• As you go up the employment ladder, the further up you go, the more the responsibility of the person to think about the future.
• Larger the issue, the further into the future you have to think
• Empowering global leaders: followers -> global citizens (understanding the past and the present) -> global leaders (ability to project forward)
• Five characteristics of futures-oriented teaching and learning:
1. An inherent focus on change: Instead of just “where have we been” and “where are we now, “but also “how did we get from point A to point B.” Futures oriented questions would ask “how did we get here” and “how might we go forward?”
2. Higher-order thinking: objectives that include “plan.” “design,” “model.” “predict,” and “assess the risk of…”
3. Scholarly behavior: scholars are on the cutting edge of knowledge and figures out what needs to be done next and how to do it.
4. Empowerment of the liberal arts: “the 21st century will challenge us to cope with change at a dizzying pace. A solid liberal arts and sciences foundation is the highest and best preparation for life that Elon College can offer its students.” –Leo Lambert
5. Leadership: students become agents of change by imaging a better future, design plans to make them happen, do it!
• Language impacts how we approach things. Instead of “course” how about “quest?”
• Talked about futurist work at Elon: courses as well as campus groups, emerging futures forum, etc.
• This program is a lot about futurism, but also a lot about creating a quest-like environment where you set a large but reachable goal and guide the students to success. Good planning means students can be active creators rather than passive.
• Discussed a biology class that integrated futurist thinking.
• Students design, implement, analyze, and present their own experiment.
• It’s not as much about content as it is about finding information and creating knowledge.
• With this experience they will be more likely to be discriminating consumers of scientific knowledge.
• Has found that biology futurist students end up with more sophisticated views on civic debates, they are more engaged, have more knowledge gains, have a greater understanding of content, other universities are adopting parts of the curriculum.
I really enjoy the Innovations in Instruction Conference that Elon University hosts-for free-each year. I’ve been to all but one (I’m pretty sure) and each year it gets better than the year before. This year I saw a call for presentations so enthusiastically submitted two proposals. I also saw that they had lined up Michael Wesch as the keynote, which raised the bar even higher. I was nervous about attending his keynote, wishing I could use the time to prepare for the two presentations, but I’m so glad that I did. It was one of the most intellectually interesting ones I’ve heard in a while. He also recapped a lot of the issues brought up in his videos, but gave more context to the information. Fabulous talk, and one that re-energized me, which is just what I needed at this time of the year.
From introduction: This program is planned almost exclusively by faculty in their first year. Helps bring them into campus culture.
Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University
Introduced as “one of the most innovative and provocative thinkers in higher ed today.”
• Started by introducing traditional anthropology.
• Talked about his experiences in New Guinea.
• Gave an example of a situation that taught him that he really had to know the language.
• Talked about building a house. 240 people participated.
• Talked about our commodity environment. Pay people for work and relationship is completed. There, they have a gifts environment. Pay people, and it’s another gift, so if continues the relationship.
• This commodity relationship creates a sense of individualism. In a gift environment, you’re dependent on relationships you have a relational identity.
• Portable identity leads to consumerism. Relational identity leads to minimalism.
• If giving a gift (eg a potato), you tell about all the people who lead to that potato being available to give. You connect the receiver to other people. (I think there are interesting gender studies issues here.)
• New Guinea is sustainable and there is an equality among people.
• Ran through the small village exercise. • I keep coming back to the web (as I’m sure he’s planning), thinking about how the online/media environment is based on a gift relationship. Blogs, Wikipedia, YouTube, etc, wouldn’t exist or have value without people giving the gift of their content.; • “The most significant problem in higher education is the problem of significance itself.”
• Asks his students who doesn’t like school, only half their students raise their hands. Asks his students how many don’t like to learn, no one raises their hand.
• It’s not just a technology gap, there is a cultural gap.
• Talked about some forms of Western influence in New Guinea: written language, law, etc.
• Marshall McLuhan: “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.”
• Media are not just communication but they mediate relationships.
• Talked about hype that surrounds technology in education.
• Teaching hasn’t changed given the tools available, but learning has.
• Learning to read and write online… they do the most of these activities on the computer.
• Traditional classrooms are set up with the idea that the teacher can push information to the students.
• Traditional education is built around the idea that information is scarce and hard to find, that authority is necessary for good information.
• In a front facing room, students are told that authorized information is beyond discussion.
• And we see that students bring these assumptions to small classes.
• Students want to know what they need to know for the grade. Crisis of significance.
• Something in the air: the web.
• Students have access to the body of knowledge that is on the web. If we’re lecturing at them while they browse, something is wrong.
• Information is no longer scarce.
• We’ll need to rethink learning, which means we’ll have to rethink education.
• Computer file storage built around real-life metaphor. Just now learning we can do this differently.
• Blogging taught us that anyone could be a creator of information.
• Pointed out that YouTube has produced more video in the past 6 months that television has in its existence.
• Wikipedia is showing us that by working together we can create information that rivals the content of experts.
• “Nobody is as smart as everybody.” Kevin Kelly
• Education is being challenged on the issue that authorized information is beyond discussion.
• For example: discussion and history tabs in Wikipedia. You can weigh the evidence yourself.
• Challenges the idea that authority comes from the top down. Authority comes from the discussion itself.
• Compared what’s happening on the web (in the creation of various forms of metadata) to the work that librarians used to do. Just happening in a more organic way.
• Not just about teaching students how to find information, but to set up a system where information comes to them.
• A social network of learning can be powerful for them.
• If we live in a world where information is all around us, the issue of acquiring is less important. We need to make meaningful connections. We are aiming to help students make meaningful connections. These connections are significant.
• You need the content to make connections, but you need to enable students to learn in a way in which they’re making these connections.
• Gave an overview of the 200 person global map activity. Give each person an area to learn the most about. Room of experts.
• Recognizes that he can’t know everything, that the students are the ones to save the world, that students need to be able to leverage technology available to them.
• Puts people together in groups based around their assigned area of the world and have to create a really good cultural example of the area of the world prior to 1491.
• Try to create a simulation where their world plays along to where we are today. Then, they extend it into the future to try to “save the world.”
• Use a wiki to discuss. Record rules: economic, military power, diplomacy, etc.
• Here’s a video of how it works, but it also incorporates Twitter and Jott.
• It’s really a systems class. Bring in environment, business, etc.
• It’s the way the simulation fails is where the learning takes place.
• The last few weeks of class are discussion based around where it fails.
• Videoing all of this on a number of cameras, each section of the world has to edit it down to 5 minutes. Then professor synthesizes it to 5 minutes for the world. Blend with real world history to show the connections that are being made.
This was a great talk. His class is as much an information literacy class as an anthropology one.