Blogging comes highly recommended by this week’s pedagogues

As I read the articles on various types of literacies–including multiliteracies and the dominant literacy of Standard English in academia, I began to ask myself how MUCH is TOO MUCH technology in the classroom. I’ve noticed a few other fellow bloggers have addressed this question as well. My concern is less about reconciling edu. theory with what Pawan and Honeyford refer to as “New Literacies” and more about how I rarely think of technology as an educational tool for college students.

Perhaps this is because 99% of the research my nine-year-old daughter does for her school projects is conducted on Wikipedia rather than other sources. And for me, this works out just fine; her research requirements are often simple, and easy to catch any misinformation or assumptions on the part of the author(s), because I have enough background knowledge to do so. But for college students to rely on such sources of information–and quite possible taking such sources at face value, without critically questioning the authority of the text and/or seeking out other sources to confirm or disprove ideas/assertions–prevents them from digging deeper into what they are exploring.

Why is that? I mean, after all, Wikipedia is an EXCELLENT example of socially constructed knowledge. But is that how students see it? I don’t know… I tend to think students use the site because it’s easy to find stuff on Wikipedia. It’s instant. It’s satisfying. It provides answers. For these reasons, there’s not a lit of critical reflection POSSIBLE in this type of internet-based research. Also, when information can be accessed so easily, at the touch of a button or whisk of a finger across a screen, it does not inspire much motivation on the part of the student.

I don’t know how this turned into a Wikipedia rant. I like Wikipedia; I just think it is too uniformly misutilized. Looking something up on Wikipedia does not mean students are aware of or using inquiry-based learning.

Of course, I do like the idea of collaborative technology, especially because of its focus on non-school literacies (Reynolds & Werner). However, in-class communities are, to me, far more valuable a learning tool than blogging or posting comments on ilearn posts, or even socially constructing knowledge via wikis. When students are present in the discussion, in real-time, they are having an actual lived experience, which cements learning in ways distance-learning does not.

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5 responses to “Blogging comes highly recommended by this week’s pedagogues

  1. When Wikipedia really hit the mainstream, I remember a friend calling it “the source of all knowledge”. Most of the time entries are well-written and brief, they sound authoritative and they link to all relevant wikis increasing your chances of learning more profoundly about the subject you are perusing as well as increasing your chances of broadening your understanding on a number of related subjects.

    And yet, no one will argue that it is lazy fact-checking. I’m not sure what a person has to do to become a contributor but it can’t be too difficult. What’s more, Wikipedia is chockfull of “needs citation” caveats.

    I realize that your daughter is only 9, but I think there will be more and more children out there who are going to take Wikipedia’s information at face value. And this is where good teaching comes in: at a certain point it seems to me that teachers need to be saying something like, “Use Wikipedia if you want, but every time you do, you better back it up with information from a reliable source.” Moreover, it might even be beneficial to find something on Wikipedia that is inaccurate and have students find the correct information just so they can see that Wikipedia, while an amazing and interesting tool, is far from “the source of all knowledge”.

  2. I agree with you that using wikipedia as a subject for examining the reliability of sources could be fruitful, not to mention an explicit way to teach critical literacy. I actually mocked up a whole wikipedia-questioning assignment for my Eng. 710 portfolio, but ended up chucking it when all was said and done. Perhaps there is more value in something like that than I previously thought….

  3. To your larger point about technology, I agree that- for our students benefit- there should be some push back from us on allowing them free reign to use it. In my 114 class i would routinely have students using information pulled from forum postings, wikipedia, or thinly veiled misinformation web pages.
    I think, until we can get our hands around how to best teach students to tell good from bad on the internet, it will benefit every one involved if we make them pursue the more inconvienent route of actually going to the campus library to research.

  4. I’m sure you’ve probably seen this before, but if not it’s worth a read:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/6868/

    I heard an interview with him on NPR and I remember him saying that the danger with things like wikipedia isn’t that you get bad information, but rather that it gives you just enough information to lead you to believe that you are better informed about a subject than you actually are. I find wikipedia to be quite accurate and generally well-balanced considering its crowd-sourced nature.

    That being said, I definitely use it as a jumping-off point with my students. If they’re having trouble writing I tell them to surf wikipedia and see if any thing inspires them. They’re still required to use “academic” sources in their final essay.

  5. I have read the Atlantic article (a good one, for sure), and I think helping students to understand the differences between finding information and digging deeper to connect that information to prior knowledge and/or a relevant context is key. I’m not against technology being used in the classroom; I guess I’m just critical of HOW it might be used. Take Powerpoint presentations, for example. The other week, Amber and I talked about good uses of Powerpoint, in which students receive copies of each presentation so that they are not sitting with their heads down for the duration of the class, taking notes. So it turns out Powerpoint isn’t necessarily a bad teaching tool, even though I’ve had few positive experiences with it.

    There’s a big emphasis on using technology at community colleges, too, but no real guidelines on how to balance tech with experiential/collaborative/student-centered instruction. Technology is not inherently good in all situations and contexts. I guess what I’m getting at here is that balance is essential in any classroom.

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