“What kind of vicious game is being played here, and who are the sinners and who the sinned against?” – Postman and Weingartner, “Pursuing Relevance: where is the problem?”
HOW DID INSTITUTIONS DESIGNED FOR LEARNING become so widely hated by people who love learning? It’s been almost two years (spring 2007) since Dr Michael Wesch of Kansas State University invited the 200 students in his “Introduction to Cultural Anthropology” class to tell the world what they think of their education by helping him script a video for YouTube.
The result was the disheartening portrayal of disengagement below (viewed almost 3 million times worldwide as of today):
LAST OCTOBER, Dr Wesch wrote, “Despite my role in the production of the video, and the thousands of comments supporting it, I recently came to view the video with a sense of uneasiness and even incredulity. Surely it can’t be as bad as the video seems to suggest, I thought… But when I walked into my classroom for the first day of school two weeks ago I was immediately reminded of the real problem now facing education. The problem is not just ‘written on the walls’. It’s built into them.”
“The video seemed to represent what so many were already feeling, and it became the focal point for many theories… Most blamed technology, though for very different reasons… luddites imagine students to be distracted and superficial while techno-optimists see a new generation of hyper-thinkers bored with old school ways…
“Texting, web-surfing, and iPods are just new versions of passing notes in class, reading novels under the desk, and surreptitiously listening to Walkmans… despite appearances, our classrooms have been fundamentally changed. There is literally something in the air, and it is nothing less than the digital artifacts of over one billion people and computers networked together collectively producing over 2,000 gigabytes of new information per second… Classrooms built to re-enforce the top-down authoritative knowledge of the teacher are now enveloped by a cloud of ubiquitous digital information where knowledge is made, not found, and authority is continuously negotiated through discussion and participation. In short, they tell us that our walls no longer mark the boundaries of our classrooms.
“…The walls have become so prominent that they are even reflected in our language, so that today there is something called “the real world” which is foreign and set apart from our schools. When somebody asks a question that seems irrelevant to this real world, we say that it is “merely academic.” Not surprisingly, our students struggle to find meaning and significance inside these walls. They tune out of class, and log on to Facebook.”
“Fortunately, the solution is simple. We don’t have to tear the walls down. We just have to stop pretending that the walls separate us from the world, and begin working with students in the pursuit of answers to real and relevant questions…
“We can acknowledge that most of our students have powerful devices on them that give them instant and constant access to this cloud (including almost any answer to almost any multiple choice question you can imagine). We can welcome laptops, cell phones, and iPods into our classrooms, not as distractions, but as powerful learning technologies. We can use them in ways that empower and engage students in real world problems and activities, leveraging the enormous potentials of the digital media environment that now surrounds us. In the process, we allow students to develop much-needed skills in navigating and harnessing this new media environment, including the wisdom to know when to turn it off. When students are engaged in projects that are meaningful and important to them, and that make them feel meaningful and important, they will enthusiastically turn off their cellphones and laptops to grapple with the most difficult texts and take on the most rigorous tasks.”
- An anthropological introduction to YouTube
- Metaphorically Speaking (The Education Pill)
- Going online in a f2f class – Help or Distraction?
- S$50K IDM grants now available from SiTF
- Wiki research at ClappingTrees
- Podcast lectures proliferate
- 7 Things You Should Know…