Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Classroom Seat Time: Now I know!

I just caught up on some of my RSS feeds and I found one of Will Richardson’s posts more than interesting. The title of his post is 91.2% of the time in their seats. Will’s data comes from a recent USA Today article that highlights the findings of the weekly magazine Science. The title of the post leads me to believe that 91.2% of all students are kept in their seats during the school day, but this isn’t the case. The stat of 91.2% is only fifth graders.

Nevertheless, after considering my classes, I can concur with the number. I teach 9-12th grade students and I have any where from 20 to 28 students in each of my classes. Hence, my students remain in their seats for the majority of their 50 minute class time. Off the cuff, I'd say that my students stay in their seats about 85% of the time.

A couple of issues come into play with classroom seat time. First, when students are in their seats they are less likely to cause disruptions or get into trouble. However, Will makes a good point with his article and I have to ask… Is classroom seat time the best practice for academic classes? Based on my years of experience with middle school and high school age students, I would say that classroom seat time is essential, but maybe not the best means of reaching all students all of the time. My students do however go to the media lab on a weekly basis to blog, moodle, wiki, create presentations, listen to podcasts, and to do research. Kudos for me!

As for the study, I am going to assume that being in front of a computer doesn’t qualify as seat time although the students are physically seated. I hope that this is a safe assumption due to the change of venue. Now I know why the majority of my students love going to the media lab.

In the future, I am going to do my best to limit seat time. However, there is a fine line between too much seat time and not enough seat time, at least at the high school level in my classes. I'd say that about 70/30 would be a good number for high school students (e.g. seat time versus tactile time).

Will cited the following blog style comment from one of USA Today’s respondents …

“Perhaps the problem is the fact that the formerly drugged up hippies of the 60/70s is the gerneration that are control of not only the government, but also run the colleges, universities and news outlets. These are also the same peace and free love people who do these studies.”

As an educator, I enjoy good satire, but I much prefer the following responses…

“I agree that an elementary school education should be well-rounded and include the development of skills such as problem-solving, reasoning, science, and social studies; however, in order to develop these skills students need to master basic reading and math concepts. To focus on the former before the latter would be to put the cart before the horse.”

And my favorite is …

“No, You can't problem solve or reason if you can't read and write.”

Well, there ya go!

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