Friday, February 5, 2010

Best Climate Video Ever

Someone needs to give this guy an Oscar. Or a Nobel.

Wish I could teach as well as this. I probably should have taken more drama. Just awesome work. Lively, but intellectually rigorous.

It also underscores the huge benefits of educators accessing and fully employing or even creating viral media. Here's a superbly crafted lesson available for free on the Internet. How could you not use this?

My stodgier colleagues (not just at Unity College) who look with disdain upon my blogging and viral video activities won't notice, since they don't read my blog (or anyone elses), but the educational world has changed mightily the last decade and a half that we've had the Internet widely available and piped into the classroom.

Of course, this won't end the debate between Internet skeptics and Internet advocates in education. But it's becoming increasingly moot.

The argument between users of viral educational media and non-users used to turn on quality. You used to hear things like, "students shouldn't use Wikipedia to access knowledge because Wikipedia isn't reliable" or "I don't have the time to keep up with so much stuff that's of such low quality, so I stick to print journals."

Most of this was, I often felt, at least at times an excuse for cleaving to old comfortable work habits, for not having to stretch oneself into new media, for wanting to have another coffee break rather than keeping up with one's field. And off course, folks are still saying this kind of thing even though Wikipedia has improved massively and continues to improve, and even though most of the best print journals are now on-line and some of the must useful secondary and tertiary literature media (by which we can quickly survey the print journals and keep up with the research and applied news) are now blogs and online newsletters and the like.

And so faculty would, for instance, ban Wikipedia or blogs or even web pages from research papers. The students, of course, would then pretend they didn't use Wikipedia or blogs or web pages for basic research, hiding the fact that they found the required primary printed papers by studying the links at the bottom of the relevant wikipage!

This is sort of like Mike Mullen's obviously heart-felt statement on gays in the military -- the policy makes people dishonest, and obviously so, so we should suspect it on those grounds alone.

Intellectual integrity was and is the point all along. Just because the media we use come from today's marketplace of ideas (and not yesterday's), doesn't mean to say it's definitely of low quality. And how are we to teach critical thinking and good judgment of authority in research if we ignore what's on the Internet?

News flash! Eventually everything will be on the Internet! Almost everything is now!

Students need to be able to properly judge the quality of information wherever it appears. If we tell them from the get go that information on the Internet is routinely suspect and other information is not, the message they will get is Internet bad, books and journals good.

The real message should be, all information is routinely suspect, and you, the student/academic/citizen, the user of information, have to figure out from first principles what is and isn't good information.

Luckily, the new generations of students are in many ways more skeptical than us fogies. They grew up with the Internet.

They certainly will see us coming, especially when we come at them with the same mimeographed handouts we've used for thirty years!

Ban the Internet from student research?

I'd like to ban thirty-year old hand-outs.

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