I’ve been waiting to get my hands on David Weinberger’s latest book Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, but unfortunately it arrived from Amazon the afternoon I left for my four day trip to Illinois. (Btw, anyone see where I was yesterday???) Being the impatient type that I am, I picked up a copy in a bookstore yesterday, and while I haven’t gotten too far into it, I’m glad I did. (Plane ride home tonight…)
Anyway, I know it’s cheating, and on some level ironic, but the first thing I did was check out the decidedly un-miscellaneous index to see what he had written about education. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the answer was not much. And I have no doubt that as I read through this, there will be all sorts of connections to our own issues and struggles with the changing structure of knowledge and information. But anyway, here’s a taste.
At one point, Weinberger discusses “Social Knowers,” and he describes the typical Massachusetts classroom at the end of the year where students are taking standardized tests.
The implicit lesson is unmistakable: Knowing is something done by individuals. It is something that happens inside of your brain. The mark of knowing is being able to fill in a paper with the right answers. Knowledge could not get any less social. In fact, in those circumstances when knowledge is social we call it cheating.
Nor could the disconnect get much wider between the official state view of education and how our children are learning. In most American households, the computer on which students do their homework is likely to be connected to the Net. Even if their teachers let them use only approved sources on the Web, chances are good that any particular student, including your son or daughter, has four or five instant messaging sessions open as he or she does homework. They have their friends with them as they learn…
One thing is for sure: When our kids become teachers, they’re not going to be administering tests to students sitting in a neat grid of separated desks with the shades down.
I hope he’s right…
One last observation. Yesterday in a workshop with some independent school teachers, we were talking about IM, and someone said that she had a student tell her that IM is where the drama in her life plays out. It struck me how powerful that tool can be and how different that is even for me.
Anyway, more on the book as I plow through it…
Technorati Tags: davidweinberger, knowledge, learning
Bryan Alexander says
Heh – I had exactly the same thing happen, with the book arriving the day I left for a series of talk and workshops.
One reviewer noted that the book is dedicated to librarians. I wonder if that shapes the entire approach, with a specific way of getting at teaching.
Sylvia Martinez says
I don’t know if these tools will change the way kids will look at schools when they grow up and become the ones in charge. The concept of “school” is a powerful meme in our society.
Mrs. Durff says
I can’t listen to your blog like I could before…is something amiss with the Talkr site?
Rob Paterson says
On the IM front Will – I am finding Twitter especially wonderful – I see that you have a Twitter acount but have not used it much. Twitterific for Apple or Twitteroo for Windows brings its value alive
All the best Rob
Ewan McIntosh says
He makes some connections with education in his speech at the Scottish Learning Festival last year. Video and transcript right here:
Gary Stager says
I too am about 1/2 through Weinberger’s book. I feel like I’ve heard it all before (ie… Wikipedia is amazing). However, conflating information access and learning is troublesome.
As for the quote from the young person you shared, I know it’s dramatic (see teenager), but what does it mean? Does it have an intellectual value?
I LOVE instant messaging because it’s a quick elegant cheap way to share digital resources. Chat seems LOTS less interesting or purposeful.
Were schools getting all excited about giving every child a telephone (or a street corner) because “that’s where the drama of live plays out?”
Gary Stager says
I meant to type, “drama of life,” in my above post.
Vicki Davis says
Unfortunately, much of what is being done in public schools is not because it is the right thing but it is because of the funding mechanism and a short term mentality.
Just as a short term “day trading” mentality in the stock market is a recipe for disaster — the “day trading” mentality in school systems causes administrators (and teachers) to sacrifice the long term well being of a student’s educational repertoire for the short term hope of a good test score for the school and teacher.
Funding is forcing this mentality and it is in places that are either already succeeding or where real visionaries lie that teachers are allowed to innovate and do the right thing.
I doubt this generation will advocate the bubbling of boxes but it may take this generation entering into the political scene to make it happen.
Gary Stager says
I don’t think that the next generation of teachers will rebel against standardized testing. Their teacher education programs are more vocational and conservative. They have no experience or knowledge of more humane sensible approaches.
Plus, the current generation is quite happy to deploy the Nuremberg Defense and do to children what they know to be destructive. How do you explain such compliance?
Will: learn to be patient. The book was there waiting for you. It would have been worth the wait.