Monday, October 04, 2004

Let Us Entertain You

An excerpt from Mark Edmunson's book Why Read? on how students have changed because of computers. Interesting read.


At 10:26 PM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

Yup. I need to take some time thinking this one through. I'll post later, but thanks for putting this up.

At 10:20 AM, Blogger Rosa G. said...

I read the article yesterday. I've experienced other forms of entertainment culture within the classroom, like being gazed at as though I were a television set. Is it that bad, though? Most of my classes don't respond to me like spectators--they contribute, and my evaluations don't take the tone of a review. But I'm at a different institution than Edmunson, teaching BW.
I don't think the internet has made students gatherers of information who can't analyze a poem. They can. We live in a culture that is changing, though, and I think that we have to adapt our expectations to meet reality. I don't mean we have to quit teaching close (and closed?) readings of literature. But we do have to admit that whether our students own PC's or not, they have grown up with so much more being thrown at them. Edmunson admits that, and my purpose here is not to argue that point.

At 1:53 PM, Blogger clc said...

In the current university environment, I saw, there was only one form of knowledge that was generally acceptable. And that was knowledge that allowed you to keep your cool. I think this point of Edmundson's is probably more applicable to university students than to community college students, which is why I wanted to teach in one. I see many students who are still able and unembarrassed to get excited by learning, to crave it and openly show their enthusiasm.

Having said that, I agree with much of what he says about consumer culture and some of what he says about computers, but I just can't go as far in deriding the Internet for its effects on students. Is the Internet hijacking humanities instruction in the way he is suggesting? The way we teach these subjects has changed perhaps, with historical and cultural contexts being emphasized more than New Critical-type readings, but is that the result of the Internet?

An interesting piece, though, I agree.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I agree with some of what he says and respectfully disagree with some as well. Only on rare occasions have I felt like I wasn't connecting with my students, and that may be because I do think on some level that I have a job to entertain them as I educate them. I've always believed that if you want to get students to come to class, you have to give them a reason to come. So in my class I am part comedian, part philosopher, part guide, part actor and part counselor. I don't necessarily see anything wrong with entertaining your students if it serves the higher purpose of educating them, because those concepts are not mutually exclusive. I know personally that I am a creative person who uses that to my advantage in the classroom, and my students are certain of only one thing with me, that they are not certain what I am going to pull out of my bag of tricks on any given day, which keeps them interested at least to the point where they want to come to class to see what I am going to do. And once I have them there, then the rest is easy.

I fought technology in my classrooms for a long time, and was repelled by the idea that computers could be a learning tool, but I have gone completely 180 over the last five or so years and now I embrace the technology and use it to my advantage. For example, I now have my students keep public blogs instead of journals, where they go every week and make entries and visit each other's blogs and leave comments for each other. I think it is a cop out to complain about students because they are different than the way students used to be. Part of the challenge of teaching is adapting to the socially constructed people that enter our classrooms, and you have to at least meet them half way. If they are into pop culture and the cult of celebrity and the Internet, then by god use all of that as a tool in service of the greater goal, don't resist it.

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