Mashing to make meaning

I am at a loss for words when I see some of the projects a few of our high school students put together for their classes. I have watched them cut and paste pages straight from the Internet along with grainy, poor quality, black and white pictures they gather easily from Google images. Hurriedly, and seemingly randomly, these students affix their “research” onto oak tag they get from us that morning or onto a presentation board they brought from home. This is not to say that there aren’t other students who do a marvelous job of researching, writing, editing, designing and presenting their work for class projects. It’s just that those aren’t the projects we see getting done, most of the times, in the library on the day the work is due.

This has always been true of some students, I suppose, but I am just floored that more students don’t take advantage of all the tools they have at their fingertips to complete their class projects. (I’ll write a future post about that). It find this interesting, considering how digitally connected so many of our students seem to be (I spend more time telling students to put away their phones, than saying anything else during the course of a school day – sad, but true). At our school, we’ve even chosen to block social networking sites such as MySpace and FaceBook, because the students were using all their free time on those sites. Of course, students weren’t spending their time on MySpace and FaceBook completing school work, but they were doing something.

Most of them were writing to their “friends”, updating their “status”, commenting on others’ pictures and words, embedding their favorite videos in their pages, taking silly quizzes, posting new photos of themselves and their world, adding songs to their playlists, changing the background colors and fonts on their pages, and doing a variety of other tasks that require skills we don’t teach or value much in education. I am not alone in wondering why this schism exists between how knowledgeable our students can be in some things, and how poorly so many seem to do in school.

We should not overlook or underestimate the role that technology plays in our lives, especially in the lives of younger people developing lifelong habits or ideas about the world. Cell phones, ipods, webpages, online virtual worlds, and the cacophony of media that is becoming ubiquitously available and instantly accessible, compete for our students’ attention, even when they are in school, sitting in class, walking the halls. I am not sure, yet, what this all means, but I have discovered a number of videos that have made me think that something seismic is happening.

The first two videos are from Kansas State U and address the notion that technology is changing the ways we communicate, because the tools have created new media for users to play with. The other links are examples of my favorite user generated videos (not professionals), taking pre-produced media, and creating a genuinely new work.

Note:  YouTube is blocked on our school computers, so to get to the links below, you will have to view this post elsewhere. (sorry).

A Vision of Students Today

Short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

An anthropological introduction to YouTube

Presented by by Michael Wesch of KSU to the Library of Congress, June 23rd 2008. Worked with students to prepare over 40 minutes of video for the 55 minute presentation discussing how online users are generating new content and creating new social networks.

User generated videos

McLuhan – The Media is the Message posted by MyCluein

Video created by a YouTube user combining audio from “Speaking Freely”, hosted by Edwin Newman, featuring Marshall McLuhan and broadcast on Jan 4, 1971, with video from various sources. McLuhan was decades ahead of his time as a visionary and critic of electronic media and technology.  He is recognized as coining the idea of “the global village” and for advancing the need to understand how media impacts culture.

We are here: The Pale Blue Dot posted by palebluefilms

Reknowned astronomer and advocate of science education, Carl Sagan was also quite a wordsmith. In this user made video, Sagan narrates the words to his famous passage, “The Pale Blue Dot” reflecting on the picture of Earth taken by Voyager I in 1990, from nearly 4 billion miles away. The user says that it is, “set to some my favorite films and the music of Mogwai.”

The Matrix vs. Carl Sagan posted by dvlazar

This user made video asks, “Ever wondered if scientist Carl Sagan and Agent Smith from The Matrix might be the same person somehow?” I imagine that it is a pretty accurate portrayal (unfortunately) of how some students feel about sitting in science class. (Don’t worry Keanu is coming to save you.)

Have a great Sunday, and thank you for stopping by.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.

About htwilson

born in brooklyn, raised in queens, massachusetts, that's where I be.
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