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Bums on seats measures the wrong end of the learner. -- Donald Clark

I recreated (image above) an older version of an image quote I made in 2015 (below). It was based on something that Donald Clark wrote about in 2013.

Bums on seats measures the wrong end of the learner.

After watching this video on the claims of a startup wanting to get kids to Zoom in the era of COVID-19, I realised that the quote needs to be updated.

Video source

With classrooms and lecture halls, the administrative measurement of learning is attendance, i.e., bums-in-seats. Online the measure is also attendance, but it is now faces-on-camera.

Now I get that attendance and attention can be the first step in getting student to learn. But that is the low hanging fruit. Learning does not happen just because students are present and accounted for.

Most teachers get that and will use strategies to engage and empower their students. But technologies like the one featured in the video appeal to administrators and to teachers who can only think inside the classroom box.

Learning that is a result of enforced attendance is likely to be fleeting or superficial. Why? The learner does not want to be there and the class does not connect with the student.

Solutions do not lie in forcing attendance even though this might be important administratively, financially, or for policy. They lie in better teacher-student relationships, more progressive teaching strategies, and heightened expectations of the learner.

One change that incorporates all three is well-designed asynchronous learning — they are trust-building exercises, they focus on the teacher meeting the students where they are at, and require students to be more independent.

If we do not change the way we teach or the shift the expectations of what it means to learn, we will not change the way we use technology.

A local library I frequent replaced its old seats with more modern chairs. While the old chairs were worn, they were not covered with material that squeaked with every little movement.

Call me old school, but I like a quiet library because I go there to work. Settling into the new seats or moving about creates squeals, groans, and farts. When other people do the same, you get an orchestra of odd and unwanted sounds.

History has a way of repeating itself because people do not listen and are not learners from the mistakes of others. If they listened and learnt, they would put usability over aesthetics.

In the library’s case, decision makers could have tested the seats in context and with actual users. Usability is not judged from a budget spreadsheet, vendor sales pitch, or site visit. Usability is about contextual use.

Bums on seats measures the wrong end of the learner.

I discovered this phrase when I read Donald Clark’s blog entry in 2013. It was a phrase that tickled and probed.

It was a different way of reminding all those who teach that attendance is not attainment and teaching is not learning.

Clark provided the quote. Someone else provided the original photo with which I was able to create this image quote.


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