Monday, October 29, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

The video study above is number two on the Viral Video Charts today. And while this vision of students today is focused on a limited sample of younger university students, it raises some good questions for educators in all sectors to consider. I wonder, however, how different the video would be if you added in the wide array of adult students and part-time students that are swirling in education these days. The kinds of students in this profile account for less than 20 percent of the credit-bearing higher education students nationally. Would there be differences in the stories students would tell in large state schools, private liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and online universities? Would there be differences based on student diversity--e.g., ethnicity, age, work status, family income, access to technology?

My guess is that all too often even broader and more diverse student groups would experience an education system that feels like an industrial factory model, operating on an agrarian calendar, trying to meet the needs of the information age. However, I would also bet that they would tell stories of faculty and staff members who reach beyond their cumbersome systems to engage, challenge, and inspire students. Which brings us back to our earlier discussions about working to build a more modern and sustainable learning infrastructure; challenging ourselves to learn something new and engage our students using both tried and true methods, as well as some new and novel--as long as we know they improve learning; and then challenging students to take personal responsibility for their learning and develop visions worth working toward.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ready for the Information R/Evolution?

This is a compelling video from Michael Welsh at Kansas State University. It has interesting implications for how we construct, connect, and convey information, as well as for how we prepare students for a ubiquitously linked Web 2.0 world vs. a fixed-media, stored-information world. Moreover, there are serious implications here for how we teach information literacy, critical thinking, and decision making in the context of this r/evolution. Learning outcomes, learning theory, and learning technology all come into play as we tackle this challenge. But the key question may be not wether are our students ready for this change . . . but are we?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Visions Worth Working Toward

I’m reflecting this morning on my recent trip to Tampa. I had the pleasure of keynoting the International Research Conference on Service Learning and Community Engagement thanks to a kind invitation from one of Florida’s champions of service learning, Dee Dee Rasmussen. During the event, key leaders from K-12, Community Colleges, and Universities from across the country and around the world were deep in dialogue about their strategies for connecting with a new generation of students. During the keynote, we talked a good deal about how to leverage technology in connecting with these students, and further about how to engage them in service-learning opportunities to help us all keep up with technology. Their service as student technology assistants for those on the wrong side of the digital divide—not to mention working with us to help us keep up—might be essential if we truly want a more sustainable learning system on the fast-changing road ahead.

After the conference, David Grossman, Director of the Civic House at University of Pennsylvania, sent me a note making the connection between Thomas Friedman’s recent article on Generation Q and our dialogue at the conference. For those of you who can’t access the premium content of the NY Times, the essence of the article is the argument that this new generation of learners is indeed a caring, connected, and concerned cohort. It is a group that is socially aware, and interested. However, in Friedman’s mind, they are far too passive, too quiet (thus Generation Q). He continues:

. . . (this generation) may be too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country’s own good . . . Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall. Virtual politics is just that — virtual.

This exchange reminded me of an article I wrote some years ago for Steven Gilbert of the TLT Group—one of my favorite thinkers in this space. He was looking for “visions worth working toward.” The premise was that we need compelling visions of the future to spark our use of technology, transformations of education, and directions in major policy work. Without something that strikes our imagination and calls us to action, we are too often stuck in the admiring “that’s interesting” repose, rather than striving, learning, and growing as needed. In response to his query, I took Ghandi’s famous seven deadly sins and turned them to a more positive positioning to frame just such a compelling vision. Here it is:

A Vision of what can save the world:
Knowledge with character;
Business with morality;
Science with humanity;
Politics with principle;
Pleasure with conscience;
Wealth from work;
and Worship with sacrifice.

-paraphrased from Mahatma Ghandi

A good argument can be made that Generation Q is sitting tinder ready for a spark of motivation, direction, or passion. We may need to challenge ourselves to engage them early and often to see if we can ignite their interest and help them move from passionate point-and-click socialites to positive change-and-progress drivers. It just might be the best service we can provide for their learning—helping them develop a vision worth working toward.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Playing the Game: Working Together to Advance the Creative Economy

Are you playing? In the creative economy that is. More and more, state by state, nation by nation, the conversation is turning to the importance of education and the creative economy. We’ve talked about it at length in this blog, and others are buzzing and building around the same topic nationally and internationally.

Most recently, I had the chance to speak to the California Community College Statewide Economic Development Advisory Committee on new generations of learning. The most interesting part of the engagement was seeing the laser focus on their role in the creative economy. For example, we had a fascinating presentation by the folks leading the Multimedia and Entertainment Initiative for the state. It’s an inspiring community of practice, bringing together programs to advance the creative economy, inspire creative program development within education, and build a strong network of interested and inspiring institutions taking on this work.

Having worked with educators across K-12, community colleges, and universities interested in both reaching and teaching with creative economy strategies, this is the kind of community of practice that will drive change. I often encourage educators to read Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever and begin to expand their use of creative outreach and engagement of students. But one of the most common refrains is: who is doing this work? Where can I find models? Check out the California MEI work at to learn more, join forces, and start to play. Let’s see what we can create together.