Monday, August 11, 2008

Am I creating the future in this blogosphere?

I've read a bunch of educational articles recently, several having to do with how to assess reading in the digital age. Do we look at digital literacy as something different from reading literacy? As I understand it, digital literacy has to do with reading a lot of information quickly, often assessing it and interacting with others through sites that allow it. Thus people can look for a topic, say, "Olympics", and come up with all sorts of sites and information, and glean what they need. My problem with this (and others' problem as well) has to do with several facts:

1) People may not know the difference between legitimate, accredited sites and ones that have either incorrect or unsubstantiated information.

2) This sort of quick jumping around, while causing certain neurons in the brain to fire and react, certainly doesn't help with sustained attention. It may even hinder it, according to certain experts. [NB 1: I find it mildly ironic that I learned about this while reading it online in the NYTimes.]

As a teacher, when I write people, I really mean students because that's who this concerns. If, as I wrote before, a decent chunk of the working world increasingly requires its employees to be Internet-savvy, doesn't it also require them to have an attention span longer than ten minutes to complete a task? Doesn't it require them to sometimes analyze data properly and put that data together? Thus it's up to my profession to do that. What am I really trying to express here? I think it comes down to the fact that I believe today's youth need to practice activities that grab their attention for a sustained amount of time, and I believe teachers need to incorporate more Internet-based strategies in their teaching. How to do this? Not sure. My dad made a point on a previous entry that I'll put here, with his permission, that I think has a lot of merit as well:

While I usually agree with your take on things, and not just because I’m your father but because they are thoughtful, I have to disagree on one of your concerns. You say that when your students go out into the working world they will be dealing with IM, texting, blogs, Facebook, my space etc . No, actually they will not. Whether they are in a steel plant or an investment banking house or a law office, those things are by and large not part of the real work-a-day world; they are a huge part of their social fabric of the non working world of the generation that you teach. For that reason they are important, but they must know that the vast number of employers, except for a few newly rich 20 something entrepreneurs, do not use those things in how they do their jobs. The internet is the key to accessing facts which with thought may turn to knowledge but those other devices/tools are social facilitators.

He's right. The working world certainly is not all about social networking; it's about knowing a skill and sticking to it to get things done.

On a similar note, I discussed something with Scarlet Lily recently that has me concerned. Bear with me a moment as I ask: Have any of you seen or even heard of the movie Idiocracy? Not surprised if you haven't; it went pretty much straight to video and the parts I saw annoyed and alarmed me. It's not a quality flick. However, the basic premise comes from the stereotypical idea that uneducated people seem to have more children on the whole than educated folks do. Thus, over time, the educated population will die out, leaving the world filled with, shall we say, less-than-bright people. The idea of the movie is that this guy gets cryogenically frozen (always a recipe for an Oscar-winner) and wakes up 500 years later in a society so dumbed down that he's the most intelligent person on the planet. Wacky, zany hilarity ensues, of course. [NB 2: Do you agree with me that when a comedy is labeled as either "wacky" or "zany", it almost guarantees that it's terrible?]

While Idioocracy will never win any awards, part of it names a possibility that scares the heck out of me. Can that happen? I know intelligence is a dominant trait, but if procreation continues on this track, what exactly will happen in 500 years? Please feel free to tell me I'm an alarmist. I think I see tests and material being watered down because kids "just don't get it" and everything's too hard, and we have to make sure their little egos stay intact so we give every kid a trophy and bring down the bar so it's easier to reach. What good does that do anyone?

I don't mean to gripe, honestly. It's what makes me want to be a hardass teacher because when a student gets an A in my class, she knows she's earned it. I don't care if it means they don't like me--I watched it happen this year. I'm not as bad as my Ethics professor who notoriously said, "God gets an A, I get a B, and everyone else gets Cs and Ds" (Remember, Feather Nester? Good ol' Terrell), but I make them work. I praise them like crazy when they do well, so it all balances out.

What do you all think?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the party, I know, but I've been on vacation. When you say "kids" do you really mean "American kids?" Because, um, I'm pretty sure that tests aren't being watered down in China or India. In fact, I read an article recently about google hiring an increasing proportion of software engineers from India because, well, they're better. I wouldn't worry about the human race as a whole becoming less intelligent. Americans, on the other hand...? -Jess