This TED Talk by Liz Coleman (President, Bennington College) is certainly thought-provoking in an age when general knowledge and liberal arts are sacrificed to ever more intellectual specialization and technical expertise. Coleman’s use of the oral and printed word is a striking contrast to the visual imagery of most TED Talks. What roles — old and new — can be played by the evolving media technologies to enhance the liberal arts? I have a few ideas which were developed in my new text anthology, Media Environments. I would like to hear what other professors are doing to use media technology to advance liberal arts thinking in the classroom and in student minds.
Having recently edited a text anthology that combines theory with films, I am naturally very interested in the future of the textbook. I came across this TED Talk (Richard Baranuik, Rice University) and wonder about the pros and cons of this theory of textbook distribution using screens and links. Is digital and online music the way to model the textbook industry? Though there are surely benefits to the “knowledge ecosystem” and global access, I suspect there is something naive about this application. Will it produce the learning “machines” (his term) or a hive mind? This assumes that the education and knowledge issue is merely one of access and distribution, but seems to ignore the effect of the screen, links, network, and hive mind on comprehension, cohesion, and, especially, critical thinking. When one looks at reading trends in America, it seems less that books that need to be remade, but rather that reading needs to be restored.
Alan November is recognized internationally as a leader in education technology. He began his career as an oceanography teacher and dorm counselor at an island reform school for boys in Boston Harbor. He has been a director of an alternative high school, computer coordinator, technology consultant, and university lecturer. As practitioner, designer, and author, Alan has guided schools, government organizations and industry leaders as they plan to improve quality with technology.
A fifteen minute presentation format is a very short time to try to build a case for a big idea. Alan November’s Ted Talk is about how the current culture of school typically underestimates the contribution that many students would make to solve real problems and to make a contribution to help classmates learn.