A Vision of Students Today (What Teachers Must Do)

27 Jan 2009 (Tue)

“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 problem

“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.”

The solution

“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.”

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Posted by J.K. in Learning, Media, Possibilities, Problems, Technology, Video | View Comments |

  • http://www.NETCoachAsia.com J.K.


    “Today’s child is bewildered when he enters the 19th century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment where information is scarce but ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns, subjects, and schedules.” Marshall McLuhan 1967

    If these walls could talk, what would they say?

    If students learn what they do, what are they learning sitting here?

    The information is up here. Follow…

    Of course walls and desks can’t talk… but students can.

    A Vision of Students Today
    What is it like being a student today?

    200 students made 367 edits to this document…
    and surveyed themselves…
    to bring you the following message.

    My average class size is 115.
    18% of my teachers know my name.
    I complete 49% of the readings assigned to me. Only 26% relevant to my life.
    I buy hundred dollar textbooks that I never open.
    My neighbour paid for class but never comes.
    I will read 8 books this year, 2300 web pages and 1281 Facebook profiles.
    I will write 42 pages for class this semester and over 500 pages of email.
    I get 7 hours of sleep each night!
    I spend 1 1/2 hours watching TV each night.
    I spend 3 1/2 hours a day online.
    I listen to music 2.5 hours a day.
    I spend 2 hours on my cellphone.
    Spend 3 hours in class.
    2 hours eating.
    I work 2 hours every day.
    3 hours studying.
    That’s a total of 26.5 hours per day.
    I am a multi-tasker. (I have to be.)
    I will be $20,000 in debt after graduation!
    I’m one of the lucky ones.
    Over one billion people make less than $1 a day.
    This laptop costs more than some people in the world make in a year.
    When I graduate I will probably have a job that doesn’t exist today.

    [Student displaying a pencil-based survey card.]
    Filling this out won’t help me get there or deal with… [Various students holding out cards showing different problems, e.g. Ethnic conflicts]

    I did not create the problems. But they are my problems.

    Some have suggested that technology can save us…
    Some have suggested that technology alone can save us…

    I Facebook through most of my classes.
    I bring my laptop to class, but I’m not working on class stuff.

    “The inventor of the system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not the greatest benefactors of mankind.” – Josiah F. Bumstead 1841… on the benefits of the chalkboard.

    Writing on the chalkboard… forces the teacher to move.

    … To be continued

    Come join the discussion at mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg

  • http://teendepressionsite.info/ Lorraine Anderson

    With the advancement of technology, students of today are indeed different from yesterday’s. While we can “go with the flow” and let them be, chances are, they’re going to abuse it. If we let them bring Ipods and laptops at school, it may be hard to regulate it considering the number of students in one class. As a trainer, I would suggest that getting students to be interested in a subject will make them better students. It’s challenging, but hey, that’s what we’re here for.

  • http://my.opera.com/techiedude1980/blog/ Scott

    I believe that media now is the most powerful tool in learning. It does not only connects students with the new technology but the technology itself will help students. Like the use of internet wherein they can do research. But strict guidance should still be enforce within the school where there is a limit for usage of such technologies.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/solarpowerforhome Matthew

    there are advantages and disadvantages with the advance technology, but this the trend now and we have to embrace it. What we need to do is to always remind them of the good values and traits that are parents taught us. it is still very important. Just dance to the beat. Excellent article.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/solarpowerforhome- Matthew

    With the addition of new technology in our daily lives, the youth or students embrace it and follow their instincts regarding getting what they want. All the parent can do is to guide them, educate, and love them.

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