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.
Barack accepted the Nobel Peace Prize today, defending– and in fact espousing– American exceptionalism.
This move by Goldman Sachs to award so-called “shares at risk” is cunning: it sounds great (and it is in fact a much more fair/logical/long-sighted way of distributing bonuses) but it also affects a whopping 30 employees. Goldman has 31,700. So this does not affect the attitudes/behaviors/risk tolerance of the thousands of traders who are evaluating their risk based on their annual bonus pay-outs just like before. Nor does it affect the complexity or the masked risked that goes into 99% of bankers’ work as they structure financial instruments. It’s a cunning move because it’s hard to criticize outright, but it also really does not get at any way to solve the problems of the financial services sector. (It’s a mentality thing, not something which changes when you reorganize pay incentives for the top 30 guys in your firm).
Chad Ochocinco is changing his name again. In 2010 he’ll become “Chad Hachi Go,” Japanese this time for 85.
Gawker deconstructs Ms. Palin’s latest appearance in the Washington Post, showing why her lack of knowledge is this time apparent in regards to global climate change.
I don’t see a thesis in this article, but it seems from the title that the author is trying to compare will.i.am to Irving Berlin. I’d comment on how (un)persuasively that argument is made but frankly I don’t see it anywhere in here.
Finally, also in the realm of ridiculous, via Ella Chou, apparently a girl at Columbia Law School has been accepting applications from her classmates (requesting resumes and undergrad transcripts)…so they can join her study group.
Tags: barack obama, china, cloud computing, columbia university, deforestation, exceptionalism, gawker, GE, goldman sachs, Google, irving berlin, law school, nobel prize, oregon, sarah palin, slate, study group, washington post, will.i.am, wind