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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What I learned in school (today)

Tekne's textbook rant actually goes along with some things I've been mulling over lately.

I think the whole "Digital Generation" thing is 50% hokum and 50% dead-on. But it's not always easy to tell which is which. It's true that "kids these days" are much more comfortable in the digital world than, let's say, 40-something Ph.D. types. But, as I think T. would agree, that doesn't mean we should cater to their comfort levels. If they aren't "linear," maybe they need to get some sense of what it would mean to go from point A to point B without hypertexting to point X first.

But as teachers our ability to do this is so-o-o-o limited. We have them for such a short period of time, and only grades can force them into the narrow channels in which we think their minds should run (not ideologically but into logical, disciplined thought and writing). Don't want to reopen the great grade wars, but I will say that grades are weak tea. We need more.

Like what? I don't know.

But I will say that, the longer I work, the MORE I appreciate my education. I find that I actually DID learn something in school. Does anyone else have this experience?

Maybe my experience is just too unusual to "extrapolate" to others. My years of schooling puts me in the tails of the distribution--I'm essentially in the same place, on the other end of the curve, as the boy raised by wolves. And I have a great job where I use almost all of my training, in one way or the other--if not on a daily basis, let's say in a quarter.

But I find myself thinking, not often but often enough, "oh, yeah. I remember that."

So maybe we need to think of the Digital Generation as a long-term project. Sure, right now they may converse in snippets, and it may be difficult to get them to read "the whole book." (I have to say, though, that I rarely read a whole book except for pleasure.) But if their experience is anything like mine . . . then in 20 years, the "crap that they learned in school today" will come back to them, and they will "get it."

And that's totally not linear.

Oh, and on the wiki thing. I actually love the wiki concept, but it is for experts. So students can wiki about teevee shows or music or whatever it is they actually know something about. But having them wiki on . . . substantive matters, seems like a waste of time to me. But we should encourage them to wiki on . . . bands, or teevee shows, or movies. Because that will serve them well, later in life.

Seriously. When I was a teenager, I used to get seriously into topics, like PKD or D&D, and spend long hours on them. What I was doing is just like . . . research, only I wasn't writing it up. (For the most part. Anything I did write up has fortunately gone down a memory hole.) This is, actually, I think, a healthy thing, as long as it doesn't go too far (all things in moderation).

But being able to wiki is a real skill. One has to read what others have contributed, find the weak spots, the areas where "more is needed," and then contribute substantively. I am less interested in the collaborative nature of it than in the accretive aspect. In many contexts, what one is doing isn't starting from scratch, but building on a collective project that others have started.

Oh, sure, wikis can be used for evil. But that's true of books, and film, cable teevee, any medium.

So I say, yes, embrace the wiki.


At 9:17 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Can we embrace the wookiee instead?


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