The topic of 3rd grade boys, failing school and ending up in the prison pipeline came up the other day. There is all sorts of literature on the topic with side commentary on how the prison system is set up based on the test scores of 3rd grade black and hispanic boys. I find this all completely unacceptable.
I did a little research on the topic and discovered a lot of the issue is HOW boys are taught. Generally, up until 3rd grade, boys and girls think and learn similarly. In the third grade, however, the brains of boys and girls change and the things that appeal to them change. Couple that with nearly 80% of all teachers a child will encounter in their K-12 career being female and you get a bit of a bias issue in the classroom.
This post isn’t about prison pipelines, bias in teaching or “why can’t Johnny read”?. This post is about using technology to create learning environments for boys AND girls that empower them to learn. With that in mind, consider how boys are wired and how they prefer to learn.
The article by Kelly King and Michael Gurian is a little dusty (2006) but it’s question still rings true:
Is there something wrong with the way we’re teaching boys?
The authors argue the case for boys worldwide who struggle with reading and writing, learning disabilities, behavior issues, etc. in the classroom and how we teach them might be part of the issue with their inability to keep up in later grades.
So what is “wrong” with the way we’re teaching boys? We make them sit, quietly, at desks. We expect them to do multiple tasks in a set amount of time. We don’t provide learning materials that interest them. We make them work in learning environments where most girls thrive.
That’s it in a nutshell. How can integrating technology into the mix of getting boys focused and learning help? I’ve noticed, whenever I add a game to the learning, the boys become focused, almost fanatic about the challenge the game brings. Nothing like putting all the vocabulary in Quizlet, playing the speed game and then announcing “guys, I finished the speed game in 15 seconds.” I have to make them to leave when the bell rings. Or the year I taught 6th grade and we were learning about the solar system and I had everyone design and build space exploration vehicles. All I did was sit back and watch. They were all in with both activities.
Where does technology fit in this scenario? Apps like Quizlet are a good place to start. Websites that have a gamey feel to them also work. Teach them how to create their own games. Have them get up and move by putting the information they need to learn in QR codes posted around the classroom. Create Hyperdocs that challenge their thinking and give them the opportunity to create and do. Have them show their writing skills by designing and writing the scripts for comic strips and graphic novels. Don’t have them sitting quietly all day.
This falling behind thing is a big issue. By the time many boys get to middle school, they’re 2 or 3 grade levels below their current grade, and are no longer interested in catching up. I’ll be working on ways to make learning, especially reading and writing, more interesting for boys. How do you keep them engaged and focused and moving forward?