Digital Ethnography

Seeking help with “A Vision” for tomorrow

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To my delight, “A Vision of Students Today” is currently the most blogged about video in the blogosphere. I have read nearly every blog and comment posted about the video, and thought I would offer some of my responses here.

First off, it is remarkable to read all of the different interpretations of the video. Some have portrayed me as a luddite who thinks all technology in the classroom should be done away with, while others have suggested that I am a technophile who thinks technology is the answer. Others focus more on the words of the students, and suggest that whatever problems we may have in higher education can be blamed on them, the technology, or both.
To give a little bit more context to the piece, it might be useful to point out that it was originally created as Part 2 of a 3 part series on Higher Ed. Part 1 has been published as Information R/evolution. That piece tracks the way information creation, critique, and distribution has changed, ending with the question “Are we ready?” and the answer: “R U Feeling Lucky?” (altering Google’s I’m feeling lucky button). Placed back to back, this would then lead directly to the door opening to the empty classroom.

Part 3 is planned to be an exploration of different teaching technologies and the ways in which they shape the learning environment for better and for worse. It will begin where this video left off, with a chalkboard (which IS a teaching *technology*, though we often overlook it as such), progressing through PowerPoint, onto the web, SecondLife, etc.

I think many of the misinterpretations of the video are due to my attempts to frame the issues in a way that subtly suggests both luddite and technophile solutions as actual possible solutions.

The conclusion I hoped would be drawn from the video, has been most eloquently stated by Tim Bulkeley at SansBlogue:

More striking and visceral though, for me, was the opening of the video which sets the scene and poses the issue in an empty classroom! The environment in which we teach (onsite classes) is alien and sets up a model of information which is no longer true! Information is no longer scarce, no longer “out there”, no longer even ordered and organised the same way. It is not what we teach, it is how we are teaching that is the problem!

What teaching in the 21st century needs is not “better/more use of technology” – though that would be nice, nor (surely people do not actually believe this!?) students who are “as well educated as we were”, but simply new ways of doing and being. Many of our deep-rooted assumptions are enshrined in material forms, “class” rooms, whiteboards, “lecturers” and the like. So, what do we do to change how we are teaching?

I think Tim asks the right question here, though I would like to change it up a bit as I prepare to make “Part 3″ of this series on Higher Ed: What are we DOING to change how we are teaching? If you have any great examples of how you have changed up your classroom (or “classroom”) in ways that are more in tune with the information environment in which we all now exist, please comment. I am looking for examples that span all the possibilities – some of which I expect to be technology-focused, while others may not use any technology at all (my own project, the World Simulation, is very light on tech).

Thanks in advance to all those who can offer any examples.


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