May 10, 2021

Are We Impressed Because College Students Can Use Google Docs?

David Warlick is the latest person to go all “digital immigrant” and proclaim that we should all take a good hard look at the hugely popular YouTube video, “A Vision of Students Today.”

Fantastic. A college class with way too many students in it (200) attempts to revolutionize the educational system by whining in a 5 minute web video.

I’m sorry, but I’m unimpressed!

Perhaps a student should hold up a sign saying, “My professor is wasting my time and money by making me participate in a piece of exploitative propaganda in which I get to insult either my generation or the one before me just to get on YouTube.”

How did bashing our own profession become such a popular sport? What possible value could demeaning educators have in a professional development setting? Are we so desperate for moving pictures or are they a substitute for actual ideas?

Is showing these types of videos the conference speaker equivalent of the teacher running the filmstrip to eat up class time?

One valuable lesson you should learn at university is that the world is full of people smarter than you and wondrous things to learn. This video and the mindless kudos afforded it make just the opposite point. Hey kids, you have cellphones! You’ve played Halo and excerpted someone else’s blog which in summarized someone else’s blog which excerpted an article on a magazine web site. THEREFORE you are master of the universe and every educational institution should abandon scholarship and discipline and any text longer than a screen.

I’ve wanted to tell the Web 2.0pians the following for some time.

Observation is not insight.

Factoids are not knowledge

Talk (in this case, mime) is cheap.

6 thoughts on “Are We Impressed Because College Students Can Use Google Docs?

  1. Gary,
    Another of your posts that resonates with me. I agree with your view on the video. My main gripe is the fact I was swamped with videos like these during a conference here in NSW last October. Several presenters and workshop facilitators padded out their workshops with video segments that were meant to be life-changing. My views are expressed in full back at my blog. Cheers, John

  2. I think the points made in this video can be used in valuable and thought provoking ways to ask educators to reflect on their own practices and those of others. Unless you have been in a college classroom recently, are paying for your own children to study in one, or know others who are, you may not know or understand many of the points these students make in the video. I don’t view this video as exploitative of the students at all. Compared to many of the learning activities students engage in “traditionally” in schools, I think there is great value in both the activity of creating this video as well as sharing it with others.

    Gary, I often hear a great deal of anger in your posts. I’m certainly frustrated my much of what continues to pass for “education” in the schools where I work, both at the K-12 and the higher education level. But in some cases, I think you may be misdirecting your anger at people instead of at ideas or situations.

    As an example, the title of your post is “Are We Impressed Because College Students Can Use Google Docs?” That is not the message of Dr Wesch’s video at all. The video doesn’t say, “use Google Documents and everything will be wonderful about your learning.” I think the main point of the video is to criticize many of the traditional things people take for granted in college classrooms, and suggest that things need to CHANGE.

    John, I read your blog post and I agree that videos like theses are shown more frequently at edtech events. I think we do need to be exhorted to change our educational practices in thoughtful and constructive ways, but a problem I see is that much of this discussion seems limited to edtech circles. The lack of technology integration or use of any time at non-technology professional development meetings, and just “out” in rural schools in the midwest of the United States where I work is very eye opening. I think these messages DO need to be carried forward and shared, but not just in educational technology circles.

  3. Wesley,

    You managed to diagnose my mood (incorrectly), but did not explain how an audience of educators would benefit from watching the video in question.

    My children do not attend colleges such as the ones you speak of. 2/3 of my children attend colleges where small groups of students spend quality time with expert faculty who love teaching and spending time with young people. Their scholarship, in the grandest sense of that word, motivate young people to think, create and excel in personally meaningful ways.

    There are clearly choices in higher-education. Perhaps you should tell readers about them rather than indicting the entire system as “out-of-step.”

    I do not need to defend the time I spend working with children and teachers around the world. You know enough about my work and passion for creating substantive learning opportunities for kids.

    I’m sorry if I appear angry to you. My anger is reserved for people who believe that our educational challenges will be solved by the next new web app or YouTube video.

  4. Gary: As always I appreciate the opportunity to exchange ideas with you. I’m glad I mis-diagnosed your mood! There certainly are problems with sweeping generalizations, whether we are talking about K-12 or higher education contexts. Certainly I think your own children are blessed to not sit in lecture halls like the one depicted in this video. My sense is that the “lecture hall experience” is a common one for many students at our larger universities. I think the video’s critique of that context is valid. In terms of how this video could be used to get educators thinking, I have found that asking people to respond in pairs and then ask volunteers to share what was discussed is a good way to use videos like this one. One general point that emerges from these types of interchanges is a broad sense that “higher education needs to change.” I acknowledge that is a broad-brush response, but I think acknowledging a need for change is a requisite first step in implementing a meaningful agenda of change for learning, instruction, and teaching. (If people don’t acknowledge there is a problem, why should they change anything?) Your point that not ALL higher education professors and students are involved in learning scenarios like that depicted in this video is important to acknowledge and mention, however. I agree that highlighting the “islands of excellence” in higher education is often a more effective technique in promoting the cause of educational change than discounting poor instructional examples.

    I certainly don’t think any web apps or youtube videos are going to “save us” or serve as a panacea for the challenges which beset education, educators, parents, and our societies more generally. I do, however, continually look for ideas that can provoke and stimulate constructive thinking as well as dialog about educational change. I think this video can be used to serve that end.

    As with technologies more generally, I acknowledge that HOW this video is used is key in determining whether or not its use is constructive and valuable. Merely watching the video or showing the video to others isn’t automatically going to result in a positive outcome.

    If people at conferences are overwhelming audiences with these videos and not giving participants time to thoughtfully respond and process the ideas which they invite or suggest, then I think a valid case can be made that the videos are being misused. John may have been referring to that sort of scenario. I do know that presenters (and I would include myself in that group) are often looking for “new videos” to show others in presentations which are provocative in a professional way. Your challenge to consider whether the use of such videos constitutes time well spent in a very limited presentation session is a good one. I guess I need to do more thinking along these lines myself and with others to better understand when to use, whether to use, and how to use videos like this in professional development settings.

  5. Gary and Wes,
    Thank you for the reflection on my thoughts, both directly and indirectly.
    Videos such as the one that began the discussion need to be used in constructive situations with opportunities for debate.

    Wes, I appreciate your thoughts regarding the lack of IT integration in PD and the midwest USA. I work in a region where teachers are given laptops by the school yet, sadly, they are mainly used to check email and eBay listings, for example. There are staff that do integrate IT across many different disciplines but their numbers are few.
    Best wishes
    John

  6. You say, “How did bashing our own profession become such a popular sport? What possible value could demeaning educators have in a professional development setting?”

    Isn’t that what your post is doing?

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