Monday, November 27, 2006

Professor Julie Dobrow's "Media Literacy and Social Change" class at Tuft's University - Part I

On November 27th, I had an opportunity to go into the Tufts classroom of Professor Julie Dobrow's course on "Media Literacy and Social Change," and engage her students on the syllabus topic: Youth media, media literacy and media training. At the bottom of this post is an audiocast of my talk.

Admittedly, the quality of the audiocast is poor. There are 2 reasons for this. First, I was using a brand new cell phone to create the audiocast, and as is always the case with new technology, practice makes "better." I learned a lot about this particular "pocket device" in the process, and I hope the students who may visit this site do not take offense at being "trial subjects" for this experiment.

The second reason that this "audiocast" is of less than stellar quality is that it's my purpose to demonstrate that audiocasts or podcasts can easily be created by non-technically inclined educators using a wide variety of "pocket devices." In other words, we no longer need costly systems to make rather simple and direct contributions to content on the world wide web. This fact has tremendous implications in education.

Below, I am providing selected slides from my presentation, along with additional information. I had promised the students in this session that I would offer them these slides and information, and hope that they feel inclined to "push back" with information and comments.

The theme of this topic plays on the question of how to engage "tech-savvy" students in the 21st century learning challenges that our general education system faces.

How do we change the "trajectory" of the debate about integrating the rapidly transforming technologies of the 21st century into our teaching and learning systems? I believe we need to address the question from a different perspective. It's no longer the domain of technologists to respond with "5 year plans" or updated "acceptable use policies." Our culture has gone beyond this, and our students - those entering the schools without ever having known the world without having virtually unfettered access to the Internet throughout their formative years - who pose the very real challenge of a cultural revolution in education.

Tom Friedman's book "The World is Flat" has become a major topic of conversation, not just in boardrooms and policy seminars, but in our education centers as well, because his "solutions" always come back to education. The book, its theses and its ancillary works have become a major focus of educators. If you haven't read the book, here's a little secret. You can watch a 45 minute presentation by Friedman himself at MIT, via a link at MITWorld, and garner a good grasp of all the concepts covered in the text. (Here's an example of using multi-modal, multi-media information resources... And while in the MITWorld space, don't fail to take advantage of the hundreds of other downloadable media files by some of the world's leading subject matter experts. I have often used these resources as classroom substitutes for my own non-expert presentations on relevant subject matter.)

The problem we educators have, being schooled and trained in the iron grip of 20th century Taylorism, is that our perspective of learning can best be summed up with an image of the walled garden. Both physically and psychologically (deeply cognitive, if you will), we do our best to keep the "outside" world from creeping into our classrooms. Most of the walled garden approach to learning is subtle, and yet core to our methods and practices. Ever more frequently, the walled garden approach is running up against a hard stop - no cell phones, no "pocket devices," no iPods allowed in the classroom.

Of course, this places us directly into a space of unyielding tension with what modern cognitive and evolutionary psychology instructs us about learning (See: Bandura Bruner, Sternberg, Gardner, Pinker, et al). According to the science, learning is messy, uneven, uncertain, complex, "wet," and organic. There is no certain outcome. In fact, "certainties" and "non-ambiguities" are to be avoided. "Truths" often depend on authoritative perspectives. Network maps - whether social, information, or neural - operate on much different principles than linear, sequential programs. "Scope and sequence" becomes a consummate challenge in an era of exponential computational and knowledge growth.

So, what Friedman tells us is that we're riding a wave... a really big wave. See that guy on the surf board? That's you - the educator. And no matter how fast you go, that really big wave is about to overtake you. That wave is not technology. It is "culture" - the culture of digital natives!

There are 4 trends that I believe change everything in education. Each can be represented by an icon - Wikipedia, Moodle, Google, and a new high speed broadband generation of public access networks.

What makes a lot of this interesting is how fast technology time-frames are collapsing. We tend to forget that we literally gained access to the Web a mere 10 years ago - 1995 with the launch of the Netscape browser that made the Web and e-mail and Amazon and the dot-com bubble available to the rest of us non-geeks. Web 1.0 was static and read-only. In spite of our awe and early enthusiasm, it wasn't much of an improvement over print media and television.

Then came Web 2.0 (Thanks, Tim O'Reilly). Over the past couple of years, tens of thousands of blogs and wikis and podcasts and YouTube and MySpace have given us a chance to talk back - dynamic content, generated by everyman. A veritable cacophony of read/write interactions.

And even before we can adapt our practices to this new, dynamic, read/write web, what do we make of the next "revision" of the Web? A recent article in the New York Time describes entrepreneurs working on a "contextual" web, an intuitive network that "anticipates" our needs. Scary enough? Maybe, but now my cell phone will be able to tell me when I'm near a friend I'd like to talk with in the flesh as I stroll down a city boulevard, or alert me to a book I'm interested in at a price that I find attractive, as I walk past a book shop I would not ordinarily enter.

Sure, iPod videos can provide me with 150 hours of streaming video in high-def resolution on a screen that'll fit in the palm of my hand. But so will my VCast or Mobile Web services using my cell phone. Who's the gatekeeper that manages my access to an unfettered Web? I am. I no longer care about local area networks. I'm free, and I challenge anyone to come up with an application that I can do on my desktop computer that I can't do on my cell phone or PDA.

The Queen Loana Annotation Project demonstrates the power of collaborative work for scholarly pursuits. To grasp the implications of this tool in education, look at the detail richly woven into Chapter 1. Then look at the discussion tab to see what potentials exist for dialogue with the content creators. And assessment is build right in - look at the history tab and performance credit becomes immediately evident.

A wonderful demonstration of how "mash-up" art is becoming a tremendously powerful medium for cross-disciplinary learning is Google Earth. One of the things that most intrigues me in this new age of un-mediated knowledge creation is the way in which organizations like Google (arguably the most successful "business model" of the 21st century) invite "unqualified" third parties to "hack" their most important assets - the vast array of databases controlled through the Googleplex. The Gombe Chimpanzee Blog (from the Jane Goodall Institute) is just one of several, significant educational blogs that can enliven a cross-disciplinary lesson in earth science, geography, story-telling, and more. Click on a blog post link, and students can be miraculously transported on site! Tempted to comment and ask questions of the Jane Goodall researcher? Be my guest. What primary schooler wouldn't be enthralled and engaged? This is but one example of how Google Earth mash-up art is leading self-determined learners around the world into a richer, fuller learning experience.

END OF PART 1 - click here for Part II

The following podcast covers most of my presentation. For other podcasts of other presentations, wander through this blog and check other posts.

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MP3 File

1 comment:

olivia teytelbaum said...

I really wanted to thank you for coming and presenting to our class. Your presentation definitely gave me a lot of insight into the future of teaching/presenting/anything at all. I know that everytime I have a project to present, I always use technology in really cool fun ways, but that's really just because I have a Mac so it's so gosh darn easy haha. Teachers though are always thinking about cool new ways to teach (hopefully) so maybe this would really give them a great opportunity.
Definitely looking forward to working with you and Prof. Dobrow on putting together the curriculum for teachers.