Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What is happening to my students?

I just finished grading a class of music appreciation exams. I have given pretty much the same exam on the baroque period for several semesters. Usually students do pretty well on this exam if they have been paying attention in class, have taken notes, and have listened to the music outside of class at least once. The class is a community college class so there is a wide range of ability. It is a true cross section of rural society. There are very few older students in this particular class this semester (the older students are almost always good students). Most of them are between 18 and 20 years old.

The average grade on this exam came out to 57 out of 100 points. In previous semesters the average grade for this exam was almost 20 points higher. I don't think that this has much to do with my teaching. If anything I am getting better with practice and experience. The only conclusion I can come to is that there is something dreadfully wrong, and I think that it, in light of the previous Stravinsky post, it has something to do with people having access to too much technology at too young an age.

I came across these excerpts from Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect our Children's Minds--for Better and Worse, and thought that they would be nice to share with other people who might be having similar frustrations with their college students.

Of course there are fine uses for computers (e-mail, blogging, finding information, reading news, using music notation programs), but I see far too many "computer generation" college students who, because of the encouragement of their schools, parents, teachers, and the computer-selling marketplace, have never developed the skills necessary to do the things they have to do the slow way. And I'm trying to get them to listen to music. What do I think I am doing?

The young people that can think, do read, know how to study, and can write well are like lighthouses in the middle of a vast and foggy sea.

1 comment:

Guanaco said...

This sure hits home with me. I've been struggling to tutor my 14 year old in HS Algebra. The further I delved into it, the more I realized he understands the algebra concepts without any trouble. His weakness turned out to be on the basic arithmetic skills. This started with his third grade teacher who believed computers and calculators would become standard in all classrooms (they aren't yet, thank goodness). His seventh grade teacher had the same philosophy, so neither of them spent much time doing the basic "flash-card" drills that we all used for learn our basic arithmetic skills.

Fortunately, after several weeks of my basic drills, his grade has recovered and he's no longer making those silly errors.