My thoughts on Michael Wesch

This week I have been attending the Texas Distance Learning Association (TXDLA) conference in Corpus Christi, Texas. This is the first year I have attended this event.

The first day I attended a really great preconference session on iPads presented by Jaime Donally (@jaimedonally) who is an Instructional Technologist for Tyler ISD. Because of this session (and because I got to play with an iPad mini), I went to Best Buy today and traded in my iPad 1 and iPad 2 for a mini. It will be my device of choice tomorrow and at TLA next week!

Today's keynote was brilliant. It was delivered by Michael Wesch, an Anthropology professor from Kansas State University. He is a leader in the field of digital ethnography. I hadn't realized until his presentation that I had watched one of his videos on YouTube. (The video is embedded below.)

Today's message concentrated on several key points:

  • Standard education has taken the wonder out of students. They no longer ask questions other than "When is the paper due?"and "How long does it have to be?" We need to explore ways to bring back that wonder.
  • Technology has made us lose empathy which is the basis of connection with have with others.
  • Games should be used in more classes to promote a ownership, social interaction, cycle that leads to engagement.
  • But traditional education has become a game, and not in a good way. Kids just "play the game"and jump the hurdles, but may not be prepared for what life has in store.
  • He mentioned Seymour Papert and his early predictions of the internet or "Knowledge Machine"
This simplistic explanation makes me wish I had taken notes. And he had a really great Papert quote that I wish I had taken a picture of because I can't find it online!

What I left  the keynote thinking was that we have education so backwards. But how do we fix it in the high stakes, low standards game we have turned education into? When we rely on memorizing facts to pass a test, are we truly preparing our students for life? Are we teaching them or encouraging them to think? Has education killed their desire to wonder and learn?


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