I just watched another TeacherTube video about the "digital generation," (Digital Students @ Analog Schools)and as I watched I had two recurring thoughts: that my colleagues who are already nervous about the new fangled WWW are going to be even more put off by Web 2.0; and that this is too bad, because the younger students who have now gone digital could still benefit greatly from our professional accompanyment on their trip! (Not to mention that we teaching professionals still might be able to learn a thing or two from our students!)

The video I watched most recenlty was basically a sequence of interview clips, of students telling the viewer, "We are visually oriented. Don't keep teaching to us in the old lecture format. You're going to lose us." The fear among longtime teaching professionals, who may remember long hours of reading actual books and writing endless papers in grad school, and listening to at least one important lecture in their college career (!!!), is that something important may be in danger of being lost in all this flashy, fast-paced Digiversity.

My response--and challenge--to my colleagues: So let's have some fun learning the technology, and let's take a serious look at what we might be afraid of losing from past models and approaches to teaching, and then let's bring the two together. (Could be fun, besides!)

Tags: faculty, learning, mashup, teachertube, technology, web2.0

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Hello Brian,

What we stand to gain is phenomenol: instant access to high-quality and current information (given some good hunting and discernment skills), engaging high-level activities that make learning specific skills fun and efficient, connection for interactive studies with learners/teachers/professors/scientists/do-ers all over the world, and networks.

What we stand to lose? It's hard to say. I think we have to be careful to watch over the quality of our on-line relationships. It's the human side of things. In this new territory, we have to do a lot of thinking about what our expectations should be for civil and respectful behavior, and for how we want our patterns of communications to go. We need to develop and nurture good, meaningful learning partnerships, and in this sense, bring along the best of the "old" teaching. We have to find a way to allow this human side to take another form.

Here's a quote from Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner: "Ideally the responsibility of engendering respect among different groups, and displaying that respect publicly, should be distributed across the society."

Is that something we can demonstrate on Classroom 2.0? Can we bring oldsters and youngsters together with this framework in mind?
One of the challenges we face (for which I think the "seasoned" teacher would be ready, if anxiety about the technology is not an issue) is that of depth. Two things come to mind when I think about this point. The first is an experience I have had more than once, as a student has entered my office for advisement or just to chat. The student will look at the wall of books behind me (mostly non-fiction, mostly social science, and probably about a third of the books I own) and say, "Have you READ all those books?!" It is a striking question, no matter how many times it is asked. It says something to me about expectations around intellectual engagement. And it contrasts with the second experience, when a student in an intro class picks an interesting topic, Google searches it, prints out a bunch of articles (of very mixed quality) and then speaks about the topic with a sense of expertise. The apparent "intellectual innocence" in this is refreshing--pointing, among other things, to the potential for ongoing, exciting growth and discovery; the related fear among colleagues, it seems to me, is that this is the point where many students will stop, thinking not that they have begun a journey but have learned all there is to know about what they've "researched."
This, it seems to me, is just one of the insights and perspectives that "seasoned" teachers can bring to the learning experience of the "digital generation," to help find ways to get beyond surface-skimming.
Jan (above in thread) commented "I keep thinking who really enjoyed and learned from those lectures we endured? :-) " And then Skip Zill has to go and give a digital version of someone's lecture!!

Call me crazy, but I do recall lectures that fed me, from which I still draw (internally) today, 30 years later!

And as I watched the Kevin Kelly video it made me self-conscious of the skills and abilities that I take for granted in myself, that I bring to attending a good lecture. Then I wondered, how many of my classmates of the past were similarly moved, or were doodling, or were thinking about the next keg party....

It was (is) a skill, for example, to be able to follow a lecture, and to keep track of its main outlines as well as its key points, and to register references that might spark one's own future readings and investigations. It takes what we might refer to as "listening skills"--the ability to suspend the distractions in one's own thought processes ("got that keg party tonight... wonder what band is playing at the aud...OH! The have my favorite lunch in the student center today....I probably should return some overdue books to the library before they send out the collectors!...") and to enter into someone else's for a time, to consider what they are exploring and learn from their experience. In a way, it seems, there is an invitation to "depth" here that could be lacking in a steady diet of digitized surface reflections... Unless we take careful stock of what is of value in both modes of "learning."
I think the old fogies can teach the kids how to sift through the vast amounts of information available to them. In the past few minutes my grade nines have asked how to do an assignment. The answer was in the very first line of the webpage I created for the assignment.

While there is vast amounts of material available for the younger generation, they frequently lack skill in sifting through it and determining what is useful and what is not. They're often used to having the information appear right in front of them after a quick Google search. If it doesn't show up quickly, or even if it's a bit further down the page, the students often give up in frustration.

The older folks know how to dig. When books and magazines were the only way to get information, you had to spend a lot of hours finding a small amount of information. That developed search skills that students today don't have, and aren't likely to learn without guidance.



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