Youth don't guarantee Geek

I just read a wonderful June post by somebody (Joey Curmudgeon?) describing himself as a "cog in a complex and deeply flawed machine." It asked good questions about the assumption that curriculum could be made more attractive if offered within (or disguised as) a social networking tool.

Actually, quoting Goerke and Oliver, he frames the assumption this way: " that students who 'equip themselves with convergent and mobile devices, and are heavy users of Web 2.0 social software … can be persuaded to use both not only to socialise, but to enhance their learning experiences in higher education.'”

One of the questions the author asks is, "Are we butting into our learner's social space?" I imagine this is much like the math teacher arriving at a pick-up game of softball in hopes of engaging kids in a reflective discussion of lines, shapes and angles. Here's a closing paragraph:

We keep saying that we want our students to construct their own learning experiences, but we don’t quite seem to trust them to do it ‘properly’. We may be micromanaging their learning until they can’t breathe. If we take a step back and provide them with high quality materials that they can use for constructing learning in their own way, chances are that they will be drawn to them like ants to a picnic.

I'll leave you to read all of Big Joe's interesting take on this web 2, spoonful-of-sugar approach. It made me mindful of a conversation we had here at work about connecting with learners on Facebook. What's appropriate? What's helpful?

I also found myself wondering about the related assumption that "young people", being heavy consumers of certain kinds of electronics and their e-content, are thereby apt to be e-learners of any sort.

I don't know if the onset of the hand held transistor radio brought with it a larger awareness of place, politics and culture. I'm certain boom-boxes added nothing to society's quota of learners and learning. Television ought to have been a boon to educators. Sometimes it is, I guess. In my class, we watch NASA TV, clips from PBS Nova, and Historica Minutes as the occasion arises. But what am I to make of the Discovery Channel and the learners who come into class to talk, in the vaguest of terms, about 2012, crystal skulls and the approaching end of the world (caused by our "lining up with the sun" - what can that even mean!)?

A few weeks back, I watched a youth click on Firefox from an XP desktop. Impatient with its load speed, he clicked again. And again. He clicked 12 times in all. Then he announced, with disappointed disgust, "This thing doesn't even work." He left. The computer clicked and buzzed. Firefox opened in 12 different windows. I closed them all, feeling pessimistic.

I guess my point is, being a younger computer user doesn't make one computer- or internet-savvy. Youth can't guarantee geek. Lots of young people are wildly ineffective users of computers and cellphones and Wikipedia.

Again, being a Facebook user, even a daily Facebook user, doesn't necessarily make me a contributor or a learner or even social. Maybe I'm "constructing learning" in my own way. Maybe I'm just watching Facebook instead of CBS or Fox.

Consumption is passive, and passive-learning, while legitimate, isn't enough. Being online isn't enough. Being young and online isn't enough. Learning is something we do, they do, everyone does - or not.

Big Joe Curmudgeon can be interesting (see especially the chisel post), but it's still up to me to be interested, and to then choose to do something with the new things I've found.

* p.s., I stole the slightly Yahoo-looking image off of some site. Maybe yours? Anyway....

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