ECI831 – Reflection on Wesch’s “The Machine is (Changing) Us

As a generation X’er myself, I can relate to the frustration and boredom on the faces of the university students in Dr. Wesch’s class.  I can relate to this feeling of jumping through hoops – from coloring maps and pie charts to the numerous lesson plans that were required for our ever inspiring and useful EPS classes in university.  Our society demands education from its young people if they have any desire of attaining gainful employment, but refuses to invest the time, resources and effort needed to bring this system into the new reality.  Even though we are constantly being encouraged to take advantage of new initiatives like structural innovation and project-based learning, and there are many who do a fantastic job, a large number of educators continue to crack open the same lesson plans that have been used for the past X number of years.  If we aren’t prepared to continually evolve our practice and tailor our material to the varied interests of a particular class, how then can we expect students to engage in the exercise in a meaningful way?

But can this be blamed on the classroom teacher?  Classroom teachers have a large amount of responsibility already on their shoulders and with the added commitments of family life, extra-curricular activities, etc., it is unrealistic to expect all educators will put in the effort required to stay current and up to date.  Many of our government mandated curriculum documents are older than the students we teach.  I teach Core French and one of the units of study for a high school class (published in 1999) deals with creating a new game.  There is no mention of electronic devices such as an Xbox or PS3 or Wii, and the only mention of any sort of electronic gaming deals with “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”.  Although we may or may not agree with young people spending the majority of their time in front of a TV or computer screen, I think it is foolish to deny the role video games play in the lives of our students, especially when dealing with a unit based on the pass times of our youth.  Can we truly expect kids to buy in to such dated and out of touch information and do these documents provide us with material that could be deemed engaging or inspiring by our youth?

One quote that I found interesting was when Dr. Wesch cited Huxley’s fear that the truth will be drowned in irrelevance.  There is a high level of frustration amongst colleagues and this is evident to anyone who has spent time in core meetings, professional learning communities or whatever the buzzword may be for a particular school division.  The majority of time is spent “dialoguing” about administrative paperwork, setting literacy goals, the new advisory program, etc., but one thing that I have noticed is that discussions relating to best practice and how to engage students are seemingly being left by the wayside.  I understand and appreciate people’s concerns and frustrations with the inner workings of our profession, but I fear that we’re losing sight of our “truth” – creating valuable learning opportunities for our youth while instilling a lifelong passion for knowledge.

What I enjoyed in this video was how Dr. Wesch outlined the positive ways in which our youth is reaching out to be heard.  I have always had a hard time believing that kids today are flawed and just don’t want to learn and this video reinforced the idea that there is hope to change.  Are there challenges facing the educational system today?  Absolutely.  But there are also tremendous tools available to bridge the gap between stodgy curriculum and a generation of young people who have grown up with MSN, cell phones and facebook.  Why not try to incorporate these tools and get into the learners’ world rather than expecting them to come into ours?

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One Response to “ECI831 – Reflection on Wesch’s “The Machine is (Changing) Us”

  1. ellsbeth Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The French lesson you mentioned made me start thinking again about how to best train teachers when it comes to technology and lesson design.

    I know some would disagree, but I think the “how-to push buttons” aspect is the least important part of the whole process. What I find is that teachers benefit most by focusing on how to embed and integrate technology so it enhances best practice. The technology shouldn’t be the focus, it is merely the vehicle to achieve the learning goal in a way our students find more relevant.

    Learning how to design a good lesson that can adapt to whatever tech is available is crucial to being able to take advantage of technological change. That way it wouldn’t matter if the lesson was the old Carmen Sandiego game. If it is a good lesson, it can be adapted to something more current.

    You could use a lesson format that leaves it open for adaptation. I would like to see a shift in the education culture in which our lesson design formats make clear that the highlighted tech isn’t the *only* way to accomplish the learning outcome. After all, the learning outcome is the reason we’re doing it in the first place. What I struggle with is that people can get so distracted by how to learn a technology that the reason we were using it in the first place gets lost.

    Thanks for the post!

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