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Reflection #2: “Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able”

Picking up where Gardner Campbell left off, Michael Wesch’s 2011 presentation, “Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able,” shows me that I shouldn’t be afraid to use social media and the Internet to show the world who I am, not what I was. This particular speech, shown in two parts on Vimeo, is about how the increasing use of technology in the classroom could allow students and faculty to, in Wesch’s own words:

“…think about, ‘How can I move (these students) from being knowledgeable – that is, knowing a bunch of stuff, and memorizing a bunch of stuff – to actually being knowledge-able – that is, actually able to sort, analyze, criticize and create new information and knowledge?'”

Unlike Campbell, who pushed for change from a technological standpoint, Wesch tried to promote a more social approach to getting students involved in their classes. Between fifteen and seventeen minutes into the first video, Wesch showed how the educational system’s current emphasis, on points, essays and tests, caused many students to just stop paying attention altogether. Mid-class research revealed that less than half of the readings assigned to students were actually read, and less than a quarter of the information given to them was considered relevant to their lives. In another case of DS106 foreshadowing, while the students did know the questions they were being asked, according to Wesch, they had no idea how they linked to the class itself, “but if you can somehow merge those two things, you’ve gone a long way.”

Another takeaway was that the desire for “interaction” differs as much between people, as it does between cultures. Whereas Americans mostly favor technology, like the Internet and social media, other cultures, like those in New Guinea, for example, prefer using face-to-face conversation in order to forge their identity. Given how I spent my youth putting education above almost everything else in my life, it’s safe to say that I was the exception to both rules growing up, instead of preaching to either proverbial choir.

This brings up an important piece of Wesch’s argument: Whenever new media appears in a community, does it influence the residents of said community into changing their ways, for better or worse, or vice versa? The thing to remember from all of this, to Wesch, is that “media are not just tools,” in that they can “mediate relationships,” changing the way we connect with each other. “When media change, our relationships change, and those can have quite a dramatic effect,” according to Wesch.

This really hits close to home, since I never cared for social media sites until recently, because they didn’t feel like they were worthy of my time. It’s also why I never really considered any of my elementary, middle, high school or community college classmates as friends, since I wouldn’t see them after class was over, anyway. If anything, I was more afraid of failing grades than failing friends when I was young. I didn’t change at all growing up, but the world around me did, en masse. Hopefully, this class is my first step in catching up, and turning things around for good.

All in all, the Internet’s a double-edged sword, encouraging participation or distraction in its users. Nowadays, most of us see it as a joke, rather than something of value. Even Wesch spoke of “social imagination,” defined by Maxine Greene as “the capacity to invent visions of what should be and could be in our deficient society.” In closing, we all wanted to live in a world of peace, love and understanding at one point in our lives. What’s so funny about that, besides the focus on theories over practice?

This speech shows me that taking risks, regardless of odds, is an important part of growing up in progressively technocratic times. If you’re not afraid to fail at something, you’re not ready to face the world, and its myriad of surprises. Ultimately, the Internet’s what we make of it, and DS106 will help make sure that my potential doesn’t go to waste.

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