I've watched a few of Michael Wesch's videos and talks, and I really appreciate how cognizant he is of all sides of his area of expertise. We definitely see him as embracing media and technology and all it has to offer, but in this particular talk he demonstrates the darker, more ominous side of media as well. He takes us to New Guinea where a community of people seems to be thriving quite harmoniously until new media in the form of books is introduced. Once books and a census are introduced, he explains that the relationships within the community began to change drastically. Life as experienced by the people in the community changed drastically as well, and it turned out not to be positive change. Wesch uses this example to present the unspoken reality of media: that we use media, but media also uses us, and that media changes society and relationships.
When we look at those realities about media with our students in mind, it demands that we embrace those realities when considering our learning experiences with students. I particularly love the descriptor Wesch coined regarding the types of students we need in this media climate: open, caring, daring, creative, collaborative, self-motivated, and voracious as learners. That is such a beautiful way to see our students. These are great descriptors because they emphasize that our goal is to guide students in being curious and aware. Students not only need to have the interest in what they are learning and exposed to through media, but they also need to be aware of,as Wesch called it, the "razor's edge" that we walk along with media. We have to guide students to be aware of how media is used and how media uses us. Students have to learn to be aware of how media affects relationships, (because media will affect relationships), and be able to ascertain whether those changes are desired or undesired. As an educator I would hope I can guide and inspire my students to want to be those types of learners. As I reflect on my student experiences over the past few years I can say that it seems I have fostered students to be open, caring, and collaborative, but daring, creative and voracious as learners I haven't inspired yet. Yet.
In fact, since I've begun this journey just a few short weeks ago, my conversations with my independent study students have begun to change. I am finding myself allowing my students to steer the conversation. I find myself tailoring their projects to better suit their interests. Kyle, an energetic and positive 11th grader, is not positive and energetic when it comes to his English class. He looked at me with suspicion when I offered him the opportunity to scrap my module topic in favor of one of his own choosing- one that he might be more passionate about- in which he can do some research and apply our course concepts to a text and concept he chooses. "Really?" That was his question. That made me smile, which made him smile, and I hope he takes me up on my offer. I also received a persuasive speech last Friday from another 11th grade student who wrote about how teachers should begin to teach students how to write in ways that resemble the kinds of writing students come across in the real world. As I read her speech with her, I realized she was talking about digital writing- she was trying to articulate that the flat, 5-paragraph essay (which, she acknowledged, does have a place in the world of communication) is not the only effective academic way to communicate, and that it doesn't look anything like the types of writing she interacts with in her everyday life. She articulated that the writing she comes across on the internet oftentimes contains links to more information, pictures, videos, infographics, etc. That was an exciting interaction for me as instead of assessing that "final draft" effort, slapping a grade on it, and moving her on to the next module, I found myself taking the conversation deeper with her, discussing her awareness of her audience, and helping her to articulate exactly what she meant, ultimately coming to an agreement at the end of our appointment time together that she was going to continue revision on this speech, developing a few areas, and rewriting a few sections to address the needs of her audience.
For the first time in awhile I am listening to my intuition about what will engage students individually and take them individually deeper into their own learning. Wow. So simple and so powerful. Those interactions were authentic and interesting. The bewildered smiles of those two 11th graders as they left my office let me know they were more engaged- intrigued that I might be interested in their interests and interested in helping them explore those interests in a meaningful way. For me it feels like a tiny step toward Open, Caring, Daring, Creative, Collaborative, and Self-motivated. Maybe not quite Voracious... Yet.
TEDxNYED (2010, April 12). TEDxNYED- Michael Wesch [Video]. Retrieved September 9, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwyCAtyNYHw&index=7&list=PLbRLdW37G3oMquOaC-HeUIt6CWk-FzaGp