Saturday, September 20, 2008

Michael Wesch, Media Literacy, and Classroom Portals

Michael Wesch is a professor of digital ethnography who has learned both from his students and with his students. His videos -- A Vision of Students Today, The Machine is Us/ing Us, and Information R/evolution -- are well known.

Over the summer he did two major presentations, with overlapping content, summarizing his work with students and providing a good overview of the cultural history of YouTube and the role of digital media in learning. He rebuts the digital native/immigrant distinction, saying we're all natives now in this rapidly changing digital environment. He also confirms that while students have been exposed to a lot of media, it does not follow that they are media literate.

One was "An anthropological introduction to YouTube" given at the Library of Congress, June 23, 2008.

The other, "A Portal to Media Literacy" or "Michael Wesch on the Future of Education", was presented at the University of Manitoba on June 17, 2008. This is the one I recommend for teachers, as it was aimed at educators. Wesch has only been teaching for four years and the story of his own learning path is fascinating. (NB: it runs for about an hour, so get a glass of wine or a cappuccino in hand before you start.)

Wesch keeps asking, how can we create students who create meaningful connections? How do we create significance?

He offers this wonderful quote from Barbara Harrell Carson (1996, Thirty Years of Stories):
Students learn what they care about from people they care about and who, they know, care about them.
He discusses first finding a grand narrative to provide context and relevance (i.e., semantic meaning, or a big picture), then creating a learning environment that values and leverages the learners themselves (i.e., personal meaning) -- doing both in a way that realizes and leverages the existing media environment. He asks, how do we move students from being knowledgeable to being knowledge-able?

Wesch uses Netvibes to provide a platform for student participation: Mediated Cultures: Digital Ethnography at Kansas State University

On a much smaller scale, for much younger students, Keri-Lee and I are playing around with Pageflakes to create a portal for our primary school students. My plan is to make a separate Library tab on the page.

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