My friend Daniel and some of his colleagues have been hard at work on a really important documentary about development in New York. Having done a lot of the hard work behind the documentary, they're now at a financial impasse. They need additional money to be able to purchase rights to some of the archival footage they want for their documentary.
To help generate funds for this important next stage of their project they've turned to Kickstarter, a really interesting crowdsource-based fund-raising tool. And they've created a trailer to both set up the context for their project and to solicit donations.
I was blown away at our last department meeting when it concluded with a farewell cake and much well-wishing as I prepare to leave York College for a new position at the University of New England in the fall. The cake was beautiful and delicious, and the card everyone signed left me sad to leave my colleagues. They're just wonderful.
Deep took some pictures and sent them to me, and I'm posting them here so I'm reminded of my soon-to-be-former colleagues with each posting.
Marc Prensky of Games2Train, keynote speaker for the 2009 CUNY General Education Conference held at Lehman College/CUNY, had the audacity to declare that we should rename general education, from General Education to Future Education. (Oh, Boy!)
Prensky didn't explore the implications of this notion for an important component of the historical mission of higher education. Is history no longer important in Future Education? What of the arts? His comment was a throwaway of sorts.
The surprising thing about Prensky's comment is that people didn't gasp, particularly since most in the audience reported that they had never seen the video, "A Vision of Student's Today," by cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch.
Explosion of YouTube
"You can learn anything you need to learn about software on YouTube." (Marc Prensky, May 8, 2009)
"Video is the new text." (Mark Anderson. Qtd. by Prensky May 8, 2009)
I found Prensky's claim that you can learn anything you need to learn about software on Youtube particularly intriguing. My own exploration of interface literacy development through screencasting software tutorials is an effort to tap into and to build on this trend. There are, of course, many challenges to this viral aspect of learning. As Prensky put it, "Education is not something you can do to students; we need to do it with them."
Here's a hitch: There's an aspect of boundary crossing here when educators attempt to use twitter, or post "classwork" on YouTube. What space is left for students if we're going out and reaching them where they are? One thinks of Spicoli the surfer/stoner from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Mr. Hand's decision to show up at his house at the end of the term to teach him history so he can graduate. OUCH!
I was struck by the series of binarisms in Prensky's presentation. I found them quite productive for explorations of his idea that we need to "balance" or to meet in the middle of these divides. Of course, they have all the problems one often finds in binaries. They invite misunderstanding, and cultivate a "divide" that doesn't really exist.
Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants
After School is Pulled by Kids/School is Pushed on Kids
We can see this binary approach in his early work on Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants (http://www.marcprensky.com/). Intriguingly, Prensky was critical of this binary because it has been taken wrong. I don't find this surprising; binaries often set up misunderstandings.
Today Prensky offered up a couple additional binaries: Verbs vs. Nouns and Pull vs. Push Learning.
When it comes to technology we seem to quickly focus on the nouns, the actual software. Prensky suggested that we shift to a focus on verbs. The nouns will change (MS Word to Open Office, from email to texting), but the core verbs remain. No matter the noun, we're really after presenting (Powerpoint? Youtube?), communicating (Outlook? MySpace?), and learning (Blackboard? Mediawiki? Drupal?) As Prensky put it, "We want students using the best, most up to date nouns (tools) for each verb (skill)."
As Prensky put it, his notion of Future Learning (the new General Education?), is built on another binary. School learning is being "pushed on kids," while after school learning is being "pulled by kids." Prensky wants us to reach out and learn how students are engaging in this after school learning. Peer-to-peer, self-directed, even just-in-time learning are all elements of this "pull" learning Prensky advocates. The counterweight to this approach is the top down approach, the sage on the stage, and the lecture format. One of Prensky's slides reported that a high school junior told him, "My teacher thinks she's awesome because she made a Powerpoint."
Unfortunately, Prensky did not leave time for a structured Q&A following his presentation. Only audience members who interjected during the talk were able to ask questions.
These are not really "our" students at CUNY. We have older students, students who want a more traditional education, and students who want the class as a space away from this tech stuff.
Keyboarding is a skill that is needed for all of these technologies.
It fascinates me that we have the technological capability to make documentation and reporting easier through single-source production, and yet our 20th (19th?) century thinking prevents us from taking advantage of the potential.
Faculty at CUNY are now required to enter their scholarly/creative activity into a CUNY web-based reporting system. As almost anyone can quickly recognize, this is yet another report piled on top of existing reporting.
As far as I can tell, there was no consultation with individual colleges on the design of this system and the potential integration of the system with local college online reporting systems. The result is an expectation that we'll take the time to "repeat" our reporting in multiple systems.
Why would anyone embrace technology if it means writing, re-writing, and re-writing the same text in multiple systems? The embrace of technology just seems idiotic in that kind of context. Copy-Paste works, but it really doesn't take advantage of the wonders of the database.
Fortunately, we have a responsive web team on campus. When I brought this new "report" to their attention, we were able to begin work on a mechanism to push the data entered in our local systems to the CUNY system.
The setup is not nearly as seamless as it might be. But it's a whole lot better than what would otherwise be the case.