Rockdale student: Make students work for grades and limit reliance on technology

computer (Medium)I love to publish the work of students. Here is an essay by Rockdale Career Academy 10th grader Jennifer Lee, sent to me by her teacher Joanna Anglin, who was Georgia Council of Teachers of English state Teacher of the Year  in 2011.

Jennifer takes an interesting position, that the attachment of her generation to technology is undermining their education and their work ethic. She also argues that we give students too many opportunities to make up lackluster performance, thus reducing the pressure on them to work hard in the first place.

Here is Jennifer’s essay:

The greatest feat of man was evolving and developing into the intelligent beings we are today. However, recently people’s minds have been reverting back to their basic, primary state, that of the mind of a monkey.

People in the United States have become increasingly dependent on technology to the point where they no longer have to work as diligently to learn. In turn, people do not apply themselves as actively in school, but they still manage to be pushed onto the next grade. This is because people have become content with passing with the lowest common denominator. This lack of effort in school and dependence on technology is causing the intelligence of the U.S. population to decrease at an alarmingly fast rate.

Studies from tests conducted in 2003 prove that the United States population is becoming increasingly dense, particularly when compared to other countries. The studies compared each country’s average test scores in both physics and advanced math. In each of these comparisons, the United States was in the bottom two out of the 16 countries tested, only coming second to last to Australia in the advanced math division (Hodges). This was just after technology truly took the world by storm. Cell phones, portable music, and instant messaging devices were becoming increasingly popular and prevalent (Balke). All of these technological innovations amplified the level of distractions in classrooms, having a direct effect on the students’ ability and desire to learn. All the information they needed was now easily accessed by the push of a few buttons. The United States had never been the top scoring country in either of these areas, but after the introduction of electronics in classrooms, the scores plummeted.

Even I had gotten caught up in all of the technology presented to me. There became many days when I would feel too lazy to put in the effort to do my work correctly. In that case I would simply look the information up online. This, of course, did not help me learn the material at all. I would barely pass my tests with a very low “D” and that was when I finally realized that my dependence on technology was truly having a negative influence on my education. Unlike most people, however, I was not satisfied with this fact. I decided to do something about it. I began to pay more attention and put in more effort in class and in turn, my grades began to rise.

In the past 10 years, there have been a multitude of “security nets” installed to try to keep students from failing. It has become clear, however, that these nets do more harm than good. Many brilliant students every year walk down the hallways of high schools with the potential to go far, but their potential ultimately goes to waste. These students who could have gone on to pursue so many great accomplishments end up sitting in class not putting in the effort that they should because they realize that there will always be a way for them to ultimately pass the course.

Whether it is through extra credit, make-up work, credit recovery, or even summer school, there will always be a way to pass a class while putting in little to no effort. The students lack the determination and drive to want to do the best they can do and instead settle for passing with the lowest grade and least amount of effort possible. Many students rely on this every year and use it as an excuse to do other things in class such as text, tweet, or even Facebook one another from various electronic devices.

“We’re always changing. And it is important to know that there are some changes you can’t control and that there are others you can” (Half Nelson). In this instance there is something that can be done. The fate of this generation can change, but in order for that to happen a generous effort must be made. Teachers need to be stricter on enforcing the rules on electronics in the classrooms. They need to constantly keep students actively participating in the class rooms by using new teaching techniques, such as acting things out, having group discussions, letting them answer questions on the board, in class projects, and other highly participative activities.

“Security nets”  such as summer school and credit recovery need to be removed as well to give students the incentive to work harder to achieve the grades that they need in order to pass and in order to save future generations from letting their minds go to waste. Right now this generation is failing. It is failing because of the dependence on technology and the lack of desire to learn. The United States population is becoming increasingly less intelligent and things need to change, for the fate of the entire population relies solely on the education of this generation.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

59 comments Add your comment

Devil's Advocate

May 24th, 2012
8:49 am

I love it when students understand the value of effort.

catlady

May 24th, 2012
8:54 am

Interesting take on it. Many apologists will decry this. One caution: Research in education doesn’t PROVE, it SUGGESTS.

Veritas Vincit

May 24th, 2012
8:55 am

mift

May 24th, 2012
8:58 am

Respectfully disagree

OMG

May 24th, 2012
9:11 am

I have a problem with the enlightened ones telling others if they work harder and participate more they will be successful in life. Horse pucky! I have seen teachers give grades to students based upon their popularity and family name. You know what? That is the same in life with the exception to affirimative action. I see and have seen many hard working people with good credentials and minds just make ends meet. Teachers will pick and choose students who will become successful even if they have to break some rules and lay down excuses for those who do not. I have no faith in high school and I am wary of college professors. This student talks about the very thing that has put men on the moon, provided innovations, and easily can feed the world. However she is pointed out because she can write a very good essay that appeases the teachers. Who will make the mortar and tote the brick to build her million dollar home–illegals?

Howard Finkelstein

May 24th, 2012
9:16 am

“I have a problem with the enlightened ones telling others if they work harder and participate more they will be successful in life.”

Perhaps encouraging students to enroll in govt giveaways etc is the way. You people are shameless.

Ernest

May 24th, 2012
9:27 am

I agree with many of the points this young lady has shared. I would also offer that the level of rigor in instruction has not keep up with the advances in technology. Whereas when I was in school, research projects typically meant going to the library and/or reading newspapers before putting pen to paper. Now one can simply use a search engine. The final deliverable should factor in the ease of research now and base itself more on critical analysis. In fairness, this become harder for teachers to grade and check for possible plagiarism. I see this as the natural evolution of education in this technology age.

Old GT Grad

May 24th, 2012
9:27 am

drew (former teacher)

May 24th, 2012
9:29 am

Ms. Lee has done a nice job of pointing out at least two of the elephants in the room. One being the lack of academic rigor (i.e., high expectations), which leads to lazy students who are socially promoted, resulting in graduates who can’t write a coherent paragraph. And the other being the grip of modern technology, and the way it massages the brains of young people.

In the age of “no child left behind” and “every student deserves to succeed” academic rigor is a hard sell. Schools do not want failing students, parents don’t want failing students, no one wants failing students, but the sad fact is that increased academic rigor will inevitably result in more failure, and we just can’t have that, now can we?

And while technology has the power to change the way education is delivered, it is always a double-edged sword. Technology is not neutral…it giveth, and it taketh away. My experience is that most students use personal technology primarily for socializing…and of course to “cheat” on their assignments (Wikipedia is the new Cliff Notes, and it covers all of your subjects). The fact is, we have no idea how technology is reshaping people and molding the way they socialize, live, and learn. And the scary thing is we probably won’t know until it’s done. The tendancy (especially of young people and educrats) is to embrace every new technology that comes down the pike, as if ALL technology is GOOD. Schools (teachers and students) would be well served to look at technology with a critical eye. Instead of blindly embracing what it offers, ask yourself, “What does it give, AND what does it take away”.

Veritas Vincit

May 24th, 2012
9:47 am

OMG – You sound quite bitter and hateful. Just because you have “seen” certain student get favored treatment does not mean each teacher does this, nor does it indicate that this student’s argument is invalid. “Two wrongs do not make a right.” I doubt you actually saw the teacher’s gradebook, you wouold not know if a student stayed after to do more work, quit crying and work hard, it isn’t always about the money.

William Casey

May 24th, 2012
9:48 am

I saw first hand the effects of “do-overs” (known as “Recovery” in Fulton County) on the level of student effort. It wasn’t pretty. One of the things I most enjoyed about coaching sports was that we played the game and either won or lost. No “do-overs.”

OMG

May 24th, 2012
9:48 am

Old GT Grad

May 24th, 2012
9:27 am
You must be an enlightened one!

OMG

May 24th, 2012
9:50 am

“I doubt you actually saw the teacher’s gradebook, you wouold not know if a student stayed after to do more work, quit crying and work hard, it isn’t always about the money.”

I was standing there when she did it and saw as she wrote it in the grade book. You must live in Far Far Away Land.

OMG

May 24th, 2012
9:57 am

drew (former teacher)

May 24th, 2012
9:29 am
Can you tell me you did not memorize and dump on a test just to get the grade? You can not do college algebra now can you? You dont remember the rules of exponents and such. But that 12yr old degree is the shyt–right? Most of college graduates do not work in their field of study because they choose fields that has no demand. However because they have the degree the business hires them and elevates them over those who learned and worked their way.

Really amazed

May 24th, 2012
10:14 am

And Maureen is more interested in calling the private school tax credit out!!!!! This is why people are trying very hard to do whatever they can to put their child into a private school. They want their child to actually learn, take notes not just be given grades for showing up. The better more reputable private schools will actually teach your child how to study, not just inflate grades and expect you to memorize something for the crct test!!! They DON’T do CRCT!!!! They TEACH period!

Devil's Advocate

May 24th, 2012
10:19 am

OMG, do you have a point? People can be corrupt in any walk of life. We may as well shutdown organized religion, all governments, and all business. Let’s just disband any concept of society since there are mean bad people on the planet; we shouldn’t even try to accomplish anything because human beings tend to cheat and be self-serving.

Ok, with the sarcasm now out of my system let’s boil this down to the baseball analogy I gave my son. When you get an at-bat (an opportunity in life) you can take pitches and you may walk (people push you along the path of success for whatever reason) or you may strikeout (fail to accomplish something), both can be the result of good or bad calls by the umpire (stuff happens, move on). However, if you swing the bat (show effort and take action) you may still strikeout (fail), get put out after making contact with the ball (fail but with some minor accomplishment and even possibly helping others since you could still get an RBI or sacrifice moving other base runners over), or you could successfully reach base with a base hit. There are many scenarios in baseball (life) but the one thing that is certain is that you cannot accomplish much without swinging the bat at some point. So make the most of opportunities and swing the bat when one looks reasonable, otherwise you have no one to blame but yourself for missed opportunities in life.

Jack

May 24th, 2012
10:29 am

The young lady is probably one in a hundred, maybe one in a thousand. Not often do I see this kind of logic from a person so young. I agree wholeheartly with her; I agree because I am a Rockdale student from years and years ago. We had spelling tests every morning, we started diagraming sentences in the 4th grade, we were drilled and drilled on conjugation, punctuation, sentence structure and we were required to put the math problems on the board for all to see and question. I read the blogs and I see so many misspelled words and incorrect uses of contractions. Sadly, no amount of technology is going to correct the problem the young lady sees happening around her. I write quite often about young clerks not being able to correctly make change at a register without technical assistance and I hear conversations between young people and their usage of the English language makes me cringe. Computers do help with some of the heavy lifting, but one has to know before making a financial entry what to expect as an answer. Leaving basics behind and relying on technology is creating some crippled young people.

drew (former teacher)

May 24th, 2012
10:35 am

OMG…looks like mommy forgot your meds this morning. Please go take your medicine and come back when you have something coherent to add to the conversation.

dragonlady

May 24th, 2012
10:52 am

@Devil’s Advocate: I like the way you talk. Will try to remember that argument with my students.

Old timer

May 24th, 2012
10:55 am

Well written.

Dr. Monica Henson

May 24th, 2012
11:02 am

Talented writer and a well-written essay, no doubt. While I heartily concur that there are way too many safety nets in place, the reason why those nets have been developed is not due to over-reliance by students on technology. It’s because so much of what is done in schools for the average student, especially on the secondary level, is stultifyingly boring. Too many teachers don’t understand how to engage kids and draw them into the excitement that learning should be (and is for the fortunate few who are placed in the “best” classes with the “best” teachers).

Adults in schools must learn how to meet kids where they are and offer them learning experiences that will be as engaging as what they find in the technology universe they inhabit. This may or may not include technology in the classroom–strategies need to be varied–but engagement is the key, and it takes an accomplished teacher who really loves kids, knows the subject matter, and understands how to teach it in a variety of interesting ways to make it happen.

TimeOut

May 24th, 2012
11:04 am

@drew(former teacher) I would like to suggest that those whose posts merit no attention receive exactly that—–no attention. I may be wrong but I think this might elevate the level of discourse on this site and others. I wonder what others on this blog think of the strategy of ignoring useless posturing by those such as OMG. If their comments receive no reaction, no response, no feedback of any kind, is that not better? Am I wrong? I usually skip over those comments that have no meaningful content. I would really like to know what others think about the prospects of a combined effort to raise the level of discourse to one of civil debate.

On to the topic at hand………..It is true that one may benefit from others’ perceptions of his/her socioeconomic status, personal appearance, sociable or entertaining personality, etc. This does not negate the impact of overall increased academic effort in an atmosphere that encourages positive character traits such as personal responsibility, industriousness, respect for self and others, etc. While we may want to continue to employ safety nets in schools and communities, it may well be long past time to disable their ‘enabling’ features. How can we accomplish this?

Dr. Monica Henson

May 24th, 2012
11:15 am

TimeOut posted: “While we may want to continue to employ safety nets in schools and communities, it may well be long past time to disable their ‘enabling’ features. How can we accomplish this?”

You are hitting exactly on the point I am making–there are reasons WHY safety nets are there. We have to examine what it is that is causing so many students to default to the safety nets rather than do the work and earn the credits in the classroom at the beginning. Students who are interested and engaged don’t default to the easiest common denominator. Some kids come to school ready to participate and eager to learn, no matter who the teacher is or what the class is. The “best” classes are frequently filled with those types of students, and taught by the “best” teachers. The rank and file average kids luck out from time to time with a great teacher who elicits the kind of response from ALL his/her students that creates classroom magic, regardless of the skill level of the kids in the room. Those are the kind of teachers we need to put in front of as many students as possible, not reserve them for the fortunate few in AP, for example.

Many mediocre teachers, with enough support and development, could attain a higher level of proficiency in reaching kids to teach them effectively. It takes strong, skilled administrators, who were themselves highly accomplished teachers, to institutionalize this kind of staff development. A lot of it needs to take place on the job, embedded in faculty meetings, and inherent in supervision and evaluation conferences.

OMG

May 24th, 2012
11:20 am

” @drew(former teacher) I would like to suggest that those whose posts merit no attention receive exactly that—–no attention..”

It is called censureship and you sound just like the teachers I was talking about. You are not that brilliant or civil–really. You live in bubble surrounded by people who act and think like you do.

OMG

May 24th, 2012
11:26 am

Dr. Monica Henson

May 24th, 2012
11:15 am
When there is a shortage of teachers what kind of net do you suggest be implemented to hire the best? Again government will become involved and water down every effort to acquire those teachers that can tease students to participate and learn.

Stephanie Baier

May 24th, 2012
11:27 am

This sounds much like the conversations that occur in our faculty room.

Security nets do more harm than good. When students know they can get credit for a course without going to class or passing any exams, they won’t come to class or study for exams.

Dr. Monica Henson

May 24th, 2012
11:34 am

OMG: I have had to deal with the teacher shortage myself as a school administrator. There are times when you can’t just go out and get a new, better teacher. That’s when you as a principal have to look at what you do have, roll up your sleeves, bring along the rest of your leadership team (which should include the accomplished teachers you do have), and spend a lot time helping the teachers who are not at a high level to cultivate the skills that are needed to reach all the kids. That occurs in coaching from other teachers, providing information, training, & direction on research-based best practices (rather than allowing weak teachers to flounder along on their own), a lot of formative assessment observations, and a lot of informal conferences.

Stu Bioge

May 24th, 2012
11:37 am

Fact: in Georgia, high school students’ grades are inflated to make them eligible for HOPE. If a teacher does not give Bs, irate parents show up at school (and the VP and Principal support the parents, not the teachers). This puts students in college that do not belong. They cannot write coherently, they have no study habits, they cannot take notes. Then, they are amazed and confused when they fail the most basic college survey courses – “but I had a 4.0 in high school, YOU must be doing something wrong” – and colleges spend a lot of money on remedial courses preparing students, who have already been admitted to college, to take college courses. Additionally, colleges are pushing faculty to spend time identifying “at risk” students early in the semester so they can be guided to resources that can help keep them in school, at least for a while.
At the same time, colleges are in financial dire straights, raising fees, freezing hiring, and cutting down on departmental expenses. But, administrators remain in their jobs and administrator pay has only increased.

OMG

May 24th, 2012
11:38 am

Dr. Monica Henson

May 24th, 2012
11:34 am
We need someon like you at our school! Thanks

Howard Finkelstein

May 24th, 2012
11:49 am

“You live in bubble surrounded by people who act and think like you do.”

And you do not?

MertonTech

May 24th, 2012
11:54 am

One of the issues I have with this paper is that the link between technology and classroom performace was weakly addressed. There is no mention of the level of technology use in the other 14 countries above the United States.

While this is a pretty good paper for a high school student that demonstrates abstract thinking and research, I worry that this sort of resource becomes another arrow in the quiver of one lobbyist group or another.

Jeff

May 24th, 2012
12:00 pm

I saw a quote from a fictional valedictorian speech:

“I would like to thank Google, Wikipedia, and whoever created cut and paste.”

Peter Smagorinsky

May 24th, 2012
12:01 pm

I think that if Jennifer had written an essay about why kittens are cute, within 10 minutes readers would start a flame war about government handouts for cats, why private schools offer better environments for homeless cats, why people who don’t own cats shouldn’t be allowed to have opinions about kittens, etc.

Eric

May 24th, 2012
12:22 pm

“Right now this generation is failing. It is failing because of the dependence on technology and the lack of desire to learn.”

Amen! Finally someone speaks out AGAINST all the gadgets and frills that are greater distractions to students than the benefit they provide. Let’s go back to the 3R’s the old fashioned way, and I like the participatory nature of learning as mentioned. Good post, Maureen!

Hillbilly D

May 24th, 2012
12:33 pm

Good points. One thing I didn’t see mentioned is the use of calculators. I don’t know exactly which grades allow them and which don’t but I don’t think they should be used until at least some time in high school.

JF McNamara

May 24th, 2012
12:55 pm

I love the naivete of youth. Keep living and learning young lady. Your perspective will change greatly on this and many other topics as you get older.

MertonTech

May 24th, 2012
1:20 pm

Oh my, the 3R’s the old fashioned way. Except the authorship, delivery, and medium of the written word has so drastically changed. Without the inherent knowledge on the selection, care, and operation of technologies is a functional and core element of literacy today. Regardless of the individual view that technology is merely a ‘frill’, the world will keep on moving forward with technology use.

One concept that DOES need to be addressed is the policies, use, and consequences for IMPROPER technology use in the classroom. Banning it outright and refusing to use it would be a major blunder.

Prof

May 24th, 2012
1:27 pm

@ JF McNamara. Pretty patronizing comment about “youth” and its changing perspective with ripening age. I am considerably older than Jennifer Lee, yet I’ve found most of her complaints about technology and the classroom to be true at the college level as well.

Perhaps my favorite sentence in her essay is: “…recently people’s minds have been reverting back to their basic, primary state, that of the mind of a monkey.”

Truth in Moderation

May 24th, 2012
1:45 pm

“spend a lot time helping the teachers who are not at a high level to cultivate the skills that are needed to reach all the kids. That occurs in coaching from other teachers, providing information, training, & direction on research-based best practices (rather than allowing weak teachers to flounder along on their own), a lot of formative assessment observations, and a lot of informal conferences.”

I thought these teachers were certified graduates of schools of education. Do these universities have no standards? One should reasonably expect to hire QUALIFIED EFFECTIVE employees from them. After all, aren’t they taxpayer funded? Why, Dr. Henson, do you see the need to help “not high level” teachers at all? WHY WERE THEY EVEN HIRED? They should be fired rather than “retrained” on the taxpayer’s dime. Your statements lay groundwork for potential EDUCATION FRAUD by these public universities!

MAUREEN! MAUREEN! WHERE ARE YOU ON THIS DISASTER?
Oh yea, you’re chasing $2,500 donations to private schools.

Ed Johnson

May 24th, 2012
2:53 pm

Ms. Lee insightfully invites: “Teachers … need to constantly keep students actively participating in the class rooms (sp) by using new teaching techniques, such as acting things out, [etc.]”

In response, here’s an idea. How about …

Teachers acting out good learning, so as to demonstrate good teaching; so that

Students can learn good teaching, so as to demonstrate good learning; so that

Teachers can act out better learning, so as to demonstrate better teaching; so that

Students can learn better teaching, so as to demonstrate better learning; so that

Teachers can act out great learning, so as to demonstrate great teaching; so that

Students can learn great teaching, so as to demonstrate great learning?

Again, just an idea.

Refugee

May 24th, 2012
3:04 pm

OT- Rumor is that about half the Shorter University staff is resigning due to the Hate The Sinner policy recently adopted thru the efforts of Rev. Nelson (”Miss Nellie”)Price. Why does the AJC ignore this important development. There has been no AJC news of Rev. Worleys’ planned genocide for gays, or Rev. Sean Harris and his holy instruction to beat your kids – ‘beat the gay away’. Get with it, AJC, and educate the readership.

William Casey

May 24th, 2012
3:10 pm

@DR. HENSON: “Too many teachers don’t understand how to engage kids and draw them into the excitement that learning should be (and is for the fortunate few who are placed in the “best” classes with the “best” teachers).”

Teaching IS an art as well as a science. Today’s data/test driven mentality beats the life out of learning.

Well, whatever my other shortcomings, nobody ever called me stultifyingly boring. There IS a need to engage kids and create lifetime learners. Alas, I fear that that skill is a gift that’s in short supply.

just waiting

May 24th, 2012
3:17 pm

There are many students like this one, whose parents have helped to support an approach to life that is logical and reasonable, that doesn’t harm anyone else with expectation of handouts, and that instills a sense of ethical determination and will to succeed. Unfortunately, everything that can be done to undermine this type of educational/cultural result is being done. Until our parents and our voters stand up and say “enough”, until they demand rigor and academic integrity, and until they ostracize and punish those expecting handouts, things are only going to get worse. As the economy recovers, gifted teachers will continue to leave the profession in droves. We cannot grow a harvest on a barren rock with no seed, no soil, and no water. Most of us are just going to continue to say, “thanks, but I don’t think I want to be a farmer anymore”.

Kendell Jones

May 24th, 2012
3:19 pm

I am a 77 year old who remembers when we were taught how to read, how to write , how to spell, how to study so we could make the grade. And speaking about spelling, I remember from the third grade through the seventh grade, we had spelling bees at least once a week. I always enjoyed the spelling bees more than almostgany subject,, because I could spell, and was always the last one standing. I do see some spelling by part of the children, but there is nothing like an old fashioned spelling bee to get the kids to learn how to spell.

Peter Smagorinsky

May 24th, 2012
3:28 pm

Mom of 3

May 24th, 2012
4:05 pm

My high school junior wrote a 10 page final paper for her AP lit class on the negative effects of social media. More and more studies are showing that the quick “sound bites” delivered through the likes of texting and twitter are affecting our children’s brains as well as their attention spans. I suggest what studies are now showing is just the tip of the iceberg. Not to mention the effect the social media technologies is having on their social skills. My student does not even have a Facebook. Facebook has done nothing but hurt many of her peers through the foolish pictures they post and through the gossip so many of them spread about each other. While many students use technology wisely and to their advantage, many more are wasting away time, energy, and talents while texting their lives away.

bootney farnsworth

May 24th, 2012
4:38 pm

@ OMG

life ain’t fair.
deal with it.

bootney farnsworth

May 24th, 2012
4:40 pm

I’ve long been suspicious of the over dependance of technology in the classroom. while there are some instructors who use the tools correctly, most use it as an inadvertent crutch/shortcut.

how can we expect students to take seriously the values of hard work/research/scholarship when we don’t model it ourselves?

bootney farnsworth

May 24th, 2012
4:42 pm

@OMG

who peed in your wheaties?

another comment

May 24th, 2012
5:36 pm

Both the March Sat Essay and May ACT writing Essay both asked the students about the use of technology. I was shocked when my daughter came home from the ACT and told me that the Essay was almost identical to what it had been for the March SAT Essay. All College Bound students should be ready to answer this prompt both for college Essay’s and for the SAT and ACT’s. It is the question of the day.