Michael Wesch on “The Digital Writing On The Wall”: Tech Task #2

13 01 2010

I was struck very powerfully by Michael Wesch‘s talk at the University of Regina this week.  Listening and engaging in the discussion of  our digital footprints and the expansion of the classroom beyond its four walls made me realize how deeply my own life is embedded in media and technology.

Here is a a link to a video recording of Dr. Wesch’s presentation: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/3929554

Some points that were very key for me:

• Wesch reflected on how the presence of media and technologies in the classroom change the landscape of teaching.  I got almost an eerie feeling when I realized that he is right, that there really is something in the air, that the digital footprints of millions of people are sort of floating around the room.  In this case does it really make any sense not to embrace the connectivity of the internet in classrooms?  He made a point that I also discussed a little bit in my last post; that teachers have a responsibility to help students gain a much deeper media literacy so they are able to navigate all of these vast and expanding media in positive ways.  It is no longer really a question of should I integrate more meaningful technologies into my everyday classroom practice?, but rather, how?

•  I believe his message about people’s awareness of what media really are in our lives is important.  Wesch stated that “media are not just tools, that they actually mediate and change our relationships”.  The use of number-driven statistics changed the way a small Indonesian community lived, built and organized their houses, and even mediated the names they used (for a census).  This fact really interested me:  Before introducing a new tool of record keeping through the census Wesch conducted in this Indonesian village, the names of the people in the village were not specific “names” as we would call them.  One person could be called brother, father, and son, because the naming system was descriptive of the relationships between people.  The “number talk” driven census created the necessity for people to essentially make up “names” as we know them.  The introduction of a new tool then actually changed (or could have) the weight of a person’s name, from being relational to individual.  I found this to be a perfect example of how media are not just tools, but can change the state of our living.

It is important for students to realize the effect media has on their lifestyle.  Not just with commercials, music videos, and video games, but communication tools like Facebook, instant messaging and texting.  The fact that you can “talk” to someone without making any sort of verbal or visual contact with them has huge implications on the relationships we have.  Boundaries between people change.  Even the word “friend” does not necessarily have the same meaning that it did twenty years ago.

•  Taking students “from knowledgeable to knowledgeable” reminds me of a quote I love by Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”  No one could probably emphasize this enough.  Without helping students to realize that all knowledge is constructed and that they absolutely must be active constructors of that knowledge in order to understand it, they are being filled with knowledge, rather than becoming a part of it.  I really think using a variety of technologies in classrooms is a valuable way to connect children to and involve them in the construction of knowledge and relationships.  Obviously it is important that they learn to evaluate the information they find on the internet and in various forms of media, and start to think critically about how they will respond to it.

This dynamic lecture was a wonderful start to my explorations into technology and classrooms through this class.  It has begun a process of “rethinking” for me, and I’m sure for many others as well.




3 responses

19 01 2010
Mark McGuire

Hi Morgan
Good summary and discussion. Do you have a link to an online record of Michael’s talk, or a link to his website or other related sites? Your readers need a bit of an introduction, context, and a link or two (unless they heard the same talk). Remember, you are talking to the world now.

Happy blogging.

Mark mcGuire

19 01 2010

Hi Mark
Thanks very much for the comment and the advice! I am still getting used to the idea that other people might actually read my words! I will add some links in a new post so all can see. Here is a link to a video recording of Dr. Wesch’s presentation: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/3929554

Thanks again have a great day


16 01 2010

Hi Morgan,

I totally agree with you when you said technology affects our relationships. When we talk to people without even seeing their faces, how can we still have that bound that true feeling of trust when you cannot even see who you are really talking to. I feel students these days are so caught up in what is new and popular that do not realize who there friends are anymore. If that makes sense, I am having trouble saying what I mean. I really feel that facebook and other tech tools are taking over verbal communication to a degree where we hardly talk anymore and its just not kids we all do it.


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