Electronically composting education

Another brilliant video from Michael Wesch‘s Digital Ethnography program at Kansas State University. Makes one want to scrap the education system entirely.

You should definitely check out his other videos, The Machine is Us/ing Us and Information R/evolution. Wesch is brilliant at capitalizing on the medium to tell a story. These are truly zeitgeist movies.

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‘Climate porn’ and global ‘despair’

The study reported below examines how news coverage of climate change has an alarmist tone, arguing that this inhibits people from taking action. I wholeheartedly agree. One of my biggest complaints regarding media literacy practices is that they can be done with a fear-generating approach that leaves people disempowered because by the end of a workshop they will feel used and brainwashed. I’ve seen this happen many times and complained to one well-known media critic that his talks were making people feel helpless. He replied that it was a good thing to create an emotional response and it wasn’t his problem to help them find the solution. I believe this is the opposite approach that we should take with our critical thinking skills. Instead we should not only “deconstruct” but “reconstruct” as well. This is the difference between a design solution and one based simply on criticizing effects. I applaud Simon Retallack for taking the lead on this issue. You can hear an interview with him on Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Simon Retallack, who is just in from Britain for the International Forum on Globalization conference. What is “climate porn”?

SIMON RETALLACK: Good question. It’s a phrase that authors of a report that we commissioned in London came up with to describe the way in which some journalists, some environmentalists and even some politicians use alarmist language to talk about climate change, in a way that you might see headlined, certainly in British newspapers, saying almost “the end is nigh,” using biblical terms to describe the impacts of climate change. It’s a phrase that is certainly not used to undermine the science. It certainly doesn’t mean to do that. What it seeks to do is try to encourage people to think about what sort of language will be necessary to motivate the public to take action.

If we talk about climate change in a way that makes it appear that there’s nothing we can do anymore about it, that it’s too late, that it’s happening, it’s going to be devastating on a global scale, without giving people the option and making the solutions clear to act, then I think we’re going to turn people off. So it’s part of some research and a long-running project that we’re engaged with to try to find ways of simulating climate-friendly behavior amongst the public.

‘Climate porn’ blamed for global warming ‘despair’ | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics:

Government and media organisations were today accused of undermining efforts to tackle global warming by using alarmist language that amounts to “climate porn”.

The “apocalyptic” way in which climate change is often portrayed in the press and on government websites succeeds only in “thrilling” people while undermining practical efforts to tackle the problem, according to Labour’s favourite thinktank, the Institute for Public Policy Research.

It analysed reports of climate change in 600 articles, 90 television adverts and news clips, as well as websites run by government and green groups.

A report on the project, published today, found that the issue was discussed in wildly divergent ways, and it argued that this meant the message to the public on climate change was “confusing, contradictory and chaotic”.

It says that the most prevalent tone for the discussion was “alarmist” and this was not confined to the tabloid press. It even cited a video on climate change produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Articles cited included one in Dazed and Confused, which said “We’re heading for dodo status”, and a piece in the Financial Times, which said “Think of being a canoe drifting downstream, then recognising too late that you are about to go over a waterfall”.

The report said that such “sensationalism… serves to create a sense of distance from the issue”.

It argued: “Alarmism might even become secretly thrilling – effectively a form of ‘climate porn’ rather than a constructive message. All of this serves to undermine the ability of this discourse to bring about action.”

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Quotable: John Dewey’s My Pedagogic Creed

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John Dewey My Pedagogic Creed:

I believe that this educational process has two sides – one psychological and one sociological; and that neither can be subordinated to the other or neglected without evil results following. Of these two sides, the psychological is the basis. The child’s own instincts and powers furnish the material and give the starting point for all education. Save as the efforts of the educator connect with some activity which the child is carrying on of his own initiative independent of the educator, education becomes reduced to a pressure from without. It may, indeed, give certain external results but cannot truly be called educative. Without insight into the psychological structure and activities of the individual, the educative process will, therefore, be haphazard and arbitrary. If it chances to coincide with the child’s activity it will get a leverage; if it does not, it will result in friction, or disintegration, or arrest of the child nature.

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Comics: a novel approach in the classroom

Understanding-Comics-Panel
Panel from Understanding Comics
If it’s true that graphic novels are subversive, it’s probably why I love them so much. Scott McCloud‘s Understanding Comics makes a very convincing argument that graphic novels are indeed a high form of art. My absolute favorite is The Invisibles, but there’s too much drugs and sex to make it usable in a normal classroom setting. Still, I hope will read the series anyway.

Anyhow, I came across the following article that argues for graphic novels in the classroom. I wholeheartedly agree!

Reading Online – New Literacies::

Educators need not worry that graphic novels discourage text reading. Lavin (1998) even suggested that reading graphic novels may require more complex cognitive skills than the reading of text alone. Some English teachers use graphic novels to teach literary terms and techniques such as dialogue, and they use works like the Victorian murder novel The Mystery of Mary Rogers (Geary, 2001) as a bridge to other classics of that period. Graphic novels can also inspire writing assignments. For example, the human interest story Jack Cole and the Plastic Man (Spiegelman & Kidd, 2001) intersperses an essay on the short, tragic life of comic artist Jack Cole with examples of his artwork, photographs, and even reproductions of a Christmas card Cole sent. The collage that results captures biography in a new way. For a challenging classroom project, students could create graphic novels based on literary works or their own autobiographies.

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Quotable: John Taylor Gatto

One of my favorite education critics, John Tayor Gatto. From “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling”:

“School, as it was built, is an essential support system for a model of social engineering that condemns most people to be subordinate stones in a pyramid that narrows as it ascends to a terminal of control. School is an artifice that makes such a pyrimidical social order seem inevitable, even though such a premise is a fundamental betrayal of the American Revolution.” (p.13)

I also highly recommend:


“The Underground History of American Education” (John Taylor Gatto)

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Deconstructing schooling

From a new blog. Right on! Deconstruct away!

My Learning Space:

The ‘mass production line’ is a great analogy to describe the traditional school system. Students as the raw material and educators as the cogs in the machine working for a bureaucracy. For too long, many schools and universities have operated like this: farms and factories that produce clones of a pre-determined specification, fit for society.

It is refreshing to consider an educational system that is not bound by four walls. Learning can happen about anything, anywhere and anytime. On the same token, our learners must become the producers, not simply institutionalised consumers of knowledge. I believe, that we as educators, must facilitate opportunities for our learners to connect, communicate and collaborate to extend their cognitive potential, virtually speaking. Technology is the perfect catalyst to realise this potential.

Will we ever deconstruct the traditional role of schools and universities as physical entities, bound by systems, structures and controlling mechanisms?

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