Saturday, 1 November 2014

Same bat time, same bat channel- can TV help us improve student engagement?

Here's a little thought I have been having for a while... what if we looked at what TV stations do well to capture and maintain an audience and applied that learning in our classrooms?

I know it sounds a bit odd and in our day where we have varied forms of visual/digital entertainment perhaps the analogy is redundant but I'll let you decide that.

This is some of what I have been considering:

  • On TV channels they have specific programmes airing at certain times but it shifts and changes depending on the day. There are some regular programmes and some variation, there are also thematic times such as Christmas or special days of remembrance where the schedule reflects that theme. 
  • There are regular ad breaks, often every 10-15 minutes, which can be entertaining in themselves or provide us with an opportunity to shift focus or move around a little. 
  • There are a range of programmes scheduled which are designed to meet the interests of varied parts of the target demographic. 
  • The target demographic is carefully considered and monitored. 
  • Programmers use cliffhangers and other strategies to hook their viewers in and make them want to tune in next time (as the old Batman series said 'same bat time, same bat channel') 
  • Sometimes programmes that are less popular are sandwiched between two more popular programmes to keep their viewers tuning in. 
  • What is coming up may be talked about in the credits from the previous programme to ensure that viewers do not switch channels. 
When we apply this to the classroom here is what it might look like:
  • Lots of consultation with the students so you understand your 'demographic'. What are their favourite subjects, least favourite, how do they prefer to learn, what are their goals, strengths and needs... then consider how you can cater for that (hint: they won't be the same as the class you had last year, or the year before and they will probably change preferences throughout the year too)
  • Short snappy lessons- don't drag on boring your audience or they will tune out! 
  • Previews of what is coming up as we round off what we have just done e.g. (after a summation of what was learned) "so that was maths folks, coming up we will be exploring the fascinating world of adjectives in our writing...".  
  • You can also preview a new topic coming up next week or next term at different times to build anticipation and buy in.  
  • There will be predictability with daily scheduling but there will be variability between lessons and you may adjust your schedule seasonally. If we do things the same way all day engagement will drop off (hint: being talked at for long periods of time in the classroom is exhausting and encourages tuning out). 
  • If something is a less popular subject then schedule it between two other more popular subjects or parts of the classroom programme e.g. if there is a general reluctance with math and written language don't schedule them immediately one after the other.  
  • Stop regularly to allow people to move, shift focus, stretch, ask questions or talk. (Click here for some reasons to consider more action in your classroom) 
  • If something isn't working then consider changing it, do something new or different, find another way. You could trial different things to see if they work, like pilot programmes.  

We want our students to tune in, buy in and engage just like a TV station wants their viewers to do, the big difference of course is that we don't want our students to be passive 'viewers' of the learning but active participants whose opinions, interests and needs do matter. And to finish here's a really bold thought, what would it look like if every student had their own schedule designed with them in mind? Just an idea...  

So, how do you get your students to tune in to the learning offered in your school or your classroom? 

By the way, please excuse the spelling for some folk out there, I come from New Zealand :)

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