Teaching, Technology & Ignoring the Unimportant.

The Britannica Blog is hosting a debate on “Brave New Classrooms” [thanks Will for the pointer]. As part of it, Michael Wesch has written A Vision of Students Today (& What Teachers Must Do). To him

“the solution is simple. We don’t have to tear the walls down. We just have to stop pretending that the walls separate us from the world, and begin working with students in the pursuit of answers to real and relevant questions.

When we do that we can stop denying the fact that we are enveloped in a cloud of ubiquitous digital information where the nature and dynamics of knowledge have shifted. We can acknowledge that most of our students have powerful devices on them that give them instant and constant access to this cloud (including almost any answer to almost any multiple choice question you can imagine). We can welcome laptops, cell phones, and iPods into our classrooms, not as distractions, but as powerful learning technologies. We can use them in ways that empower and engage students in real world problems and activities, leveraging the enormous potentials of the digital media environment that now surrounds us. In the process, we allow students to develop much-needed skills in navigating and harnessing this new media environment, including the wisdom to know when to turn it off. When students are engaged in projects that are meaningful and important to them, and that make them feel meaningful and important, they will enthusiastically turn off their cellphones and laptops to grapple with the most difficult texts and take on the most rigorous tasks.”

Yes, very much yes to engaging them. And yes, very much yes to helping them develop the wisdom to turn it off. But

  1. Simple ideas aren’t always easy to implement.
  2. I struggle a little with the meaningful and important. Of course you want to make it important to them, but isn’t part of the remit of education, certainly at primary level, to broaden horizons, to make the previously unmeaningful meaningful and to make the previously unimportant important?