Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Young People's Secret

by AJ

Older people are often amazed at young people's quick mastery of new technology. Many express exasperation with computers and electronic gadgets.. for example, I think my grandmother has still not mastered the VCR!

These are the folks who attend classes with titles such as "How to Use the Internet".. or "How to Use a Computer". They often believe that young people have magic powers for learning new technology.

But I think there's no great mystery as to why kids so easily master computers while many older people struggle.

The secret: Kids dont "study" computers. They dont take classes on "How to Use The Internet". And they never "work" at learning a piece of technology. Their secret is simple-- they play.

Give a kid a computer and they will instantly start clicking away.... "What's this?"... "What does this do?".... "Hmmm, this looks cool, how does it work". Thats how their thought processes work.

And its what most computer-literate people do... of any age. Apple Computer knows this. My laptop did not come with a "manual". No directions for the software! Why? Because Apple knows that their customers will learn by clicking, playing, and experimenting..... and thats how they'll figure out what all the menus and buttons do.

This is what "Effortless Learning" looks like. Yes, a great deal of time is involved. Yes, a great deal of attention is required. Yes, a great deal of energy is expended. But its not "work" or even "study". Its play. Its exploration. Its entertainment. Its experimentation.

These are inherently pleasurable activities.... at least for those who have not had their natural curiousity and creativity completely drained by school and jobs.

I believe language acquisition is exactly the same. Children dont "study" languages. They explore them, play with them, experiment with them,.. and are entertained by them.

But most adult teachers cant stomach the idea of playing and exploring and entertaining. They like "study". They like "analysis". They love "effort" (No pain, no gain is a shitty educational philosophy). They think: Why read Harry Potter when you can force students to do drills in a textbook? Why learn vocabulary from comics, music, books, and TV when you can force students to memorize glossaries at the end of every textbook chapter?

But this line of thought is madness-- and it works just as well as do those "Learn to Surf the Internet" courses... which is to say, not at all.

Teachers have got to get out of the 1950s and join the 21st century. The age of obedient drones is long long gone.

Forget being the Lord and Master of the class. Forget being the omniscient Expert. Forget, in the words of Tom Peters, "Command and Control".

Our mission now is to destroy those mindsets and convince our students that exploration, curiousity, enthusiasm, glorious risks, recklessness, play, and pleasurable experimentation are the way to go.

The truth is, most of my job seems to involve "unteaching" rather than "teaching". I put most of my energy into dismantling the rigid, grammar-analysis, rote memory, obey-the-teacher, "learning English is painful" beliefs that past teachers have injected into my students.

Its definitely not an easy job.