Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A thought-provoking video

Interesting video from Michael Wesch at Kansas State U, based on a survey in his cultural anthropology class last spring. What do you think?


heu mihi said...

That's interesting, but I'm not really clear on their argument. It starts off looking like information technology is the better way to run classes and for students to work, but clearly that isn't what's being suggested by the end. And *should* classes all be about "what's relevant to [the student's] life," or what will help them to get a career in an as-yet undeveloped industry? Is this a critique of the classroom or of the student? Or of a culture in which so many resources are wasted on students who don't come to class/don't read textbooks/aren't getting much out of their education, while people the world over starve and struggle to survive?

So. My thoughts are provoked, but I'm not quite sure in which direction. I'm interested to see what other people think.

undine said...

I had the same feeling, heu mihi: there are worthy messages here, but there are a lot of them. Is it that technology extends to chalk, too (as suggested by the quotation from 1841)? Or is it that the lecture format is outmoded? Or that, as you say, we're wasting resources on students who won't read/engage with the material?

And if a student is judging education by what's relevant to his or her 18-year-old self--well, that's solipsism, not judgment.

Anonymous said...

The main point I get from it is how much *more* info is now easily accessible than what you get in class, and then if classes are run in a really narrow way, then ...

I don't know. At my UG institution classes were good (even if they were lectures with a chalkboard, the professors knew a lot and were articulate) *and* there was massive access to further info outside class via lectures, films, bookstores, all sorts of stuff.

Where I teach now classes are not necessarily good and not necessarily taught by experts, and teaching methodologies are not as advanced as they were when I was in college almost 25-30 years ago. I am not against lectures but the lecturer needs to be good. I had dynamite lecture classes from world class scholars who were dynamic speakers. This was before the Internet but they had great slides,
partly because there was such a great slide collection at one of the rare materials libraries on campus.

There is less available outside the classroom, too - poorer libraries, few sidewalks, many strip malls and such - and students work many hours at places like Chili's. So googling things becomes very very attractive, to them and also to me.

undine said...

I think they can learn both ways, Cero: all that cool John Deweyesque hands-on stuff and outside work is good, but to build a framework for that exploration, you need a good, dynamic lecture like the ones you talk about.

undine said...

Addition to earlier point above: we're trying to help them get an education that will last a lifetime, or at least to give them the tools to keep on learning, which is why I'm not swayed by the "relevant to 18-year-olds" argument. They won't be eighteen forever and neither will their brains, if I can help it.

Sisyphus said...

This was interesting, thanks! I agree that I'm not sure what the argument is here, or what sort of action the video wants me to take after viewing it. The thesis might be as simple as "there is a massive disconnect between how our students learn and interact with the world and the institutional structures we teach them in."

What I would most like to do is show this to a class and ask _them_ what its argument is, and what we should do about it.

undine said...

I like that idea of showing it to a class, sisyphus, and also your idea of what the thesis is.

Maybe what troubles me about this is the "massive disconnect" idea, which, to quote our students, has been going on "since the dawn of time."

Anonymous said...

It was a little bit all over the map, e.g. how is "over 1 billion people make less than $1 a day" at all relevant? And why it is surprising or pertinent that more pages are written for email(impromptu, quotidian) than for class(researched, deliberately constructed)?

It is interesting to ask, though, why students are simultaneously amassing debt and ignoring class assignments. Is college a cultural rigmarole for a substantial part of the student population?

I spent my first 2 undergrad years at a SLAC where I was on a first name basis with nearly every professor on campus. The last 2 were spent at a major state university. You can probably guess which one I enjoyed more and which one was more expensive.

I'm tempted to say throw more money at it. If education were a bigger priority, maybe some student to teacher ratios could be lowered. Maybe disinterested TAs wouldn't be teaching as many labs. Of course, that still won't solve issues like students spending more time surfing and listening to music than studying. Nor will it help students take classes geared towards their career since many of them don't know what they want to do.

undine said...

anonymous, I'm not sure what we're supposed to do with the information, either, although here's a new theory: we watch it and are appalled that students are only reading 49% of what we assign, yet it's even more appalling that people are living on $1 a day.

When you think about it, it's not surprising that they spend so much time surfing instead of studying. Look at all the academic blogs and all the time and effort professors spend in getting stuff done despite the distractions of the internet. The difference is that we can see how it matters to us, I guess.

Chaser said...

I think the fragmented nature of the video is meant to convey the fragmented contexts by which students are living their lives, on the one hand expected to live in real world while living in the virtual world, of having global identities of privilege (where the $1 a day notion comes up) but still not feeling wealthy. The lack of a coherent theme reflects the jumping mind of the student raised entirely in the postmodern, digital age.

I think the chalkboard ideas is meant to convey that professors have a leadership role, and it's not necessarily about the technology he or she chooses to employ. It's about, I think, helping students integrate all these sources of information.

That said, there's a lot of whining in there. "I multi-task because I have to." Oh grow up. But that's what they are in the process of doing, so you can't get too grouchy.

undine said...

chaser, I think you're right about fragmentation being the message. The chalkboard thing conveys leadership and also that (per the quotation at the beginning) the chalkboard is a technology, too.