Saturday, November 23, 2013

Providers of Insight?

Marshall McLuhan
From Wikipedia
When considering Marshall McLuhan's 1959 lecture "Electronic Revolution: Revolutionary Effects of New Media," the notion of "fast-moving and flexible media" has indeed as much, if not more, significance in the 21st century. The evolution of technology in our society can be seen as both breathtaking and disconcerting. Inventor and Futurist Ray Kurzweil discusses the rapid advancement of technology which he argues will "blur the line between human and machine."

I think the role of "the teacher" in the learning environments of the 21st century is best illustrated when we consider McLuhan's observations about the electronic revolution of television: "The electronic revolution of television has made the teacher the provider no longer of information but of insight, and the student not the consumer but the co-teacher, since he has already amassed so much information outside the classroom."
A two key phrases in this statement are the teacher as "provider of insight" and the student as "not the consumer but the co-teacher." The opportunities that social media, Web 2.0 and the technologies we have available to us today can allow students not only to be the co-teacher, but also the creator. Yet, the insight that teachers can offer for students is critical. While technology can greatly enhance our learning environments, it is also necessary to help students become aware of the constructs of technology and software so they can think critically about how they participate and contribute as a digital citizen to the online world. According to media theorist and writer Douglas Rushkoff, we are essentially the product when we engage in social media. 

As students journey through a space that is constantly shifting and evolving, teachers need to be the "providers of insight" and help students to empower themselves to be creators and collaborators as opposed to simply being consumers...or the product. And teachers do not have to look far to find guidance and inspiration to see how students can be engaged and empowered on the Internet. While we sometimes focus more on the negative effects and outcomes of Internet usage, examples of the power of collaboration and communication on the Internet and how it can be used to promote awareness, share and build knowledge and create positive supportive communities is virtually endless. And so many of these examples are being spearheaded and created by young people. 

As teachers we need to ensure we do not lose our students' interest, as McLuhan warns, and even more importantly, not to lose our credibility with our students, since if we reject or gloss over the ubiquitous  presence of technology in their lives, the young, as McLuhan states, "can only include that we are not serious."

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