Saturday, September 3, 2011

Are We Putting All Our Lessons in One Basket?

     Two tweets crossed paths this morning on my feed and inspired this post asking if we are failing students by not teaching them how to communicate in social media? Are we putting all our writing lessons in one basket?
     The first spark was a tweet from @willrich45 about Digital Outcasts. Will discusses Nishant Shaha's definition of  a digital outcast as ". . . not somebody who doesn’t have access to the technologies; s/he is somebody who, after the access has been granted, fails to actualise the transformative potentials of technologies for the self or for others." Will suggests that we need to teach students not only how to use media properly, but how to employ it in the service of others. Really interesting point and as I was chewing on the implications of where Will's post was leading me, a tweet came into my feed from @DanielPink about how Columbia Business School is asking for 200-character admission essays. Here is an excerpt from the post:
Earlier this summer the University of Iowa's Tippie School of Management made headlines by ditching the traditional essay in favor of allowing would-be students to use Twitter to write a 140-character application. Now Columbia Business School is following suit by asking applicants, "What is your post-M.B.A. professional goal?" and limiting responses to just 200-characters—not words, characters.
     Good grief! A 200-character or less response to what is your goal? Of course the response would have to be incredibly focused and fresh to get the attention of the admissions committee. A great challenge but are our students up for it? 
     Daniel Pink's tweet reminded me of one of my least favorite doctoral classes. It was a required technology class and we had weekly assignments where the professor would post a question on one of the assigned readings and we needed to respond in a blog in 25 words or less. Not bad, right? Well the kicker was that your response had to be completely original. You could not repeat the thoughts of any previous poster. Of course, I would  sit impatiently by my computer near posting time so as to try and get my post in first, for the more time (and the more posts submitted) that went by, the more difficult it was to respond in 25 words or less with an original response. At the time, I cursed that class and that professor, but now I think he was genius. I read those weekly readings very carefully in light of how I might be required to respond any one of them. I tried to anticipate how others might respond. The professor's point was that it was not all about how you responded to the reading but understanding how others felt too, and by incorporating those communal thoughts,  perhaps you might change your perspective and respond with a fresh perspective.He required rapid, clear, and concise responses. It was great training for current communication practices.
     So, what do you think? Are we missing the boat in putting all our eggs in the basket of long essays and literary analysis? Should we be teaching our students how to properly provide a critical response to a blog, how to properly tweet, how to truly listen (read) to other responses and respond back in a thoughtful and concise manner? Wouldn't our students benefit from a laser like focus on their analysis and writing? And more importantly, why are we not taking the next step and teaching our students how to use these technologies to change the world for the better? 

     Let me know what you think   . . in 140 characters or less. :)

1 comment:

  1. It needn't be either-or, but short, sharp focused analysis and expression seems more valuable in real life.(and I have characters left over)