Clarifications on “A Vision …”

I have been fascinated by the variety of interpretations made of “A Vision of Students Today.” From luddite to Web 2.0pian, I have been called many things. I was willing to let this go for awhile, because the video has become a part of the ongoing rich and rewarding conversation about the types of students and learning styles we face today in the classroom and how we can change how we teach, adopting technology in smart and sophisticated ways that enhance learning and address multiple learning styles while avoiding adopting technology “just for technology’s sake.”

But there is one misreading that keeps popping up and interrupting this important conversation, so I think it needs to be addressed. This misreading has been best expressed by Gary Stager at DA Blogs who suggests the following:

“One valuable lesson you should learn at university is that the world is full of people smarter than you and wondrous things to learn. This video and the mindless kudos afforded it make just the opposite point. Hey kids, you have cellphones! You’ve played Halo and excerpted someone else’s blog which in summarized someone else’s blog which excerpted an article on a magazine web site. Therefore, you are master of the universe and every educational institution should abandon scholarship, discipline and any text longer than a screen.”

Gary is not alone in this interpretation of the video, so I need to accept that I could have done a better job editing the video and delivering my message. Perhaps it will all make more sense once Part 3 is complete and it is put together with Part 1 (Information R/evolution) as well. In the meantime, the following might clarify a few points.

The video starts from the classic point made by John Dewey: Students learn what they do. So, the video begins, “If students learn what they do, what are they learning sitting here [silently in straight rows facing a speaker at the front of the room?]”

In the video I suggest that they are learning to sit in nice neat rows and remain quiet while the information / knowledge is delivered to them by an authority figure standing at the front of the room. They are learning to absorb knowledge from an authority, regurgitate that “knowledge” on exams, and follow along.

If students learn what they do, this is what they are learning, despite whatever the content of our lectures might be.

The signs held up by the students should not be read as “complaints.” They are more like confessions that give us a glimpse into their learning. The girl holding up the sign that says “Only 26% of the readings are relevant to my life” is not complaining. She is reporting a result from our survey.

By including this result, I did not mean to suggest that professors should only assign material that students think is relevant (and I agree that such a suggestion would be outrageous), but our job is to convince them of the relevance of what we assign. What do students learn from something they don’t think is relevant? And what does it say about our education system that on average students report that only 26% of what they read is relevant to their lives, or that they only read 49% of the readings, buy $100 textbooks they never open, and have low attendance rates? One of our most important jobs is to convince them of the relevance of material they might not otherwise discover. Convincing them of the importance of our class is the first step toward creating an effective learning environment. Our classes and assignments are like gateways to new horizons, but we have to inspire them to step through those gateways, and we are failing.

Another common critique of the video is that I am not saying anything new. I agree, and included the quote from Marshall McLuhan in 1967 to demonstrate this. What haunts me is that McLuhan’s words were published 40 years ago and we have still in large part failed to change the standard learning environment in any significant way.

But while teaching has not changed, learning has. Students are learning to read, navigate, and create within a digital information environment that we scarcely address in the classroom. The great myth is that these “digital natives” know more about this new information environment than we do. But here’s the reality: they may be experts in entertaining themselves online, but they know almost nothing about educating themselves online. They may be learning about this digital information environment despite us, but they are not reaching the levels of understanding that are necessary as this digital information environment becomes increasingly pervasive in all of our lives. All of the classic skills we learned in relation to a print-based information universe are important, and must now be augmented by a critical understanding of the workings of digital information.

Some have suggested that any educational failings are the students’ fault, and while that may be partially true, it is also true that different teaching techniques and educational situations can be effective in inspiring students, and it is our job as educators to explore what techniques are most effective and to try to generate new, more effective techniques. This includes adopting new technologies in ways that enhance student learning. In doing this we need to be careful. Since the invention of the chalkboard people have been claiming the latest technology to be the answer to all of our educational shortcomings (note the quote from Bumstead in 1841 at the end of the video).

As we think about the possibilities of these new technologies, we need to keep in mind that classic John Dewey point: students learn what they do. How can we recreate the learning environment in a way that encourages students to do things that creates the learning we hope to inspire? How can we create a learning environment that encourages students to ask critical questions and become adept at filtering, analyzing, and organizing the masses of information now penetrating our environment? And how can we inspire students to ultimately create high quality information and knowledge themselves? I see enormous potentials for new technology to help us in this regard. But I also see ways in which the technology could be used to reproduce and even magnify the failings we see in our education system today.

Gary concludes his scathing review of the video by saying, “A concerned competent educator might ask, “What should I do to make learning relevant without making it dopey or trivial?” This video offers no such guidance.”

Exactly. While *this* video does not offer such guidance, the video is “to be continued” and stands as an invitation to discuss this question.


Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

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64 Responses

  1. Having received many of the same criticisms, I think I’m probably one of the few that can truly empathize with you.

    For what it’s worth, thank you for expounding – and thank you for paying attention in the first place.

  2. edh says:

    I agree with the “confessions” bit – it’s almost like a PostSecret vlog :)

    Just today, I was discussing the concept of senioritis with a library colleague and I wish I had thought of the Dewey quote you used… how students are utterly terrified to be out in the “real world” after learning for 17+ years how to sit in rows and absorb information like obedient little sponges. I know I was scared at the very thought of attempting to navigate the utterly unfamiliar world of work.

    But to change the current educational paradigm would mean dismantling the economic structure of education as well. The large lecture class might be classic old school, but it maximizes the return on one professor’s knowledge to benefit the larger institution. More than anything, it may be money that holds us back from reinventing education for the 21st century.

  3. Michael’s video and comments here not only relate to education in the traditional university environment, but also how we gather and process knowledge in the “real world” of work.

    We tend to expect information/knowledge to be available in a structured, perhaps even linear, fashion to solve problems whether we work in the “knowledge economy” or in the “physical economy”. It comes however, from many sources and fragments that initially have no structure. It is our intelligence that gives it structure, then meaning so as to produce the wisdom to apply it.

    Unlike “Digital natives”, we older folk, the “digital immigrants” had the disadvantage of a learning culture that was serial, structured and from first principles, so we have a tougher time adapting to it. This is especially the case when we see digital culture primarily as entertainment.

    Finally, fragmentation of information (read learning) is nothing new, nor is entertainment – didn’t we all learn our first lessons in life by playing in an unstructured way. The digital era we are in now is simply an advancement of the toys.

  4. Aly Tapp says:

    Your video sparked a debate in our high school. In the teacher lunch room, one teacher asserted that the point of the video was to show that the chalkboard had merit, for it “got the teacher moving.” My response was to watch again, and after reading here, thank God, teacher aerobic activity is NOT the point. Just today, I told a visiting reporter that technology cannot be ignored. It is a part of our culture just like paper and pencil. The question is not “Will we allow them to use these tools,” but rather “How will we teach them to use these tools effectively?” God forbid someone would have outllawed paper because some students used it to pass notes. The same is true of digital tech, and I see my job in the high school environment being to educate students on the ethical and meaningful use of technology to learn goals that are determined WITHOUT technology in mind. The learning goal has not changed, but the path has been paved with digital stones. Keep exploring! –Aly Tapp, English teacher/CFF Coach in Pennsylvania

  5. Chester says:

    Your media and statements are almost tragically poignant in this sort of late-growing-pains half-digital world. I can understand a misunderstanding of the points if someone hasn’t been greatly effected in some way by education, the internet, or some demonic transmogrification of both. These are crazy, new, post-oughts thoughts that will hopefully help us monkey bar swing our way to the next goddamn decade. It’s still a topic mostly of early adopters.

  6. Darren says:

    Thanks for this follow-up on the project. I appreciate your willingness to consider directly and openly the various critiques of technology’s place in education…this is a great model for students, especially those who will be teachers.

  7. achilles3 says:

    I think what you say (in the video and through your other work) is so true. In fact TOO true. I am into my 7th year of teaching and have been saying this for most of it. The biggest wall here is the perceptions of the teachers themselves. They wanna believe that they are brilliant and kids are lazy. Teachers are the problem because they don’t want to here (or believe) in the reality that is learning. The reality that is the joke they take part in and direct.

    What if the key to better education was more computers and less teachers? How would the NEA see this? They would see it as they do all other things as an attack on teachers JOBS. The NEA is not about students or learning. They are about protecting member jobs. That’s one of the problems.

    I teach in a place where I advacated for more technology use because we have a 1:1 student to computer ratio during our classes. My boss said that wasn’t really the direction she wanted to go. She didn;t even want to have the conversation. She isn’t the only one.

    Adults all over want to see the computer only as play thing. As a way to keep painting students as lazy. As somethings that NEED them. It’s a bunch of crap. That lie does nothing but keep people in jobs.

    Teachers get over yourselves. You talking for 48 minutes with a worksheet aint learning. And it hasn’t been for a long long time.

    The sad thing is I won’t show the two people I work with the video because they will see this as proof only of my wanting to cause problems. Of wanting to discredit the direction we are heading. That’s the sad state at many other places that I have been.

    Thanks Prof. Wesch for everything! Keep causing those “problems”!

  8. achilles3 says:


    sorry :-)

  9. scott smith says:

    I side with Gary’s initial blog as I too have not found guilt an effective force to leverage teacher reform. The reach to third world poverty seems to distract from your message. Though true and important, its intended guilt is not properly placed.

    I recognize you don’t advocate transferring the teaching responsibility of a studied professor to student amateurs but there is a fine line we walk when press students to become independent learners. Andrew Keen (the cult of the amateur … might be a good book to explore this topic further.

    On the other hand, I applaud the fire you started, the learn-by-doing approach you are taking with your class and your fervor to engage your students and the educational community to define technology’s best fit with sound teaching.

  10. S. Anderson says:

    A comment above struck me. As someone who teaches at this same school, the fact that our students in the middle of Kansas are paying attention to their privileges with regards to education and technology should not be seen as guilt. It should be seen as progress. I think that an important aspect to this video has been lost in all the critique.

    The context for this collaboration was created in a classroom, but the script was student-driven. This is what the students wanted to tell “us” about how they are living and learning in our courses. If we aren’t listening to what they are directly telling us, then we are to blame if they aren’t producing the results we are hoping for.

    I didn’t find this video as oriented to technology as it was oriented towards students’ lives. As a teacher that always tries to get honest feedback from students, even when it isn’t something I want to hear about my assignments and courses, I appreciate that Dr. Wesch was able to do something so well that we all need to hear.

    As for the post, I agree. As teachers, we have to make our information in our courses relevant to our students. And, technology needs to stop being something that we are afraid of as teachers. It will not replace us. As someone who teaches heavily with technology, I know that these tools only help me reach my students in meaningful ways that show that I am paying attention to the world that they live in.

  11. Lauren says:

    I’m the Lauren who asked for a discussion about relevance in a previous comment and would like to offer my apology to all of you, and especially, …”The girl holding up the sign that says “Only 26% of the readings are relevant to my life”, where I copied the blog entry error “relative” and in relation to “classes” and not “readings”. My own desire to chime in and laziness and haste prevented me from re-watching the video for the proper citation.

    I also think that the onus for relevance here is on teachers, and by extension, parents, adults, universities… I just have a feeling that a discussion about relevance may be the unraveler. And, I still want to hear more about this from students, because I’m also lauding your method, because it’s working.

    Thanks again for all your efforts

  12. Jim says:

    Prof Wesch

    I use your videos as a point of discussion in our school district. Just imagine what those notebooks and “signs” will say when the children in our Kindergarten get to high school and college!

    Thank you for your thought provoking work. The kids are lucky to have you as a prof. Keep up the good work.

  13. Mark says:

    Hi Professor Wesch,
    I have been using your videos to initiate discussions in classes at the middle school level. When we watched the Vision of Students video, many of my students were surprised at how university classes were structured and the lack of connection to the professor. Your statement that “they are not reaching the levels of understanding that are necessary as this digital information” is something that I have been witnessing with students who are signing up for social networking sites without truly understanding the consequences of their online activity. If students are lacking the reasoning and critical thinking skills to interact digitally university or college level, where should the responsibility for preparing them lie? It is very difficult to adapt teaching techniques and strategies at the same rate as students adopt new technologies. Your videos are helping me to identify gaps in digital knowledge that may be helpful to my students. Thanks for sharing these resources and my class looks forward to future movies.

  14. Tai says:

    I showed the video to my freshmen writing class after having them read a chapter from Paulo Freire’s _Pedagogy of the Oppressed_. I think that the overall push (by prof. Wesch and others) to encourage effective questioning is the most important thing we can do as educators. My post-Freirean class was able to “read” the video effectively without much guidance from me. They questioned the classroom setting (traditional desks and chalkboard); they questioned the narrative structure of traditional learning; and they began to question the value of the video and the value of their assigned reading. They made Freire and this video relevant to their own lives in ways that I could never dictate to them.

  15. Mary says:

    EdTechTrek, “had Mike and Gary just picked up the phone and had a good old synchronous discussion, things may have not transpired as they did” things certainly would not have transpired the way they did. The “dust” that this discussion has stirred up is in fact gold-dust and not “for nothing” as you suggested. It has made a lot of people think and share their opinions. I learned a lot from the original video but I’ve learned even more from the ensuing discussions.

  16. look says:

    What are students being taught about tangible reality?
    Perhaps the college level is too late as they have become
    virtual “natives” as you suggested.

    (how will you address this issue)
    You’ve made it clear that many students feel like they’re on a road to nowhere.

    This is such a simple song that it reminds people of a simple lesson that some people never learn.

    They took all the trees
    Put ‘em in a tree museum
    And they charged the people
    A dollar and a half
    just to see ‘em!

    Dont it always seem to go
    That you dont know what youve got
    Till its gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot!

    Hey farmer farmer
    Put away that d.d.t. now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But leave me the birds and the bees!


    - Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”


  17. look says:

    Great speakers are the key!

    Governor Ann Richards, 1988 Keynote Address:

    “They’ve tried to put us into compartments and
    separate us from each other.

    Their political theory is “divide and conquer.”

    They’ve suggested time and time again
    that what is of interest to one group of Americans
    is not of interest to any one else!

    We’ve been isolated.

    We’ve been lumped into that sad phraseology called
    “special interests.”

    “No wonder we feel isolated and confused!

    We want answers!
    And their answer is that
    ‘something is wrong with YOU.’

    Well nothing’s wrong with YOU.

    Nothing’s wrong with you
    that you can’t

  18. achilles3 says:

    Tangible reality?

    Even after eight years of teaching high school English I’m not sure what defines “tangible reality” but…

    I think they showed us (in the video) what they already learned from “tangible reality”…that they can pay attention to about a million other things, read very little and still do pretty well (grade wise) in school. Perhpas without learning much…

    I’m glad we still have paper, and pencils, and lectures, and giant class sizes, and professors that believe (against all research) that grandstanding and pointing to a chalk board is the best way to teach people…I guess.

    But I’ll be more glad when educators stop blaming the students for not learning and start using best methods involving technology to best reach more of them.

    Reminds me of a little song…

    “Times they are a changin’…”


  19. look says:

    had to get my last rant out that went off faaar beyond your post.

    Hope to clarify that YOU really meant “collecitive” to all teachers.

    This whole video has sparked a gusher of thought for me.

    Hoping that students and teachers are reading.

    The beauty part of blogging is that you can go back and discuss. and it’s funny when the blogs get overwhelming to where you are combing through them, you’re talking to few, or talking to yourself.


    “I’m glad we still have paper, and pencils, and lectures, and giant class sizes, and professors that believe (against all research) that grandstanding and pointing to a chalk board is the best way to teach people…I guess.

    But I’ll be more glad when educators stop blaming the students for not learning and start using best methods involving technology to best reach more of them.

    Reminds me of a little song…

    “Times they are a changin’…”


  20. look says:

    Tangible-Reality (a stretch beyond the normal imagination)
    what can we touch? what is real??? is virtual real?

    I think it is now.

    Yes, indeed. Times are changing. And thank you for your response to my post.

    You do not “get” what I was refering to as “tangible reality”. As an English teacher I am sure that you know that words can be put together in many different ways to express various ideas.

    I questioned my choice of word, as you did. So I went to a thesaurus. And I looked up some words,


    actual, appreciable, concrete, corporeal, definite, detectable, discernible, distinct, embodied, evident, factual, gross, incarnated, manifest, material, objective, observable, obvious, palpable, patent, perceivable, perceptible, phenomenal, physical, plain, positive, sensible, solid, stable, substantial, tactile, touchable, verifiable, visible, well-grounded

    I looked up another,


    absoluteness, actuality, authenticity, being, bottom line, brass tacks, certainty, concrete, corporeality, deed, entity, existence, facts, genuineness, materiality, matter, object, palpability, perceptibility, phenomenon, presence, real world, realism, realness, sensibility, solidity, substance, substantiality, substantive, tangibility, truth, validity, verisimilitude, verity, what’s what

    Many words came up.

    You’re right. the words, “concrete” and “concrete” (for example) are on many pages. So I would not want to put those two words together. That would not make much of a statement, now would it? Unless, I suppose I was really really trying to emphasize something. But, “really really” is not my style. Besides, I would chose different words anyway. That would be less silly, really. Now I feel like I am Lewis Carroll!

    Is this literary nonsense?

    Really now, we can see that anyone can interchange a few words and come up with many differnt topics of discussion, or twist the truth. It is an amazing reality. In fact, this exchange of information (between you and I) might actually demonstrate the way two people read, perceive, and accept information.

    So with our example we can use a few differnt ways of expressing an idea:




    Do you see the confusion here? You are trying to run some “topicality” arguement by your standards of defining a word. But when you put two words together it can mean different things. I am putting two completely different words together and look at what it’s caused — thought.

    With all due respect, please stop being an English teach for a moment and stop trying to correct spelling, grammer, and word choices every step of the way. Stop grand standing by nit-picking. (Though I have loved my English teachers, I do find that they can be annoyingly nit-picky and lose focus). So let’s focus on what is being presented, please. My “precision” was not hinging on two words. I did not write out a thesis nor did I outline. I was not writing thesis; rather, I was making an effort. I am not writing a term paper. So we must stop thinking in those terms every time we read digitalized print.

    So what was the topic? Oh right! It was the challenges facing students today, in terms of media cultures.

    What are the rules in media? They’re different from English.

    In this form, you (may) have read my post, I have read yours, I thought about what you said, I have formulated a response to what you wrote, and I posted again. Now, the next person that posts may or may not agree with what either of us have said.

    This medium is not a conversation, but it is a way to communicate. Within this forum of ideas, our little exhange provided something, whether it be personal satisfaction or food for thought. Is it tangible? I don’t know. Is it reality? Who’s to say?

    All I know is that my laptop is real. I can touch it. I feel like I have to have it. From the point I took it out of packaging, what goes on inside of this gadget is up to me. I can focus or I can start destracting myself with things like my online dictionary, or react to Youtube. I can go bang out an email that I “must” respond to. Is this for real, even though I cannot touch it?

    Ambiguity is clearly demonstrated.

    So the point is that there are so many choices out there, so many realities, so many perspectives, so many types, so much technology, so many jobs, so many students, so many teachers…

    This is not a matter of whether or not the student or the teacher is most accountable for faults. It doesn’t matter to me. That is a useless conundrum that I will never figure out.

    The question is:

    What is your answer to students that are living in a technological age and have become digital natives?

    How do you tame what you deem to be savage?

    Elizabeth I was smart enough to ask, “Are we discovering the new world or is the new word discovering us?

    What are you going to do as a teacher to better your students and your own methods? How are you going to teach them the things that you’ve learned from your triumphs and errors? How are you not only going to hold their attention, but how are you going to captivate them into learning the subject matter that you teach, English?

    Judging by your post you do not seem to be one that has any intention of grandstanding. You are on the computer and you are adding to this forum. So you must care.

    In caring, I am sure that you have certainly employed different methods within your efforts. I am sure that you have learned from one school year to the other, from one class to the next, from one mind to the other. I am sure that you have used various teaching techiniques and instruments, such as group projects, films, books, individual work, presentations, tutoring, and discipline to provide knowledge in the best way that you know how. You’ve seen that there are many ways to learn.

    I have found that the teachers with the most personality can make a subject that I might not perceive to be interesting more dynamic. I have had teachers completely CHANGE my mind! It is startling what a good teacher can overcome.

    You have an opportunity to mold minds with yours. You have the opportunity to change a mind and the ability to change yours. You have a career that is difficult, frustrating, challenging, rewarding, and changing. But there is a constant variable: WE must all learn.

    As a teacher YOU are an integral part of our future. But when you look into the eyes of students YOU must say, “they. They! THEY are our future!” The decision to teach is sincerely admirable, but the ways in which one does it might be called into question from time to time. And when you question your own methods remember that walls cannot talk, but students can.

    Walls and buildings might stand longer than an individual will. But what is expressed there and what is taken from there will live on. And the ways of thinking within those old classrooms WILL change.

    And the beat goes on!

    The problem that you face is how do you now compete with even more interferences? How do you overcome the confusion of soooo much information? This labyrinth that we’re in can be completely exhausting because it is impossible for anyone to “remember” how to get through it. This is new. Times change!

    But somebody who has an idea, because they’ve seen it done before, can say, “Why don’t you stand on my shoulders so that you can see above it all!” Then we can find our way through this, together.

    Technology can be a gift and it can be a crutch.

    Perhaps we can all close up our little laptop, log off of this this REAL internet, touch a real piece of paper.

    Have we forgotten what a real apple tastes like?


    (now, I need to scurry off and go create the multimillion dollar idea I just had)

  21. achilles3 says:

    For the sake of timeliness, genuine appreciation, thanksgiving and brevity, let me first say, wonderful post my friend.

    I enjoy nothing more than to see a passionate, active mind at work. Further, as a reader of many blogs, (thus many blog comments) I can easily say that your two replies were of the most inspiring I’ve read in a long long while.

    I will consider your whole and hope to digest it well within the next few days.

    Until then Mr. Carroll ;-)

  22. Dad says:

    My first exposure to the internet happened before most of today’s students were born.

    I have written software that most people reading this have used … indirectly. And I have moved on to newer problems.

    I have worked with more than a dozen operating systems. I have watched more than half of them disappear forever.

    I have read two books this week. Both of them on my PDA.

    I didn’t consider my laptop to be functional until I reformatted it and installed Linux.

    In many fields, half of what you learn is obsolete within 5 years. I have been living and working in one of those fields for 2 decades.

    My resume has been stored in 10 different formats.

    I am an expert in several things that I know I will never have a use for again.

    My college professors taught me two sorts of things. They taught me a number of transient things that have been superceded since then and they taught me things that I have used year after year throughout my career. At the time, I was able to correctly guess which category some of them would be in, but I wasn’t always right.

  23. m meyer says:

    There are secondary goals some students have for going to college, too. A long time ago, guys went to college for a deferment from the draft. My dorm mates were “stashed” at my college until they were more mature because they flunked out of their own college back east. Some women (hard to believe, but true) are still looking for a ‘mrs.’ instead of a BS. My friend sent her son to college to get him away from his loser, unemployed, go-nowhere high school buds (bud being the operative word.) They didn’t have many brain cells to start with, and they were in a hurry to destroy what few they had left.
    All parents want their college children to succeed and grow in their lives. So better crack open those books–a sheepskin is so important. Get your behind to class and open your ears.
    My father worked where they just threw high school grads resumes in the trash. They only looked at degreed individuals–and that was 40 years ago. Get a job with benefits.

  24. Jason says:

    This is mostly in response to the part of the video that states “only 29% of the readings are relevant.” The first duty of an educator is not to teach knowledge, but to teach the student how to learn. And unlike what our schools tell us, this is not through memorizing facts and dates, but by thinking and questioning. Thank you to Prof Wesch for questioning.

    Everyone in this life can teach you something, and every day presents something new

  25. Shahana says:

    Dear Professor Wesch,

    I found your video captivating. It’s inspiring to see people like yourself actually tackling some of the issues that exist throughout educational institutes today.

    I imagine that you take a more hands on approach with your students?

    I just wanted to let you know that I enjoyed your creativity with the video- I’m sure you are making more of a difference than you know. Keep up the great work.


  26. Anonymous says:

    I just want to comment on Scott Smith’s reference to Andrew Keen. I went to the website in your post and read the articles on the front page of his website talking about topics such as the guy who owns facebook insinuating that he was an idiot and how he believes that the Internet should be more regulated and there should be laws in doing so. I also watched one of his videos that discussed his book on how the internet is turning people into nieve idiots who will believe whatever they see or hear. Well, my main point here is that after watching this video and seeing him make the comment that you can never really know what to believe on the internet because it goes through no editing process, etc, what type of editing process does our national news sources go through before it hits the airwaves? The Internet is a place where independent thinkers can express themselves without any censorship. We have a first amendment right to free speech in this country and we should be able to say whatever we want on the internet, anonymous or not. By using Andrew Keen as a reference in your post sir, I think it makes you look like someone who discourages and worries about the consequences of free speech within a classroom and that maybe if students were allowed to think for themselves, this world would be a bit of a different place and students wouldnt just sit there like drones listening to whatever a professor says without the chance to challenge it. Just some food for thought. Thanks.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Also, great video. Very thought provoking and I could definitely relate to what it was saying, as a recently graduated college student.

  28. Opal says:

    I graduated high school in 1979. I spent a couple years working and traveling around the continent, and then went to university… for a semester. I went back to work from many years, eventually graduating from a city college with a degree in police studies. I am not a police officer.

    The things I needed to learn where not available in university or college. Things like; what is the difference between religion and spirituality… how does one deal with every day life coming from a dysfunctional family… how does one parent, effectively, with love on a low income budget… how do you raise a family living in a big inner city… how do you budget and plan living off 25k or less a year… how do people with dyslexia and ADHD function within societies written and unwritten rules… how do you attract good people and peace to your life… what is reality…

    As far as I am concerned, there is a lot more to learning than our school system is able to provide.

  29. Joost says:

    Hi Everyone,
    From the Netherlands in Europe – I would like to add that I completely sympathize with the simply g r e a t video at

    Having completed two university studies I agree that the system of transferring knowledge to students is still (!) obsolete and not even close to efficient. During the last 25 years or so, no dramatic changes there!
    And yes – I also have been bored stiff numerous times, wondering why a whiteboard still needs so much attention in the educational system. The times – they are a-changing? (or are they?)

    Keep up the good work!


  30. prisha says:

    I watched your video with interest. I found it interesting that even at the university level American students are just like Americans in general, self involved, narsisits, wasting opportunities and resources while they look for someone else to inspire them.

    I have to admit that I nievely came to this website after watching the video in hopes of seeing other videos or further discussion from the students of today. I didn’t realize the teacher was the creative force and that the students basically were only capable of hold up signs. They were not even able to intrepret the basic symbolism in it and had to be spoon fed this information on this post.

    I see that American infantilized students are not going to come up with creative solutions and that teachers are going to blame themselves. Yes, this has been going on years. The masses are bore sheep pointing blaming fingers at the people they see as authority never bothering to realize they are the authority.

    To tell you the truth, I don’t think it will really matters to anyone but the student themselves. The world is passing them by while they play on facebook. The focus of energy is moving to South Asia and China where the students are intelligent, dedicated, creative and self motivated. While American’s are entertaining themselves the rest of the world is moving forward.

    I sure would be interested in seeing the students create a response to this comment. Shit, I would like them to respond to something… anything. I doubt they will.

  31. Matt says:

    As with everything in this world and in life, nothing is perfect. Yes, we students are to blame for not taking ownership of their education. Yes, you can even blame educators to an extent of not making some material relevant and giving students an incentive to learn. I urge you, come sit in one of my classes and tell me it wasn’t boring or not relevant. This is a new type of situation we’re facing here. Never before have students had laptops in the classrooms at the scale we see now, or internet access without any wires. Given time however, a solution will be found. I feel your comments about American students being just like the American population itself is a gross generalization. Are there people out there like that? Sad to say, but yes. There are also many people out there who the exact opposites of those charater traits that were stated. Those are the ones who are going to go places in life and become valuable members in society, while the rest just float along and go nowhere.

    So I get on facebook and instant message in my music appreciation course or I skipped most of my microeconomics course. Does that mean I’m a self-involved narscissist who wastes opportunities and resources? Absolutely not. College today is a lot of dumping of information and a repeating back of that information on exams. To me, personally, college isn’t about memorizing facts and terms. It is about critical thinking and problem solving. Those are the two skills that will best prepare me for the rest of my life. Whatever career I choose, whether or not I know how Classical composers differ from Baroque and Romantic composers is not going to have an impact on who I am as a member of society 5-10 years from now (unless I become a musician which is highly doubtful).

    I have one course that I am taking this semester that I actually learn and get the most out of. And that is because the teacher does not require excessive amounts of reading or dumps information for over an hour every class. It is because he encourages critical thinking and problem solving. He involves his students into his class. That is the best advice I can give to any teacher: include your students and get them to THINK CRITICALLY. That is the best thing to give to your students is a mind that thinks. They won’t remember anything about how many sonnets Shakesphere wrote when they are working as a financial advisor for some corporation. But the ability to think critically will be a skill that you will have imparted upon them that will last a lifetime.

  32. sroe says:

    I believe that both knowledge and understanding enhance my appreciation of the world around me. The path to the abundant life is rife with similitudes–each of which forms a strand in the web of my existence and serves to open a path to new information and experiences. As I do not know what I will face tomorrow, I cannot say what associations I make today or have made in my life previously will be the most “relevant” to my life in the future.
    I’m not arguing that teachers shouldn’t make information available in the most dynamic way possible; I’m not arguing that students shouldn’t have a say concerning the information to which they’re exposed.
    I’m simply saying that personally, I am grateful to live in a place and time that affords me so many learning opportunities. The canon of knowledge shared by educated and intelligent persons seems to be changing, as I am sure it always has, and while I see that change as both necessary and good, I am also convinced that we’re probably better off if that change happens slowly rather than abruptly.
    by way of full disclosure, I don’t have a facebook page, I prefer reading books with pages made from trees, and I’d rather talk out loud than sit next to you and text you.

  33. achilles3 says:

    Response to Prisha

    A. As an American I find your generalizations (about Americans) to hold little weight. Please separate our politics and mega consumers from the people. Its appropriate, and necessary for your assertions especially.

    B. As a former American university student, again I find your generalizations grossly hyperbolic. The video itself is a reflection of research, hypothesis, and creative dissemination. That, in and of itself, not to mention the actual process (which IS the learning) indicates that THESE students are infact excellent counter examples to your claim. You may be personally disturbed by the data but please don’t confuse these revelations with the simple loose leaf that held the numbers, or the dramatic effect of the disinterested facial expressions. This separation is also paramount to your assertion.

    C. As a current college adjunct, again I find your generalizations…well, wrong. The best teachers that we have use technology. Period. To ignore this avenue is just simply not best practice.

    D. You claim that university students are waisting opportunities and resources because they are in college and using the Internet??? Your assertion that because said student has a Facebook account they are less likely to be using those opportunities and resources seems quite presumptuous. Facebook is primarily a web page…thus a web site…Noam Chomsky has a website. Does that mean he’s wasting opportunities and resources?

    E. I have to wonder about the rest of the world passing up my students if those sprinters have trouble spelling narsisits (narcissists) and using apostrophes “While American’s are”.

    F. Point. The video seems to assert that we as an educational community (teachers and students) should look to use technology (along with many other fundamentals ) to help us construct best practices.

    I agree.


  34. Austin says:

    Just want to say that I thought this video was a very important look into the life of our up coming generation and how technology can effect us either positively or negativrly. Sure we can access the information faster and easier, but that’s only if you’re using it for that purpose. If you are using the technology to go on myspace for 10 hrs a day and that’s the furthest your students (or anybody for that matter) are going to take it then it’s not worth the box it came in.

    We can either use the technology properly and see really good results or misuse it and give rise to the dumbest generation ever seen. What’s worse, is they won’t know the difference or any better. Simply because by that point if the computer didn’t tell them what the answer was they won’t know it.

    In the end, I still say it comes down to the parents and the upbringing of the child. If you teach good values and worthwhile lessons as a parent, you’ll find most of the time your kids turn out much better off all around, scholasticaly and personally. However, if you don’t pay your kid any mind at all and let them sit on the computer all day, or text to their friend all day, and never get out of the house, read a book, or take a short walk just for no resson at all, or meet new people and take in the fresh air just for the sake of doing so, chances are you’re child will grow up self centered, oblivious, narcissistic, and not worldly knowledgable, and sheltered and socially inept.

    I find the movie very scary, but yet very very important. I feel it shows the dumbing down of our society, and the blame is on more than one or even two sides, and the biggest problem is that no one is budging to make anything better or solve anything. Spite amongst all parties involved is rampant but yet unproductive, and the cost, if not caught soon, will be catastrophic. It time to make some real changes.

    Thank you for making this film.

  35. Austin says:

    Sorry about my typo’s.

  36. ALS says:

    As an elementary school technology specialist, I am loving every bit of this. I viewed the video during a technology leadership meeting. My first impression was of sheer excitement, not shame or attempts to blame. Just wait till our current elementary students take the survey/poll that these university students took. If they took it now, the results would be quite different. Our high school graduating class of 2018, now second graders, are using technology tools to assist them in their daily learning strategies. They are truly digital natives, even more so than these university students.

    Ask your self:
    A. At what grade level did I learn to type?

    B. When did I learn technology presentation skills? With pictures? With music and movies?

    C. What tools have I used to conduct my research?

    Currently we pre-teach keyboarding in Kindergarten and 1st grade, with formal keyboarding in 2nd, continuing skills through middle school. Word processing, photo and movie processing happens simultaneously, not AS their curriculum but seamless IN their curriculum. For example in math, we were taught to add and then how to apply the addition skill in everyday life. Same should go for technologies, learn the technology and how it applies to our everyday life. These university students did not have that. They were learning these technology skills as the tools were being created.

    The good news is that we have already taken strides to avoid these issues for our future university students. I stand beside my K-6th graders and smile for their future. Just wait and see how they apply those seamless tools called technology. Hope is out there.

  37. angeline says:

    “A concerned competent educator might ask, “What should I do to make learning relevant without making it dopey or trivial?” This video offers no such guidance.”

    Perhaps part of the problem is that educators are waiting for web videos to offer guidance, rather than thinking up the answers themselves.

    I’m glad you addressed these criticisms, because I was so frustrated reading them — why do so many people feel the students are responsible for creating a better learning environment? Isn’t that the duty of the educator? Isn’t the educator the one in control of the environment?

  38. Alexandre says:

    It’s a great video. It’s make sense. It make thinking.

    I never bring my Laptop in classes, but I pass many time on Internet and Videogames.

    I’m lucky. I study in Université du Québec à Rimouski, in the Provinve of Québec, in Canada. The population of Rimouski (city) is 32 000. This school has about 5 000 students. So, 90% of my teachers know my name. The average size of my classes is twenty. I already had a classe of 2, in a another school in the same province.

    I want to become a high school teacher in history and geography.

    This video will make me thinking about my teaching and all the education system.


    PS: Sorry for my english, i’m a French Canadian

  39. mikemaloy says:

    Seems like a lot of the above discussions hinge on meta-cognition. Students in the digital age know how to use Web 2.0 communcation tools. Do they understand why they are using them? How do we “know” what are they seeking in their communications/searches/blogs?

    I think its presumptious for us to assume all they are doing is entertainment based. I think is presumptious to assume that they know nothing about learning. How can you reduce a few million individuals (or a nation, or a group of educators) with their own passions, realities, thoughts, to a few simple descriptors?

    It seems like there is a consensus from the comments that–not matter what your opinion about the original video, or all the views and thoughts expressed above–this is a great conversation, and it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t put “out there” for the rest of us to participate in. I’ve enjoyed being part of the conversation.

  40. mrcounselorguy says:

    Regardless of the many different interpretations that have been made regarding this video, the fact is: it’s format is extremely powerful! I facilitate a group of high school students who concern themselves with making their peers aware of decisions to be made socially and preparing them for informed decision making. I observed students to be completely captivated by the presentation of this video, and then energized and motivated to explore ways to make their mark in an equally creative way. Thank you for your work.

  41. djc says:

    Now I know why I spend very, very little time reading blogs. Is this what you all do during class? Rather pointless. Why not select a major you have an interest in — or get out the classroom — where you wil find something relevant to whatever it is you think “the good life” is about? Oh, yeah, the video was interesting until I understood that it was the professor’s creation and not the students at all. I hope it taught them something like, “Hey, I’m a great follower!” I think we’re all just little immigrant stooges in Bill Gate’s microsoftworld. Sorry that many of you are proud to be natives.

  42. Prof Wesch says:

    djc: in what way was this “the professor’s creation and not the students at all”? True, I edited the video, and added the bit at the beginning to set the stage, but the rest of the script was all student-produced.

  43. doug says:

    I stumbled onto a blog posting of “A Vision of Students Today.” I very much enjoyed “The Machine Is Us/ing Us,” so I was eager to see this one. I’m not an educator or student or expert. I’m an ad guy/photographer who is incredibly fascinated with the subject matter.

    I’ve had great fun reading through your blog comments. It took me a while to catch up with the storyline, but I think I’ve grasped all of the different perspectives. At first I found it strange that you felt the need to clarify “Vision.” But after reading Mr. Stager’s misreading (ouch) – I found it strange you didn’t attempt a clarification earlier. His mostly shallow diatribe amplifies his ignorance of how “natives” view the world. He expects “guidance” from a mostly student produced video. Really? And he also says “talk (in this case, mime) is cheap.” Maybe Mr. Stager should measure his comments against his own criteria.

    Anyway, I appreciated your well-reasoned clarification. As a producer/director myself – I didn’t try to make the video more than what it was (an ambitious class project). Agreed – the story-telling and editing could have been a little more polished. But it’s still a very cool class project. Every student in that class can take pride in the fact they had a part in producing a relevant commentary that generated so much discussion. And isn’t that what education and learning is REALLY supposed to be about? I don’t recall a “filmstrip to eat up class time” ever doing that.

    Certainly exploring “how we teach” should dominate the discussion of our educational system(s). But hopefully our “natives” will continue to embrace the changing nature of everything (which so many have difficulty with now). Then, just maybe, when they are parents and educators and politicians someday – they’ll better understand and embrace the changes and challenges of education in the future.

    Keep up the fantastic work Mr. Wesch.

  44. Tiara says:

    It’s funny how comments like prisha’s and djc’s lamenting about how lazy today’s university students are and how they can’t seem to even make their own video somehow missed the many MANY times Prof Wesch mentioned that the content of this video was from the students. THEY came up with the research, THEY came up with the signs. Only thing the good professor came up with was the form. Geez, it was like they were too lazy to read the post ;)

    It’s true that many students nowadays aren’t being guided into how to learn. I’m also facing the problem of “how are these readings relevant”. Some are, but some readings are so obviously skewed towards a Western-dominated cultural viewpoint that it’s hard for me as an Asian to relate to them (I study in the Creative Industries and Asian arts tends to be tokenized a lot of the time). Part of my cynicism against academia is that a lot of “respected” work comes from certain cultures only and does not fully reflect the vast pool of knowledge available in the world. Never mind if you write a thoughtful thesis with sources of your country or culture – if there isn’t any “Established theory”, it doesn’t count!

    Thank you for the work you and your class are doing. It’s great to see some people questioning the system.

  45. Monica Peck says:


    I’m an alum of K.U. and educator in the San Francisco Bay Area. I do believe that the video addresses some key points, but in terms of who is to ‘blame’ for the way things are, a topic in some of these comments, seems irrelevant.

    The real question is, how do we as educators and students challenge ourselves to change or renew the pedagogical process?

    Here’s something I am trying right now: My current students are high schoolers classified as ‘learning handicapped.’ They are obsessed with their ipods, but never download educational podcasts. Many of them have told me privately that they love various educational tv channels. I am bringing in relevant podcasts daily for them to listen to — not video podcasts — just audio — to spark discussion and interest in the subject matter, while also demonstrating a way they can learn with their favorite technology.

    By the way, ipods are officially banned by the school. Students caught with them ‘in plain sight’ get in trouble. How useful is that policy? How does that help them, when we alienate them by forbidding this innocuous tool?

    My point is, making something relevant is not rocket science. It has to do with respecting students and their culture, being willing to learn about their lives, and tying that in with the material. We don’t have to rewrite Shakespeare in Modern English to make it relevant.

    I’m not sure who said this, but it’s an inspiring quote:

    ‘We’re not teaching students the subject, we are teaching students the love of the subject matter.’

    If we love what we teach, the rest follows …

  46. Betty says:

    I did not see this as the student declaration that education is no longer necessary. I see this video as a challenge to faculty to meet the characteristics, behaviors and learning styles of the students that we do have. We have to leave our pasts and move into this century and turn the tech toys into “learning” toys.

  47. This is GOLD for a newbie like me. Thanks for taking the time to share this!

  48. This is really on the list of greater articles regarding those that I’ve got read on this particular theme as of late. Fantastic perform.

  1. November 8, 2007

    [...] Clarifications on “A Vision …” This is worth reading regardless of whether you enjoyed or challenged the video. It is great to see the reflective nature of Professor Wesch. (tags: web2.0 video) [...]

  2. November 9, 2007

    [...] Equally striking is Wesch’s reply, (Clarifications on “A Vision…”) to a post by District Administrator columnist, Gary Stager. Stager takes Wesch to task and Wesch steps up to the challenge. This is a very well stated reply and represents a top-notch example of such an online exchange. [...]

  3. November 10, 2007

    [...] And in a response to what he calls “misreadings” of the video, Michael Wesch raises the same point: The great myth is that these “digital natives” know more about this new information environment than we do. But here’s the reality: they may be experts in entertaining themselves online, but they know almost nothing about educating themselves online. They may be learning about this digital information environment despite us, but they are not reaching the levels of understanding that are necessary as this digital information environment becomes increasingly pervasive in all of our lives. [emphasis added] [...]

  4. November 17, 2007

    [...] The most interesting angle to come out of this debate was Michael Wesch’s comments about digital natives, which tied into other people’s recent debunking of the even more irritating false dichotomy of “digital natives versus digital immigrants”. Here are some of my favourite refutations of the native/immigrant fallacy: Michael Welsh: “The great myth is that these “digital natives” know more about this new information environment than we do. But here’s the reality: they may be experts in entertaining themselves online, but they know almost nothing about educating themselves online. They may be learning about this digital information environment despite us, but they are not reaching the levels of understanding that are necessary as this digital information environment becomes increasingly pervasive in all of our lives. All of the classic skills we learned in relation to a print-based information universe are important, and must now be augmented by a critical understanding of the workings of digital information. Martin Levins: “The digital native concept is something I’ve struggled with for some time. It seems to hark back to the colonial “noble savage” idea in that, somehow, kids have a deep knowledge of digital stuff and therefore, cargo-cult-like, technology and their affinity with it will allow a better learning experience per se. It’s simplistic to imply that lots of facebook profiles read trumps 8 books read without asking the purpose of the reading. It’s equally so to allow only one form of text for students to use to demonstrate understanding, irrespective if it is an essay or a web page or a movie.” [...]

  5. November 17, 2007

    [...] What made me think about this was all of the hot discussion going on surrounding the Vision of Students video by Mike Wesch. Gary Stager offered his take, others rebutted or supported it, and, as the discussion continues (which is great), Mike Wesch finally has the opportunity to respond and clarify things. It just seems to me that the medium of blogging has stirred up a whole lot of dust for nothing here. Had Mike and Gary just picked up the phone and had a good old synchronous discussion, things may have not transpired as they did. [...]

  6. November 18, 2007

    [...] Digital Ethnography » Blog Archive » Clarifications on “A Vision …” Students are learning to read, navigate, and create within a digital information environment that we scarcely address in the classroom. The great myth is that these “digital natives” know more about this new information environment than we do. But here’s the reality: they may be experts in entertaining themselves online, but they know almost nothing about educating themselves online. They may be learning about this digital information environment despite us, but they are not reaching the levels of understanding that are necessary as this digital information environment becomes increasingly pervasive in all of our lives. All of the classic skills we learned in relation to a print-based information universe are important, and must now be augmented by a critical understanding of the workings of digital information. [...]

  7. December 14, 2007

    [...] The video was produced as a class project for a cultural anthropology class Kansas State University. The original post introducing the video is worth a read, as well as a follow-up post, both written by the professor of the class. [...]

  8. January 5, 2008

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  10. January 20, 2008

    [...] [see Wesch’s extended response to criticism and further discussion of Wesch’s video here.] [...]

  11. January 21, 2008

    [...] Now, as Liz Losh, among others, has pointed out, in honor of the Martin Luther King holiday, Mark Marino has made a parody remixed response, “(Re)Visions of Students Today,” which calls into question some of the (likely unconscious) visual arguments made by the original video about student life, about the “us” described in the video and the students’ privileged relationship to the digital divide. Marino does so by re-editing Wesch’s original video and writing over some of the students’ original hand-held signs in order to tease out some of these tensions (Marino discusses his intentions here). In looking back at the video, I do think that Wesch is attentive to some of these problems, calling attention to a digital divide and to the fact that many of his students are working their way through school, and Wesch’s attempt to investigate the discursive space of the classroom is an important one. As Wesch points out, whatever else they are learning, students are also learning “to sit in nice neat rows and remain quiet while the information / knowledge is delivered to them by an authority figure standing at the front of the room.” This is not to suggest–as some have implied–that we should abandon all traditional pedagogical practices or that we should replace textbooks with web pages, but an argument for thinking about how classrooms reproduce certain kinds of social relationships.  But Marino’s remix is a healthy reminder that there is no singular classroom experience, that some of the broader claims in the video may not describe student experiences in other environments. [...]

  12. March 18, 2009

    [...] in a response to what he calls “misreadings” of the video, Michael Wesch raises the same point: The [...]

  13. February 23, 2011

    [...] his post Clarifications on “A Vision…”, Michael Wesch stresses the difference between students’ ability to consume [...]

  14. November 11, 2011


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  15. December 1, 2011

    [...] Digital Ethnography » Blog Archive » Clarifications on “A Vision …” [...]