The Web is the Message #change11

In class today I proposed a re-working of Mount Rushmore. Essentially, I suggested blasting Washington, Jefferson, and Roosevelt (with permission of course, and we’ll keep Lincoln for now) and replacing them with Emily Dickinson, Miles Davis, and Marshall McLuhan.

I know McLuhan is Canadian, but America could use a little more Canada. And, anyway, Washington and Jefferson owned slaves, so they aren’t really American if you believe that “America” stands for the self-evident truths outlined in The Declaration of Independence. I realize I’m establishing an impossible litmus test, since Lincoln was no champion of true equality, but if I contradict myself, then, well, I contradict myself. The multitudes, and so on.

My point is not to blast dead presidents, but to suggest that Marshall McLuhan’s head will continue to swell as we speed toward some kind of media singularity. We will soon say Darwin and Marx and Freud and McLuhan and we will have our icon cartoons of intellectualism all lined up to explain how we left traditionalism behind and became modern humans, whatever that may mean.

I can’t stop thinking about something I read in Understanding Media last night:

If the student of media will but meditate on the power of this medium of electric light to transform every structure of time and space and work and society that it penetrates or contacts, he will have the key to the form of the power that is in all media to reshape any lives that they touch.

On one level, this is an obvious observation. Yes, Marshall, we know that the invention of electricity is a big deal. We turn on the lights, the television, the stove. So what? And sometimes he is accused of poeticizing the obvious. (Not that anything is wrong with that.)

In fact, this is where the true power of McLuhan’s thinking lies. His work is a wake-up call. We do not realize the extent to which mediums like electricity, television, print, and (though before his time), the internet create the structures, agendas, and outcomes for our perceptions of reality. All phenomenological experiences arise from an ecology of media, like mushrooms popping up from the forest floor.

It would be odd indeed to hear those mushrooms say, “Dead wood doesn’t affect me much.”

“Electricity is the reason we are gathered here today,” says the preacher at the wedding of space and time. If there are gods, those gods are current, circuit, data, and an endless field of waves.

This is why, according to McLuhan, the Odyssey could not be written today. The Odyssey was a product of an oral culture. Write it down and you have a different poem. Put it online and you have a different poem.

This is also why, according to the living ghost of McLuhan, if you convert a traditional course into an online course, you have a different course. In fact, your traditional course is already a different course because of electricity and television and the internet.

For example, “reading” now means “skimming.” “Research” now means “surfing.” “Thinking” now means “retrieving data.” “Learning” now means……What in the Hell does learning mean? Connectivism? Collaborating? Googling? Traditional ideas are breaking down faster than suitable replacements can be conceived. This is a central point made by contemporary McLuhan-ite Clay Shirky in his book Here Comes Everybody (a reference to Finnegans Wake, a book central to McLuhan’s thinking.)

Here is main point: point main is Here.

We are traveling forward looking in the rear-view mirror.  Early television televised radio. Early online courses (the period we are in right now) put traditional courses online. Some day we’ll realize we’ve shifted mediums. It seems obvious, but bears endless repeating: we are online now. When will we actually realize it? More importantly, when we will really actualize it?

Student Senate Amends Attendance Policy #change11

The Student Senate hereby amends college attendance policy:

1) No more classes before 11:00 AM. The biological clocks of 18-23-year-olds is not suitable for morning classes. Also, holding class at these times violates the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment against crude and unuseful punishment. Additionally, the student council has ruled in favor of former Red Sox pitcher Samuel Clemens’ awesome idea that schooling should never interfere with education.

2) Classes between the hours of 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM are now banned. Given that extracirricular learning activities are notorious for causing dehydration and the munchies, and frequently require greasy foods to reinforce the previous night’s lessons, the latter/former (?) mentioned hours remain off limits, and will now be sponsored by Doritos and referred to as “Crunch Time” with the slogan, “We’re Chipping Away at Education!”

3) Classes shall not be held between the hours 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM because this is when we get sleepy from the chips and such. We think can’t w/out sleeping.

4) No more classes between 5:00 PM and 9:00 PM. This is our prep time for extracurricular learning. 🙂

5) We hereby stipulate that all educational transactions shall occur 1 hour before the due date of an assignment. During this time you will answer our emails/texts/tweets and summarize the last two weeks of your course without making that face because (Please see #1) this is not a good time for us!

Marshall McLuhan Says: Teach the Problem, not the Answer

Five Syllogisms on Online Learning #change11

1. Student learning should be the priority of educators.
2. Online courses are environments created for student learning.
3. More online courses are created each year by educational institutions.
4. Student learning in online environments should be one priority of educators.

1. Learning can occur in any environment.
2. Learning can occur in online courses.
3. The environment has an effect on learning.
4. The environment in online courses is different than in traditional courses.
5. Educators must focus on environmental differences between online and traditional courses in order to make learning possible in online courses.

1. The medium is the message.
2. The medium of online learning is different than in traditional courses.
3. The message of online courses is different than in traditional courses.
4. Online courses are different than traditional courses.
5. Traditional courses cannot be uploaded into online courses without everything changing.
6. The best approach is to design courses specifically for the medium of online learning.
7. Educators must become designers.

1. Learning can happen anywhere.
2. A student enrolled in a traditional course could, for example, learn more at home, in office hours, in discussion outside of class, researching a project in his own, or while sleeping in or outside of class.
3. In-class seat time is not required for learning.
4. In-class seat is often required for credit.
5. In-class seat time might be required for some students to learn.
6. Some students are some students, not all students.

1. Some traditional, large lecture courses have little or no interaction between students and instructors.
2. Students attending the lecture are essentially watching a large video screen.
3. Students cannot pause or rewind the instructor.
4. Online or web blended versions of that exact same course will foster more learning on average.
5. If online courses can foster as much or more learning than a traditional, large lecture course with little of no interaction between students and instructors, their value is unquestionable.
6. I’m not sure the bar has been set high enough in this instance.

5000 Years of Poetry in 30 Minutes or Less