The Enthusiatic Cynic – balancing an avalanche of information

As the lecture times are fast running out this semester (-collective sad sigh-) this lecure had quite a bit crammed into it (what’s new!?). The overall theme though was how to be an enthusiastic cynic, how to let technology engage and empower out students, but how to also guard against the hype and the gimmick.

So what is empowering? And what is the gimmick? It can be hard to separate these two… Let’s take Wikipedia for example. Friend or foe? How many times have you quickly checked a fact? I will even admit to reading a wikipedia article, then following it’s reference list to the source to then refer to it in academic writing (GASP). But ANYONE can write a wikipedia article right? Well, yes and no. It’s almost a peer reviewed site now. So do we let our students use it? Perhaps…

This lecture reminded me of another story, that perhaps James told us in an earlier semester, about a teacher who wrote an entire website on a mythical creature then asked his students to write a reference report on this creature. None of the students brought up the issue that their was only one website with information on this creature, nor questioned the existence of it.  Clearly they need to be taught that not everything you read on the internet is true?

Then there is the research that shows our kids attention spans are severely diminishing, and that child obesity is increasing… or what about the research that show that boys achievement is increasing with the use of technology and we are closing the IT gender gap by getting girls involved in programs such as Girls Who Code? Good outweighs the bad? Or simply more is not more?

So how do we balance this? Clearly I don’t have an answer or I’d be sharing it, and not asking so many rhetorical questions. I think the best thing we can do is to be constantly evaluating, did that improve the learning experience? If we center all our teaching on that question maybe we’ll get it mostly right.


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