“Tribes of the internet” The Critical Role of Higher Education

Link to: Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: Tribes of the internet

One of the most important messages I’ve taken away from this semester’s class is the critical role that higher education has to play in helping students learn how to more effectively use the internet. One of the phases that I’ve used over and over has been “left to their own devices”, as in:

  • Left to their own devices most students won’t do the hard intellectual work that will be required to use blogs as one effective tool for their own intellectual development.
  • Left to their own devices most students won’t have the skills to contribute effectively to a collaborative writing project –such as a wiki– that requires them to critically and comfortably edit their classmates work in accomplishing a common goal.
  • Left to their own devices most of our students won’t question the authority of either the Britannica or the WikiPedia.

The good news is that students don’t come to our universities to be left to their own devices. We can help them learn through meaningful class assignments under the mentorship of faculty members who themselves understand the potential and the dangers of our networks and infrastructure. Through those assignments students can move beyond seeing the internet as Google, IM and P2P and see the larger implications for themselves and the society. Our students (and faculty) need to be explosed to the important issues raised here by Nicholas Carr, both as part their general education and in the specialized work of their majors.

Research shows that very small biases, when magnified through thousands or millions or billions of choices, can turn into profound schisms. There’s reason to believe, or at least to fear, that this effect, inherent in large networks, may end up turning the internet into a polarizing force rather than a unifying on.

Overall, I’m a little more optimistic than Nicholas Carr on this point. It’s unrealistic to assume that our students are not going to use their internet connections to interact with others who share their tastes in music, politics and culture. It’s realistic, however, to expect that colleges and universities can be an effective force to counteract some of the balkanization that can well result from billions of thoughtless clicks; we have the opportunity to help make them at least a little more thoughtful.

Third Graders

Link to: bgblogging: Learning from Teachers Outside My Realm

One of the things that I enjoy most about my technology planning class is the opportunity to learn more about what’s happening in the world of K-12 teachers. Those of us in higher education read papers about the shaping of the Net Generation while our colleagues in the schools are living it every day. Every week I learn more about the kinds of pressures that teachers are under–particularly in this world of SOL’s and other high stakes testing. Every once in a while, though, I get a sense of the energy and creativity that teachers are able to unleash. Barbara Ganley blogged about a weekly podcast by members of a third grade class that certainly got my attention. These third graders won’t be entering college for a nearly a decade, and it’s hard to imagine the expectations they’ll bring with them when they hit the campuses if they keep using tools like these to enhance their learning.

Since last April, Bob’s third graders have been making weekly podcasts–third graders. (In third grade I was copying letters, practicing times tables and trying to avoid getting into trouble with my oh-so-scary teacher. ) I love the way he has kids summarizing highlights from the week (Word-of-the-week ‘s use of interviews was terrific, for instance). Bob talked a bit about how devoting time to the weekly shows has helped his students develop their speaking and writing voices, understand the flow of sentences, and consolidate the learning for the week. It’s such a great and easy idea–what a natural in the elementary school environment! Imagine what students reaching my doors are going to be able to do and want to do if they are podcasting and making on-line newsletters in third grade. College teachers had better wake up!

Here’s the link to the show that ran just before Thanksgiving the current show, in which the student reporters provide information about their classroom to a new student: Podcast

More Resources for Teaching Poetry

Link to: Poetry Archive

Gardner’s Donne A Day project demonstrated how podcasting could provide a new dimension to the study of poetry by archiving easily assessable MP3 recordings of the Renaissance poet. The Poetry Archive provides another resource as the “world’s premier online collection of recordings of poets reading their work.”

Try listening to Felix Dennis reading This is the server….

I found the Felix Dennis poem while looking to see if the archive included Carl Dennis reading one of my favorites, The God Who Loves You. Dennis read his poem in a segment by Elizabeth Farnsworth on the News Hour that was recorded when Practical Gods was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

The reading of the poem starts 2:28 minutes into the audio of the interview.