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Friday, July 11, 2008

Resisting change

As I was looking for more information about Clay Shirky, I found his Here Comes Everybody blog. A post from April contains a 'lightly edited transcription' of a speech in which Shirky mentions the resistance of many in the media world to the new Web 2.0 world:
This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.
When I read that, I immediately thought about how similar that sounds to much of the conversations in the teaching and learning community about the move toward more student-centered learning. Like traditional media folks, many teachers don't really understand this new world because they have always seen teaching as a one-way street: we 'produce' and students 'consume'. But the new paradigm is to let students be part of the production, to have them create their own knowledge. Of course, any economist who has tried to incorporate any amount of 'active learning' into their classes knows that such activities are the things that students remember most (though whether they remember the concepts they were supposed to learn through the activity is a slightly different question!), so it doesn't really seem like that big a stretch to accept that the more involved students are, the more they are likely to learn. But giving up some control, even if you are still providing guidance for the experience, is more than a little scary. And even if you're willing to give it a try, figuring out how to guide a student's own search for knowledge instead of providing the knowledge directly is really hard. I'm finding ways to ease into it with my Economics for Teachers course but it seems especially hard to figure out what to do with my Principles of Micro course. Next week I'll be writing about some of the things I'm planning to do and I'd certainly love to hear your thoughts!

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