Mike Wesch: From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able

Mike Wesch gave a nice talk yesterday, at Educause’s ELI 09 meeting, titled “From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able: Experiments in New Media Literacy“, a conference on the state of education and the Web 2.0 revolution, which compels some serious questions on our common assumptions on education.

First of which, he stated, are the following:

  • To learn is to acquire information
  • Information is scarce
  • Trust authority for good information
  • Authorized information is beyond question
  • Obey authority
  • Follow along

Indeed almost all education efforts, both “traditional” and online, are based on these assumptions, which, on the other hand, are based on the concept that some “content” must be transmitted and “delivered“, of course by some established authority, the Teacher!

In fact, Mike asked at a certain point: “Is content really important?” Before answering he added that the question is important, not the answer!

He talked about a “Back to Basics” movement in opposition to the recent “New Media Literacy” school of thought, and the reply the latter brings about. Check The Washington Post’s article “The Latest Doomed Pedagogical Fad: 21st-Century Skills“.

Thus, Wesch suggests the important thing is asking good questions. In fact he says, To learn is to create meaningful connections. Then, one should ask: How to create students who can create meaningful connections? Mike experimented with certain success and finds that students must be engaged in solving real problems, and I’d add, by using the very tools (and methods) being used by professionals. And they should use (and consequently master) ALL media, not only New Media (which is very important) but also BOOKS!

So, why the revolution will most likely succeed this time? He suggests it is because:

  • its urgency is not grounded in a single political issue;
  • tools are mostly free;
  • it’s implemented in diverse bits and pieces;
  • it’s driven by a “Rethinking the Basics” philosophy, not simply a “Back to Basics” principle.

Which brings us to his final remark: “What is education for?”

Great talk, Mike! Also, great opportunity for us to talk to him and invite Mike to Puerto Rico! So, I’ happy to say he will be with us sometime very soon, as we’ll announce, in an activity aimed at reflecting on science study.

It’s indeed a great moment.

About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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