More learnings from Michael Wesch

After one fantastic week in Paris, I am back to learning more about Web 2.0 and trying to capture the many significant points here on the blog.  Whenever I feel a little rusty about all of this technology (which can certainly happen to an aging mind and a 14-day break), I resort to a video to bring me back.  Today was no exception.

As I was reading a blog by Houshuang called “Random Stuff that Matters,” I came across a video of a presentation that Michael Wesch gave at the University of Manitoba on June 17, 2008.  His presentation called “The Future of Education” highlighted the work he is doing as a symbolic anthropologist at the  Kansas State University.  He discussed the classes he teaches (both large and small) in digital ethnography and media literacy and reviewed some of the research he and his students have conducted about student learning in general and YouTube in particular.  As usual, I found myself riveted by his knowledge, his explanations, and his examples.  I will highlight a few of my specific learnings.   Here is a gem of a quote which speaks to the value of collaboration in creating new knowledge: “nobody is as smart as everybody.”  It’s seems like an updated version of  the old adage that “two heads are better than one,” but it speaks to me.

Another statement that resonated with me refers to the terms “digital native and digital immigrants” as referred to by Marc Prensky. Within this terminology digital natives are the young people we are teaching who have far more digital experience than the older generation.  As we try to catch up with these natives, we find ourselves similar to immigrants to a country who do not know the language.  And although we may struggle and study very hard, we will still be digitial immigrants in this new world.  This description made sense to me, and I have used these descriptors to describe myself and the young generations who are far more experienced on Myspace and Facebook and can text-message seeminly faster than the speed of light.  Wesch, however, takes issue with the notion that students are digital natives.  For even though our students know how to use a few applications in some ways, they know very little about the extensive array of Web 2.0 applications or how they can be used in educational contexts.  Wesch maintains that “there are no natives here.”  He was encouraging to his audience (and me) when he commented, “don’t feel stupid because we are all stupid.”  With over 30 new Web 2.0 start-ups everyday (one of which could become as popular as Facebook), we are all sort of playing catch-up.  As I ponder his assessment of students’s skills, it makes sense to me.  So maybe  I will let go of my digital immigrant label.  I’ll have to think more about that.

One last tidbit I’ll mention here (there are several, watch the video and you will discover more yourself) appeared on one of his last slides.  While  refering to the teaching/learning process, he referred to a goal we should hold for our students.  Education should “move students from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able.”  Studentns should learn to do more than acquire knowledge; we must guide them to be creators of knowledge as well.  Web 2.0 has provided the platforms for that to happen, but we (as educators) have to learn how to use those tools to accomplish that end (forstudents and ourselves too).

The presentation contains far more than just these points.  I invite you to visit Wesch’s website on netvibes and to view his Youtube videos – you won’t be disappointed.

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1 Response to “More learnings from Michael Wesch”


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