|Photo from morguefile.com|
I particularly liked McKenzie's observations on facing an overabundance of information. How do we screen out "the garbage, know what is propaganda and what is distorted?" Sometimes just finding information on an issue or topic can leave one in a state of paralysis because it seems overwhelming and conflicting. Hence, one reason why so many medical professionals warn patients about information they find online about medical conditions! Some sites are filled with anecdotal experiences where authors make claims that this type of food or that type of medication cured their illness. It is human nature to sometimes jump on a bandwagon without demanding evidence that is based on good research while also considering other variables that can affect each situation differently.
In his discussion on building and testing models, McKenzie was predicting the power of the Internet to bring together scores of people to solve problems. In 2008, researchers created the game Foldit to help solve the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme. Within three weeks online gamers had found a good solution. Foldit is still being used, and a new game called EteRNA was developed. The use of games for solving real world problems is something Game Designer Jane McGonigal is passionate about. In her TEDTalk presentation, she discusses the deep focus and motivation that occurs when gamers are immersed in the game world. She believes there are ways to take the feelings generated in games and place them in gaming situations to help solve real world problems. Powerful online collaboration is occurring everyday with gamers, and she argues games can be created that can help solve real world issues so we are not predicting the future, but creating it. More information can be found at iftf.org.
When you consider what is happening with online gamers solving real world problems and McKenzie's conclusion that students "will join electronically with brothers and sisters around the globe to cast a spotlight on earth-threatening issues which deserve attention and action," you have to wonder if the guy had his own crystal ball.
Not only is McKenzie's future here, I would say it has surpassed his discussion. The need for students and educators to be active participants in the discussions and literate in digital technologies and media is more important than ever.