Oddly enough, I had to get this Kansas topic from a friend in Australia. Yvonne (her blog is here) emailed me about a great YouTube video exposing the archaic methods of education being used all over the world, and the way that young, internet-savvy students feel about that, which is mainly annoyed. I would paste the video in, but as I have said before, this WordPress theme is broken and won’t work with the YouTube code. You can find the video here. Please watch it now. It is much more powerful than my words. And that is part of the point.
These students, who happen to be from Kansas State University, make an excellent point. I think they do a good job of saying what students elsewhere would also say. Although college was a long time ago for me, I still remember it well. It was drudgery, mainly, sort of a continuation of high school, only with beer. Since then, technology has come a long way. But you would not know it by visiting the classrooms in the university of your choice. We are still stuck in a room, listening at the same speed that we did in the Middle Ages, usually bored out of our trees.
It is probably at least marginally better for engineering students, where much of the work is more hands-on. There are certainly a few other areas which may be exceptions, but the vast majority of classes are taught exactly like they were a hundred or more years ago. The kids sitting in those classrooms are aware of better ways to learn. They utilize them every day in their personal lives.
They Google things and get back results that are new instead of years old. Sure, they get some crap back, but they are smart enough to tell what is crap and what is not. More importantly, they can find answers that actually pertain to their questions. Another way of saying that is that they can get useful information, rather than the generalized pap that fills most textbooks.
They collaborate using technology every day. If they could bring that collaborative spirit from their personal lives into their academic lives, both we and they would be light-years ahead. We need a new educational paradigm that incorporates the Web, hyperlinks, Wikipedia, You Tube, Google, Facebook, and all of the other modern tools that are at our disposal.
Why are we ignoring the technology that surrounds us, and which every one of these students already knows how to use? One answer is that too many of the professors are a couple of generations older and don’t understand the technology, or how it could be used to improve the learning experiences of their students. The same is true of the administrators.
My daughter is learning to be a music teacher. We have talked a fair amount about class content, but not too much about methodology. I have a feeling that when I ask about this topic, she will go off instantly and not stop talking for an hour and forty-eight minutes. She is not a geek, but like every other college student today she has a good grasp of the technology.
I had not been smart enough to think on my own of how frustrating it must be for students who grew up with the internet to have to learn the old-fashioned way. Putting myself in their place, I can feel myself wanting to jump up and down in irritation. I am a dinosaur, and I like a lot of the tried and true values. But I firmly believe that we can update and improve out lives without losing track of the basic values. With university class-work, we are missing this opportunity big-time.
I still want KU to beat K-State twice during this basketball season. ;o) At the same time, I really want to thank the students of Kansas State University for making this video.