[ECAR 2007 Summer Symposium] Human futures for technology and education – Michael Wesch

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Michael is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State who made the very popular video about Web 2.0.

Any time you try to predict the future you magnify your assumptions – he realized that in the past three years all of his assumptions about education and information have been shattered. There may not be an “it” to teach any more. When we talk about “it” we’re often talking about information.

YouTube gets 65,000 new videos a day – 91% are new original content.

71 million more blogs than in 2003.

Have we prepared our students for this world?

On paper, we thought of information as a thing…with a material form, you could point to it, and it had its own logical place in a specific hierarchy of categories. Managing information requires managing the hierarchies.

Search engines showed us we might not need hierarchies. Hyperlinks showed us that information can be in more than one place at the same time. Blogging taught us that anybody can be a creator of information, Wikipedia showed us that by working together our information can be better than the content of professionals.

Who is the author of this information? Who owns it?

Tagging taught us that we could organize this information explosion ourselves…without “folders”.

RSS taught us that information can find us.

when we teach, information is no longer the point.

what was google buying when they bought YouTube? not the Tube, but the You.

Have we prepared our students for this world? Putting Time in perspective

Puts the last 12,000 years (since the last ice age) into one hour perspective. First farmers at 5 minutes – allows people to settle down first towns at 25 minutes ago, first alphabet at 15 minutes ago, industrial revolution is a minute ago. The last five seconds are the twenty years our students have lived on this planet – personal computers, the internet, mobile phones, wal-mart, the end of the family farm, mtv, exurbia.

Looking at spaceship earth – 1.3 billion live on less than $1 per day Over 1 billion people now connected by the Internet – almost as many remain illiterate. Are our students ready for the next fifteen seconds?

He asked his students what they need from their education. They’re working on a video of this, which he showed a rough edit of – very powerful and moving to see students with their own words.

Students are learning in spite of us. Technology is not the savior, but a tool we can use (but can use us).

teaching still has not changed, but learning has. That’s where the disconnect is.

“We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future” – Marshall McLuhan

Every medium has both enabling and disabling properties. He’s trying to break this down in terms of various teaching techniques – e.g. what is a chalkboard teaching? What to students learn when they’re looking at a chalkboard? What’s missing? videos, images, animations, network. Chalkboard forces the writer to move around, makes you think on the move (as opposed to scripted presentations), encourages you to slow down and improvise, and interact. Chalkboard limits effective class size to those who can see the board.

What’s different about PowerPoint? easy for the teacher, mindless (for the teacher), it’s fast (too fast?), linear, helps the presenter remember their notes, often does great harm to the presentation. Encourages students to memorize key points, let the professor choose which points are key, encourages the students to regurgitate key points on exams. Good for teaching, but not for learning.

What does this world look like? People can make great videos in basements. Collaborated with a musician in the Ivory Coast, who put his recordings on the Web. He uploaded his original video. Had 253 views in the first day or so. Amazing when compared that he wrote an article a year ago which is just coming out, which might be seen by a couple of hundred people.

By the next morning it had a couple of thousand views, as a result of being Dugg up, rose onto the front page of the Digg tech industry news. As people blogged it it rose in Technorati’s rankings.

The selection process is in a sense a peer review and criticism process on a much larger scale than academia ever dreamt of. Seven translation of his video appeared within three weeks.

This mediascape is only as good as our students are – are they going to be responsible participants in this world, or will we see more of Britney Spears’ haircut?

Some references – Ian Jukes, Carl Fish, Unesco study on ethical implications of digital technologies.

Lots of the future predictions assume twoard ubiquitous networks and computing leading to ubiquitous information at unlimited speed about everything everywhere from anywhere on all kinds of devices. Why do people need to know things when they can ask Google anything at any time?

RFIDs in food products as an example of bringing the web into the physical world. VeriChip – RFIDs for people. The machine will learn more and more about you. We teach it with every search, tag, and note. Machines will increasingly be able to aggregate data without human intervention – e.g. photos from gps enabled cameras converted to geotagged images on flickr.

Imagine what could be if anybody anywhere could upload information about anything at any time that could be accessed by anybody?

Two scenarios for the future… what will today’s fifth grader look like in the year 2020?

First scenario – schools have held on to idea that information is what it’s all about and are trying to teach information. Student is not really sophisticated in use of information. A dystopian future – apathetic passive consumers.

Second scenario – we engage with this media, and teach students to be participants. Real information could compete with marketers and advertisers to get to people on their devices. Technology could be used to encourage real social interaction. Because student has been fighting for her rights, the system has evolved to serve her.

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1 thought on “[ECAR 2007 Summer Symposium] Human futures for technology and education – Michael Wesch”

  1. This is great stuff. How can we use it at the UW to
    evaluate and plan services? We are in the process of planning, re-org etc. Who here is focusing on this aspect? I want to play ;).

    Like

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