Summary – Wesch???s ???A Portal to Media Literacy??? (June 09)
SourceWesch, M. (2008, July 10). YouTube ??? A Portal to Media Literacy. YouTube. Retrieved January 12, 2010, from duration: 1:06:11 Presented by Dr. Michael Wesch at the University of Manitoba June 17th 2008.
My summary of the presentationWhere are we now in education? Wesch surveyed students in a typical lecture hall about how many liked coming to class ??? @50% answered in the positive. Therefore by deduction ??? one might think that this number reflects a comparable number who simply do not like to learn. Yet when asked ???how many do not like to learn??? ??? no student hands went up. He went on to survey students about their participation rates and discovered a pattern ??? that many students are opting to question the relevance of their studies. Common response amongst some educators to this is that ???some students are just not cut out for school???.. (learning). A retort to that reveals a telling question from students ??? tell me ???what are we learning???? and ???how is it significant???? Wesch points to the design of ???learning spaces??? or ???instruction??? to see what message this is delivering to students. To illustrate, he reviews the design of a traditional lecture space.
What is the message of (a) typical lecture room sending to students? * to learn is to acquire information (i.e. the design of a typical lecture room is set up for broadcasting information ??? one to many)
* information is scarce and hard to find (the rationale for a lecture room ??? is it is ???the??? place to listen to one expert speak to a privileged many)
* trust authority for information (thus the one expert speaking ???is??? the authority on the subject being spoken to)
* the information delivered is authorized and beyond discussion (witness the fixed chairs in a typical lecture room and how they are oriented. Typically these are anchored in lined up rows and each chair is focused on the front of the room where the one expert speaks. By design student discussion is being discouraged) Wesch asserts that these ???built in??? expectations of the lecture hall can spill into the classroom. The same patterns of ???acquiring information???, ???trusting the authority??? of the expert, and finding information there that is scarce or hard to find otherwise are reinforced. As a result, students understand learning as simply the acquisition of rare bits of information and then regurgitation of that same information – to only see education as grade focused. The perspective also manifests itself in the type of student questions raised such as ???what do we need to know for the test???? This appears to be echoing ???the crisis of significance??? that his sampling of students presented via the survey
Where are we (should we be) heading in education now? But something major has caused a change. What???s changed?
Technology … It now enables students to rethink the classroom and learning. Memorization is still important but.. this old paradigm of seeing learning as simply acquisition and regurgitation of information is now being directly challenged and more and more by the students themselves. Note that because of the increasing availability of new technologies, students are acquiring information easily. They no longer find information hard to find (Students can ???Google??? it often in the same lecture hall and at the same time as an ???expert??? is speaking). Most information is now found in digital form .. not in books (.01% of it is in books ??? source?). As a result, authority can be more easily challenged (i.e. the doctor / patient relationship ??? patients are now coming to the doctor armed with information). Authorized information still exists but the process of how it became ???authorized??? is now much more transparent. Discussions can be seen and followed to see the evolution of opinions, positions, policies (i.e information in Wikipedia). If it isn???t made transparent, we now are seeing growing expectations that it should be made more transparent. New demands are being put on all of us.. not just students. Before information was hierarchically organized, in the hands of experts, managed by institutions (libraries, publishers) and difficult to access. Today, we have access to tremendous amounts of information. We???ve tried to organize it by putting things in files / folders yet that has proven to be too great a challenge. The new possibilities brought about through ???social networking??? tools that allow us to collectively organize and share information are proving to be beneficial in realizing what we depended on experts to do for us before. Yet they also demand a rethink about what information really is. To note just how much information we have access to, Wesch makes a comparison with television. Founded in 1948, television is now 60 years old and over that time, it???s been calculated that 1.5 million hours of broadcasting have been produced. In comparison, Youtube produced more hours of broadcasting that that in just the last 6 mths (source?). That content was not controlled, not professionally produced, and almost 88% of it was new / original content. The difference? People are NOW producing information; information that rivals experts (no more following along). Wesch refers to Kevin Kelly???s quote ???nobody is as smart as everybody???. In effect, experts are being challenged ??? collective intelligence ??? i.e. Wikipedia is providing evidence of this ??? an more than adequate rival to the lonely expert. Trusting authority for good information is being challenged. Authorized information is NOW open to discussion .. or expected to be open. Information is NOW easy to find .. but difficult to target / sort. Yet collectively ???we??? have discovered ways to address that as the need presented itself ??? through ???tagging???. Information can NOW find us too. For example, Web 1.0 sites or webpages are typically all texts. Even these can be made more interactive, more collectively reviewed using tools such as ???diigo???. Anyone can highlight, add comments and add tags on a page then share them with others. Those same highlights, comments and tags can be ???pushed??? to each of us through a social network .. and even tech tools (i.e. aggregators) such as Netvibes, Pageflake, or Google reader. Through RSS, information ???can find us??? .. rather than us searching for it. To learn is no longer simply acquiring information. It now means to challenge, create, share information.. and in turn to create personal and ???meaningful connections???. How can we create meaningful connections, create ???significance???? (new learning) Wesch goes to some length to review what the word ???meaning??? really means? He presents two definitions of ???meaning??? * ???semantic??? meaning = to learn a ???thing???, is not to learn what it is (see it in isolation) but to understand it in the context of how it relates to other words, concepts, ideas that surround it, that connect to it
* ???personal??? meaning = a person finds meaning and significance not just in seeing ???who they are??? but in understanding how they relate, connect and contrast with other people (social interaction) The two are inseparable to learning ???Students learn what they care about, from people they care about and who, they know care about them??? – Barbara Harrell Carson Creating ???significant learning??? So how do we create ???significance???? Wesch suggests that we need to provide 3 things 1. find a broader narrative to provide relevance and context for learning (semantic meaning) . What???s the big picture that a student can relate to, that they understand already .. that they can put new information into a context significant to them
2. create a learning environment that values the student (addresses their personal meaning), leverage what they already know (invite them to share their understand, experience of an idea, to test it with others)
3. realize 1 and 2 and to do so we need to leverage the existing media environment to help connect students in ways that would be far too difficult to do in a conventional sense (to invite them to share ideas, connect ideas with one another) In effect, it sounds to me like Wesch is suggesting a Constructivist approach to learning here. Inviting students to construct meaning based on projecting their understanding of things through their contacts, experiences and sharing that understanding with others to have them tested, challenged and validated. On the 3rd point, all of this tech is so new.. it???s actually new to both students and instructors. No one really knows how to use them for realizing something interesting and new. Therefore we can???t assume that because students appear to be ???media literate??? that they really are. Note too that new ways of relating to each other .. are constantly emerging . nothing is constant (i.e. last year.. Twitter .. this year? ..) and so the process of reviewing how to connect and be connected to support ???significant learning??? will continue to go on.