Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Vision of Students Today (by Michael Wesch)

Dr. Michael Wesch is a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University. His work in digital ethnography has gained national and international attention. The most visible project is his work on YouTube and a video entitled "A Vision of Students Today" that was a collaborative project with 200 of his students. According to YouTube, this video has been viewed close to 3 million times and certainly raised the visibility of Dr. Wesch's work. In fact, he was recently named the US Professor of the Year for Doctoral Universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Support and Advancement of Education.

The point of this blog post is to call your attention to the work of Dr. Wesch as I do feel it has a great deal of relevance in the current environment of higher education. After watching the video above, or visiting links to the Digital Ethnography project at Kansas State, I hope you will click "COMMENTS" below this post and give us your thoughts on this work and describe how it does or does not impact your teaching.

A VISION OF STUDENTS TODAY (also see above):
YouTube Video

Digital Ethnography Blog:
Visit Blog

Article written by Dr. Wesch at Academic Commons:
From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able: Learning in New Media Environments


Howard Whiteman said...

The video definitely gives me some perspective. I've noticed the changes over the years, but this makes me appreciate more where we are at, and what we are dealing with both in terms of the students and the classroom environment. Food for thought.

Terry Derting said...

I wonder what percent of those 26.5 hours the students view as contributing to attainment of their future goals. I also wonder what they think is an appropriate percent of their time to spend on working towards their future goals. Technology and enhanced communication are the future, but a student (not in the movie) said 'students have to learn to be disciplined so that their technology works for them and makes their learning even better.'

Terry Derting said...

I was puzzled as to what message was being conveyed by the video. As a result, I am actually more interested in what students have to say about the video than what faculty have to say. Thus, I took the liberty of asking a sophomore undergraduate (not at MSU), that I thought would be willing to provide an honest response, what he thought about the video. The student's response, quoted below, is certainly a contrast to what the movie appeared to convey.

"What does that movie tell me? It was interesting, but that is all.

It is a perfect example of the genre of media that is designed to make people stop and think, to throw out the truth in a confronting manner and put it to certain music that evokes strong emotional responses. But in my opinion it only has such an effect on those who it mostly concerns. What does it say to me? A bunch of stuff I and nearly every other college student already know: most students are lazy, arrogant, isolated, self-centered, and hardheaded. And it is because of these characteristics that they fail in the education system that we have now (well now even failure is not an accurate sign, because it is nearly impossible to fail even for the worst of students). Freshmen year I had a course with two hundred students in it and knew multiple professors by name and still interact with them now a year later. And again I did that last semester in another hundred plus person course. Each and every one of my professors knows me by name, appearance, voice, etc., and it is that way because I made it that way (i.e. I woke up, went to class, and did my work, attended office hours). I do my readings because I am not lazy. I read books for fun because I am not lazy. And I get good grades and form solid relationships because I am not lazy.

By this point I'm sure you would not be surprised if I were to say that people who try to change and criticize the education system are just trying to make the habits of the worst students the standard for all. It is a typical move in America's slide towards mediocrity, and I strongly oppose it. Sure, I am willing to admit that there is no one fits all way to educate people, but going to college I have seen countless examples of the worst of people...I'm sure there is a huge debate on this but I feel strongly this way.

So I think the movie was interesting and uses writing on walls and chairs and silent but mildly attractive students to evoke a sympathetic response, but that's it. It's nothing new and only speaks to how crappy most students are.

Sorry for the heavy dose of negativity!"

Anonymous said...

I am bothered by our constant catering to our “multi-tasking” students and increasingly lowered standards in our classrooms. Multi-tasking is all right. But how many students can handle talking and texting on the phone for hours a day in school and learning effectively? Technologies, regardless of how great they are, cannot replace the effort students should have put into their education. It cannot be used as an excuse for their laziness. We should not be always changing the way we deliver to catering to the effortless students and lower our standards. If we do, some of them will learn a hard lesson in their future workplace.