For explanations for radio silence, I have none; I concur with Second Americano.
Anywho, Two thoughts, with more to follow perhaps tomorrow.
I sat in a most ridiculous webinar today sponsored by the Chronicle and Blackboard. It was purportedly about how to reach students with mobile technologies. It functioned largely as a commercial for Blackboard services, which I guess I should have expected. As I was half-listening to the blather, I kept getting more and more annoyed, not just because I wasn’t getting what I wanted (substantive discussion), but also because I found myself hating the premise: that educational institutions should adapt to the addictions to technology of our students. Yes, I am crotchety.
College to me should represent four years of learning how to think and learning how to think best. Thinking through one’s iPhone is not the best way. So, this afternoon, I was getting mad and crotchety and started shooing kids off my front lawn.
Then, I listened to this pretty long talk by Mike Caulfield from what sounds like a really cool faculty conference at U. of Mary Washington. He talks about how we need to own up to the fact that we live in a just-in-time knowledge world: I don’t need to take a class in how to cut an onion; I can just look it up on WikiHow. We are all dolls now. Basically, he is arguing for how well the liberal arts address information literacy and evaluation, and how we should be much more focused on activity-based learning, rather than depending on the “banking” model of education, since basically we all have access to the bank now: nothing is locked in a safe.
So, how are they connected? It seems to me that with no reflection comes no real thinking, and by playing into an “everything: now” philosophy of education, we lose wisdom and nuance. At the same time, it behooves educators to consider how we balance banking and mere skill acquisition. It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to sit idly by while a liberal arts education in the humanities becomes reduced to teaching critical thinking and writing, as a recent explosion at an English department meeting evinced. That being said, we’re pretty good at it.
What is missing in all of this as well is pleasure. I would argue that with speed and instant fact (note, not knowledge) acquisition, we lose the pleasures of education — of discovery, but also of mystery. Not much is mysterious anymore; we sit on our couch, wonder where I saw that guy from Parenthood before, and then confirm it was Bram from The West Wing. I guess I should say, not much that isn’t important. I think I can affirm that my Satire students derived real pleasure (as well as knowledge and skills) from trying to figure out what Vonnegut was trying to do with the Tralfalmadorians — or even what exactly satire is, even though we never came up with definitive answers for either.
We’re getting pretty rambly now, but I think I will remain crotchety on this score and maintain that kowtowing to addictions is not the best course of action, even as we try our best to provide students with the skills to wade cope with them, while providing them with some useful deposits in their safe deposit boxes — and perhaps a laugh or tear.