Religion & Psychology
at The Graduate Theological Union
This posting is also in the Teagle-Wabash Preparing Future Faculty Project blog at: http://futurefacultygtu.blogspot.com
DIGITAL PEDAGOGY: What do students, teaching us about digital media, teach us about teaching?
Today’s child is bewildered when he [sic] enters the 19th century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment where information is scarce but ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns, subjects, and schedules.
– Marshall McLuhan, 1967
So begins Michael Wesch's newest video on digital pedagogy.
If you’ve been living under a rock (or working on your comprehensive exams), you might not recognise Professor Wesch's name but at the time of this posting his "Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us" was viewed just over 3.6 million times, making it the number one video on YouTube this year.
Wesch is a cultural anthropologist by training, and his current research explores the reciprocally deterministic relationship between digital media and human functioning. As a requirement in his introductory survey classes at KansasStateUniversity, Wesch has students apply ethnographic research methods in digital fieldwork settings such as YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook.
Not only do Wesch's students engage the course material (on a level far beyond what many of us might expect from our own students) and demonstrate learning through creative and successful application of disciplinary methods, his students' final video projects are extraordinarily remarkable. In addition, Wesch succeeds at sustaining student interest, not just throughout the course, but also beyond the semester with many joining his co-curricular Digital Ethnography Working Group.
Before you dismiss YouTube final exams as a clever pedagogical manoeuvre for pandering to undergraduates, consider this: Where many of us fail in our classrooms to bring students into the discussion, Wesch succeeds by taking the conversation to where his students are “already invested.”
But perhaps the bigger picture is to be found in what happens to us when we step away from the white/chalk board or out from behind our lecterns. Wesch persuades us to do without our props and crutches and walk among our students to “pursue with great passion the questions that are meaningful and relevant to their own lives.”
Wesch’s latest project, “A Vision of Students Today,” gives us a picture of what this might look like. His (or rather, Their) “Vision” puts us in an introductory survey classroom with 200 undergraduates, and for five minutes, we’re shown what’s going on behind the vacant stares and laptop typing. It is perhaps, more than we may comfortably want to know about out students. While retreating into lecture material is obviously not an option, neither is “going native” with undergraduates.
Surely, better, relevant pedagogy isn’t just about updating our technology and building more “smart” classrooms. Wesch’s latest video shows us that our students have plenty to say about what is happening in the classroom.
The question is; are we listening?
This post was inspired by an October 25, 2007 segment on NPR "Future Tense."