Sunday, January 13, 2008

Welcome Back!



I'd like to start off this semester by having each of you view and respond to this video. I was pretty affected when I saw this, and I believe a lot of the problems it points to in today's education system (especially as it functions in relation to student responsibilities and habits) are very very real, even at high ranking schools like Whitman. I think this video is a good jumping off point from which to begin my new genre art classes this Spring semester. In some sense, it is a call for a "new genre" of information delivery and of information sharing; one that begets new and stronger types of critical thinking. As many of you know, I have long been a proponent of youtube.com and the internet in general as a source of knowledge and a sharing tool for members of a class. So now I ask you: is it time we moved over more fully into new formats? Should we leave behind more traditional classroom traditions such as the written essay, the one way lecture, the expensive, hardly read textbook. Or, are we losing critical skills regarding the focus required to take in information and distill it or put it together? How do you manage your own multi-tasking needs? Are you comfortable with how you work and what you work on, or do you wish/feel that you were naturally more engaged? In the spirit of these changes, one of the primary requirements for this class is going to be regular use--posting and responding to posts-- on this blog. But before I explain all of what I will be asking you to do on it, let me know what you think. How does this video strike you? And also, what do you see as some ways to move ahead to find yourself more actively engaged--both with your peers and your professors--and less distracted and/or bored? I'll be very interested to read your candid responses.

7 comments:

Andrew said...

I'm torn between empathizing with the students, knowing I'm not the only one out there who can't manage his time in this sea of technology-driven inputs and outputs, and admitting that we share a serious problem. Most days, I love the role that technology has in my life. I can fully research a paper in an outrageously short period of time, stay in touch with various people and cultures across the globe, produce art that makes me happy, and in many ways express myself more honestly in a blog-format that I ever would in person. But there are certainly days when I want nothing more than to unplug completely; sometimes I think I would be better off if computers didn't exist. I feel this pressure to be connected, to take advantage of this vast connectivity, and my inability to do this in moderation is a serious detriment to my productivity. I see this video as a call to action, or at least that is what I want to take out of it. I don't agree with multi-tasking, I want to focus on a few things and do them well. The direct connections I have in class with my peers and professors areinvaluable (well, I guess Whitman says they're worth 40 grand) and I want that to be my primary stimulus. No doubt, technology has a role to play in my workflow, but this great tool should be utilized to enhance my experiences, not water it down.

Andrew said...

[continuation...]
I see it as the student's responsibility to find a harmony in his interaction with technology, and that very likely means a generous trimming of the outlets he utilizes. Really analyze what you get out of your time, and keep what works best for you. Its our responsibility to not abuse this privilege. [steps off soapbox]

Jason Sease said...

This video seems to want a completely new educational system. At the begining of the film these two girls hold up seperate signs with the same similar theme about class size. The first one reads, "My avg class size is 115," then the second one reads, "only 18% of my teacers know my name." This is where I'm become a little lost with what they are trying to acomplish with this film. Just because your classes are large enough to where your teacher doesn't know your name doesn't mean that the education acheived from that class is false or unrespectable. The ability to succeed in a class that size is much harder than a class with only half as many people or even under 20 people where theacher knows everyones name. With smaller classes you can get more one on one time and have a greater success rate. The introduction was interesting and well filmed, where as I felt the rest of the film seemed alittle rushed and sloppy. Some of the papers were difficult to read which drew away the emotional effect of the film. The music however kept you wondering and thinking through the duration of the film, about "what does all of this mean." Thats a question that I found unanswered at the end which brought big disappointment to me.

Brian said...

When I saw this video (especially with the Marshall Mcluhan quote at the beginning) I first thought of Mcluhan's famous aphorism "The medium is the message." Here we see a classroom of students who are embedded in a "sea of technology" (as Andrew aptly put it) but being forced to learn in an environment which is essentially based in the "19th century." So the question I must ask is what "message" is this educational medium communicating to us? Are our means of higher education outdated and ineffective in a technologically driven world? Or, is our technologically driven world interfering in tried and tested means of higher education? In some ways, I think phrasing the question in this manner hides the much more valuable question of how education is itself a technology - a medium which continually advances with the social context in order to transmit a message which is coherent with the interests of power and consent. As a result, the most interesting point which I saw this artwork making (perhaps not explicitly) came in the section where all the perceived problems with the world were briefly flashed on screen - much in the same way these problems are flashed across the bottom of televisions through "news tickers." "War" and "Ethnic Conflict" were the most clear, suggesting that our most pressing problems are not being addressed in the classroom of today. Yet will "technology" help us solve these problems? The answer is sadly no. As the comment, "this laptop costs more than most people make in the world in a year" suggests, the most pressing problems of the world effect those people who are only at the banks of the "sea of technology," just beginning to dip their toes in. Given this, how might the question of whether our educational technologies are outdated only serve to further exacerbate the problem. Is the problem really the lack of technologically-driven education, or education itself? In other words, who are we educating and for what purposes are we educating them? This is obviously a problem which dates back much further than the advent of "technology." Yet while I think there is much danger in the idea of "smart" classrooms and "wired" students, there is hope in the ability of technology to link us to those subaltern voices which only "flash" across our mind's subconsciousness.
The internet has the capability (when used properly) to help us communicate with those people who are too often shut-out from academic circles in elite institutions. For example, even through Facebook one is provided with the means to communicate with fellow students living in Iraq, undergoing the tragedies of a war which we are supposedly "disconnected" from. Here at Whitman we are even provided with a live feed of Al-Jazeera which offers coverage of the Iraq war which does not reflect the interests of power and consent. Yet sadly, this resource is used more for playing Xbox than it is for its original intent. So will the benefits of technology "open our minds"? No - instead we must first open our minds before technology can truly benefit our educational medium.

Mysha said...

I think this video really touches on some
interesting ideas of multitasking and schooling not progressing with technology and the
pace of life. As students, I belive we feel as though if we are only doing one thing at a
time then we are wasting those prescious seconds. We are being taught that you aren't
going to be good enough if you can only do one thing at a time, and also people know how
important time is. After all doesn't time equal money and isn't that what most of society
is working for? On a side note, I find it ironic we are watching it on youtube in class.
Doesn't that just help us fit into those multitasking statistics?

Justice said...

Sure, the comments were interesting and perhaps even initially thought-provoking. However, they were things I believe that the majority of students are already aware of. The film only really reminds us of the dismal education system we have all been sucked into. Honestly, I think what is primarily responsible for making the film evoke any sort of feeling from its' audience is the eerie music the class chose to pair with it.

That said, technology has severely altered the way in which students communicate and consume information. While it can be easily abused, it gives us a vast amount of information quickly and conveniently... assuming that one is privileged enough to have access to such technology. How we use this technology is solely our decision, as is everything else in life (assuming you believe in free-will).
Using technology to assist oneself in multitasking is good only in moderation. The quality of the tasks one carries out at the same time decreases as the number of tasks one is attempting to accomplish increases. Should we be more concerned with quantity or quality?

ziploQ said...

This video made many valid points, but I felt it was trying to say too many things at once. It was commenting on facts like students not coming to class, or they debt will face after college, and all of a sudden much larger issues began to appear on the cards, and I am not quite sure the criticism of our education system applies to those issues. Also, as a student at Whitman, not everything on the cards held up by the students particularly applied to me. But I did really appreciate the overall statement and found the video and statistics really interesting. I think that technology is a very resourceful tool that many schools/teachers do not take advantage of. I also really liked the way in which this video was set up/preformed.