding from British education that as little as a week outside the classroom could have a profound impact on education.  There are so many ramifications from this finding that I wanted to return to the posting and think further about this idea that time on task is important.

As educators, we all know that time on task is the sin qua non of achievement.  It just makes a folksy kind of sense that if you don’t take care of the garden, then weeds will grow.  (Here it is in February, and I’m thinking about the garden.)  But we know that taking care of things is important – we know that if the child is not in the classroom, she can’t really learn.


Or can she?  Are there tasks to be done outside the classroom?  Are there ways to bring the notion and concept of the classroom toward a different paradigm of learning?  What if the classroom were recorded, or lessons flipped, so that the student could do the learning at any time and in any place? What if some of the assignments were prepared as online quizzes and could be taken on the cell phone.  What if the teacher prepared journal prompts to be completed on the cell phone on the way home from school?

So, perhaps there is still an overarching question – one that might be disturbing.  “Have we as educators failed to seize the day in using creative digital resources to extend learning?”   The other way of asking that question is “Are we trapped in mediocrity?”

I have a response to the dilemma of family vacations – one that worked at least for me. While being a principal, I sometimes ran into the dilemma of students in grade 11 who wanted to combine a family vacation with a college tour trip.  I worked hard to discourage these kinds of things as well, I just believed that the student needed to be in school.  But there were times when alternatives were appropriate; however, I always believed in continued learning.  When students and families were determined to make these college tour trips, I stubbornly insisted that the student come back to school with a demonstration of learning – a movie, slide show, presentation, commentary done in digital form which was turned over to the college counseling department.

In order to produce these presentations, students would have to engage in writing, photography, movie-making, research, planning, organizing, presenting – in short, many integrative skills in order to produce something of value to others that reflected digital learning on their part.

I think of a good friend Phillip, who said, “Not in class is not in class. Period.”  He is absolutely correct, but we also need to break some paradigms and think of digital learning as something that can go on in any setting.  If students are missing a week of school for a vacation, they should have a digital project to complete and share.  And, it should be stored in their portfolio.

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