Brave New Classroom 2.0

Brave New Classroom 2.0, hosted by Britannica blog, explores how technology is transforming education. Or failing to do so.

It kicks off with Kansas State anthropologist Michael Wesch’s Vision of Students Today.

Texting, web-surfing, and iPods are just new versions of passing notes in class, reading novels under the desk, and surreptitiously listening to Walkmans. They are not the problem.

. . . They tell us, first of all, that despite appearances, our classrooms have been fundamentally changed. There is literally something in the air, and it is nothing less than the digital artifacts of over one billion people and computers networked together collectively producing over 2,000 gigabytes of new information per second. While most of our classrooms were built under the assumption that information is scarce and hard to find, nearly the entire body of human knowledge now flows through and around these rooms in one form or another, ready to be accessed by laptops, cellphones, and iPods. Classrooms built to re-enforce the top-down authoritative knowledge of the teacher are now enveloped by a cloud of ubiquitous digital information where knowledge is made, not found, and authority is continuously negotiated through discussion and participation.

Too cheery? Read Mark Bauerlein’s Turned On, Plugged In, Online & Dumb.

Students who receive regular computer instruction don’t do any better than other students, Bauerlein writes. A 2004 University of Munich study of the U.S. and other countries found “computer availability at home shows a strong statistically negative relationship to math and reading performance, and computer availability at school is unrelated to performance.” Free laptops? Student learning doesn’t improve.

Young people have lots of opportunities to educate and inform themselves, he writes.

Furthermore, the number of cultural institutions in our country has grown, with more public libraries, museums, galleries, historical sites, and after-school arts programs.  CNN and Fox News play on screens in airports, restaurants, malls, gyms and lobbies.  And, of course, the Internet provides instant access to facts, dates, art works, old books and magazines, daily newspapers around the world, Wikipedia.

. . . No generation has experienced so many techno-enhancements and produced so little intellectual progress.

Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University, is the author of The Dumbest Generation.

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