I have recently been given three documents which have caused me to think about education and technology. Two are pieces by Professor Robert McClintock at Teachers College at Columbia University, entitled “Into the Starting Gate: On Computing and the Curriculum,” and Power and Pedagogy: Transforming Education through Information Technology. The third piece is an article detailing the use of and access to YouTube in British schools.
The three intersect for perhaps obvious reasons based on their subject matter, but they deserve a closer examination, primarily for what I think is the prescience of Prof. McClintock’s writing (from more than 17 years ago!) and the way in which the YouTube example so perfectly complements many of his points about the power of computing and, more specifically, the decentralized information and knowledge sharing which is endemic to the Web.
In 1986, in “Into the Starting Gate,” McClintock makes the following metaphor:
“Computing is like a young thoroughbred that has been growing into its physical potential through the work of the hardware of software developers and put through rigorous training by computer science. Everyone says that the young thoroughbred will give a real challenge to the long-dominant steed, the print-based culture, in a match race, and the mature horse stands ready to take the shy challenger on. The problem is to get the challenger to the starting gate [thus the title of his article], for computer is still frisky and high spirited and we do not yet really know how to bring it into the gate, kicking bucking, prancing.”
I imagine this was a spot-on assessment of the situation when it was written (before I was born). The tension as it existed then is of course in stark contrast to now, when you can conceptualize the digital-versus-print dichotomy as that same thoroughbred, all grown up with hardly an acknowledgment from the prize winning steed of years past. To me, the problem is not so much an artifact of older horse’s arrogance or aloofness, to continue the metaphor, but more that the racing surface has changed over time and the younger horse has developed an entire new stride which allows it to easily outpace the older horse, which must still inefficiently scamper on.
Metaphors aside, McClintock is a Professor of Education, and this is where his comments are most insightful. In his 1992 Power and Pedagogy – whose preface states the thesis that “together educators and technologists have the historic opportunity to improve the civic prospect” – McClintock writes about the new thinking required given the digital world.
Using what is now perhaps an antiquated example, McClintock describes how spell checkers (which have already been heralded as a disruptive technology) require that “educators concentrate less on inculcating low-level skills and attend more to higher-order thinking skills.” This move from “verbalization” to the “multi-modal” marks the shift from access as “comparatively restricted, troublesome and transient” to open – and more importantly, in my opinion, participatory.
The new order of the multi-modal “is not a mere opposition to the verbal, not a simple alternative to it,” McClintock explains. It is, instead, a “Hegelian Aufhebung of it, the upheaval of it into something else in which the original form remains nevertheless included and preserved in the new.” In other words, the realities of the digital world do not hinder or restrict the printed word; it enables and extends it, “challeng[ing] people to integrate all of those forms into a comprehensive and many-sided culture and education.”
Besides opening education to a greater variety of cultural and geographic items, the Web of 2010 encourages participation and creates an inherently iterative learning process. The former is a point acknowledged by McClintock, as well: “Its historic effect will be to broaden effective participation in the culture greatly.”
But this is also where the story of YouTube in the classroom comes in. As this story shows, the schools in England found it both detrimental as well as expensive to block YouTube from its school’s computers. The article cites a Cambridge criminologist and a video he posted about a long-term experiment investigating crime hotspots in Manchester. It also mentioned the popularity of the below video, of a Stanford University Civil Engineer talking about the buildings in Haiti after the earthquake:
And so you can see how the school systems across England (“dozens of town halls and hundred of schools”) came to the decision to embrace this technology.
The case of YouTube in school is an amalgam of two things: (1) the acknowledgment of education being a fluid and iterative process and (2) the understanding that knowledge cannot be contained solely in the role of a singular person at the front of classroom, as educator. The more linear model of assignment-then-grade or report-then-critique is not without its place, of course. But it’s easy to see how the process of digesting, creating and iterating drafts has a much more prevalent role in the world of UGC (user-generated content) and YouTube. Likewise, it is evident that the basis of “good learning” has changed, too. It no longer based “in mastering precisely what has been taught.” The multi-faceted curricular resources allow for what McClintock calls: “many valid paths of inquiry…without any inquirer exhausting all their contents and permutations” [ital. mine]. The new curriculum, based on “networked, intelligent multimedia” both encourages a different cultural politic, and is far more inclusive in scope.
This is education today, I think. But to read accounts from the 1980s and 1990s with such foresight is impressive.
McClintock, Robert. “Into the Starting Gate: On Computing and the Curriculum.” Teachers College Record. Vol. 88, No. 2. Winter 1986. Columbia University. (link tp full text, PDF)
Ibid. Power and Pedagogy: Transforming Education through Information Technology. Institute for Learning Technologies, Columbia University, New York: 1992. * (link to full text, PDF)
*This publication was produced and distributed in “device independent format.” The subheadline reads: “Readers are free to copy the electronic text and reproduce copies by other means for critical, educational, or scholarly use, provided they do not alter the text or distribute reproductions for profit.” Without having researched this particular claim deeply, it sounds in many ways like a progenitor of Creative Commons and a share-alike copyright claim. Interesting.
I found myself reading a number of articles on Ars Technica today. The first was a good run-down of what Comcast already owns in the face of its controlling stake in NBC. The second was an exciting look at the future of WiFi and the 1 Gbps speeds we can soon look forward to. Finally, Ars examined the history of YouTube, not only from a cultural perspective but also from a tech/policy standpoint.
Without endorsing endorsing or distancing myself from Christopher Hitchens, this piece on Palin is notable. I agree that it is absurd to see she has jumped on the “birther” bandwagon and all that, but what I like is the word Hitchens created:
…I pointed out the crude way in which she tried to Teflon-ize herself when allegations of weird political extremism were made against her (emphasis CLT).
In other news, we (the Stanford Cardinal) will be playing in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on New Year’s eve (yay!) but without star redshirt quarterback, and Texas native, Andrew Luck (not-so-yay). That could be bad news bears. It could also mean that Toby will step up like he always does and account for 900 all-purpose yards. We’ll see.
Politics: Barack says he wants to use TARP money to stimulate the economy and put on some public works projects; the GOP goes all crazy. We’ve already put aside the money…people are looking for employment…Wall Street is in better shape (or at least so it seems): I think the Dems are right to fight for this money to be used intelligently.
CNet compiles a nice list of free holiday MP3s across the Web: 29 of which come from Amazon, including some titles by Lady GaGa and others.
Lifehacker shares a nice iTunes alternative, something I’m always happy to read more about.
I find it hilarious and also smart for AT&T to offer its “Mark the Spot” app in the App Store (iTunes link). It’sfunny because it’s an admission by the carrier that their service is, well, somewhat lacking. And it’s smart because it makes it at the very least appear like they’ll do something about it. Plus it’s a nice little community crowd-sourcing project which I think is a smart play.
But here’s what I don’t get: how it’s supposed to work. Let’s say I’m walking through Manhattan and I get to the corner and — BOOM! — service drops out. The very important business call that I was on is now terminated. I am mad. But, at least AT&T hopes, I fire up the app to report the spot as problematic. EXCEPT WE JUST SAID I DON’T HAVE ANY SERVICE. So riddle me this: how does a location-based app for reporting service dead zones work? I could walk down the street until my little EDGE or 3G icon reappears, but by that point, the whole idea of a GPS-tagged submission is gone. It’s all somewhat funny to me, and unless I’m missing something, AT&T is either going to have lots of frustrated customers trying unsuccessfully to report spotty (get it?) service, or lots of dead zone tags from nearby-but-not-quite-right locations.
Finally, today was a big day at Google*. Two huge announcements of (1) real-time search and (2) Google Goggles.
For real-time search, it’s a fantastic feature and the implementation could not be better, IMHO. There is lots of (far better) coverage across the Web on this, but I think it’s great.
Goggles is also an interesting product, and its launch was kind of buried by in a number of other big mobile announcements. The fact that is basically has augmented reality is also really really cool. This video does the best job of quickly and clearly communicating what exactly it is:
**NB: Just to be clear, none of my comments on anything at Google relate in any way to my employer. I’m just a guy, writing about and commenting on tidbits I find across the Web. Nothing here is an endorsement or Company position. I know you probably know this, but I wanted to put it in writing.
Tags: amazon, andrew luck, at&t, augmented reality, barack obama, birther, CNet, comcast, el paso, google goggles, hitchens, itunes, lady gaga, lifehacker, mp3, nbc, palin, real-time search, sarah palin, stanford football, sun bowl, TARP, texas, toby for heisman, toby gerhart, wifi, YouTube
Today I saw Star Trek for the second time. (I thoroughly enjoyed the film both times).
While it is generally not one of those movies from which one gleans new insights after a second viewing (the plot is pretty straightforward, for example), today I found myself struck by one particular shot: young Jim Kirk, still an Iowa town boy, gazing up at a partially constructed starship as he contemplates joining Starfleet.
While it is a formative moment for Jim’s character, what was most interesting to me was the notion that in the future USA– where we find ourselves leading innovation in spaceships and not, say, automobiles– that we will be doing so in Iowa.
In some ways, it makes total sense to me: rural Midwestern America has been seeing a steady depopulation for a while now. Where else could we find enough (inexpensive) land to build a 1,200-foot space ship? Some states now even offer financial incentive to college graduates who settle back in their home state (rather than accelerate both depopulation and brain drain). Other states are opening up to take former prisoners from Guantanamo.
There is, in short, plenty of space but fewer and fewer people.
When I took Prof. Richard White‘s “History of the North American West” as the last course in my major this spring, he floated the prediction that we’d someday soon see the heartlands of America filled with solar panels. It’s not a crazy idea: already, we see that Iowa passed California as the nation’s second-largest wind power producer (behind Texas). And it would be a smart way for those states to use their best asset– cheap, flat land– to provide a valuable commodity (namely, electricity) to the rest of the country.
And in general, it all fits with the idea that in between the coastal states we have lots of middle-of-nowhere flatness, corn fields in their neat rows extending out for as far as the eye can see.
But that one day may change. It could very easily soon be acres of solar panels or wind turbines covering large swaths of the land…or, if you wait long enough, even a hangar for the next USS Enterprise.
Tags: automobiles, brain drain, california, cars, corn, corn fields, depopulation, fields, guantanamo, iowa, jim kirk, midwest, richard white, rural, solar, solar energy, solar panels, space, star trek, texas, USA, wind, wind turbines