As a language teacher, one of the skills that I am striving to instill in my students is that of learner initiative, which embodies the intellectual curiosity and drive to seek the answers to questions.
Some background: I teach at an independent school, where the student body consists of students of comfortable socio-economic privilege. Additionally, all of them have at least one electronic device – an iPod Touch, or an iPhone or a smartphone.
In spite of the above, I find my students to be quite disinclined in this respect. In other words, it is far easier for them to ask me how to say this, that or a third in Spanish, than it is for them to show learner initiative and look up the word in question. Unfortunately, there is much learned helplessness amongst the privileged.
Having contemplated the aforementioned situation for some time, I decided to ask my students the following question:
“How many of you have a smartphone or iPhone with you, right now?” In a class of 15 students – seventh graders to be exact – every hand went up.
Just as I had thought, I said to myself.
Following this unsurprising discovery, I made the following statement:
“As United States citizens, we have virtually unlimited access to information. And yet, we’re amongst the world’s most ignorant citizenry.”
“I won’t do the work that you can do on your own. As beginning language students, it is important for you to develop the initiative to learn independently. That means seeking out answers when you need them. When you need to know a word, look it up. In the palm of your hand, you have an infinite wealth of information. Use it.”
Privilege + cell phone = knowledge