VOST2011: The Visions of Students Today

What do students in Higher Education see today? What do they “see” in the sense of, “What are their visions?” And, what do they literally see from the place in which they are expected to learn?

This is the question posed by Michael Wesch, professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. Wesch is well known for his work so far in gathering and analyzing the experiences and voices of higher-ed students in an internet age.

Watch some of the YouTube videos tagged VOST2011. For an educator in Higher Ed, the videos are rather hypnotic, occasionally disturbing, and often illuminating. Take the following as an example:

More upbeat, but not less analytical or thought-provoking, is this piece from a student at University of the Philippines:

In the professorial circles in which I run, I am probably among those more likely to identify with the students of VOST2011: besides being a “distance pedagogies guy” (in progress), I am after all a Gen-Xer, and until a subject matter grabbed me in my Masters work, felt continually disenchanted with and alienated from the structures of education, while still identifying strongly with other students as a peer group. At the same time, however, I am formed by an exceptionally traditional and modernist Ph.D. program, and believe as strongly in “disseminating data” as in facilitating constructivist activities for peer-to-peer learning.

Professors: What do you think of Wesch’s call for submissions, and what do you think of some of the videos? How do they speak, or not speak, to you as educators?

Students: What are your visions today? What do you see from the place where you are expected to learn?

[VOST2011: The Visions of Students Today was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/03/25. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

One Response

  1. As a student, it’s really difficult to say where I fall on this spectrum. First of all, it’s important to remember that learning styles need always be taken into account. The reason that people have yet to find the perfect solution for classroom instruction is that there are as many “correct styles” as there are students. So, obviously, certain things are going to resonate more with certain people.

    Likewise, the efficacy of the professor is a *hugely* important factor. An ineffective professor, even teaching in a way which is conducive to learning for a great number of students, will not be a helpful instructor.

    For instance, I had a Master’s-level course this academic year which was taught to a very extroverted group, who seemed to glean a lot from classroom discussion. However, the professor was a poor discussion-manager, and so discussions inevitably led to tangents, and became very disconnected from the coursework. People spouted their own opinions, and little was learned – mostly, it was like the discussions we students have at meals together. (This, by the way, is not to say that the discussions we have at meals are bad – it’s merely to point out that, if I were ONLY here to have those type of discussions, I would stick to meal time and not bother with class.)

    Finally (I think), it is important to deconstruct some of the strategies put forth by these videos. For instance: at UP, in the second video, it is believed that students can learn on their own, even without the aid of professors much of the time. Is this true? Specifically, are students equipped with the skill-set to actually go about achieving “learning” without being spoonfed (at least to an extent)? The answers to these questions have dramatic impact on the efficacy of the methods. In the first video, the class notes lay out an “ideal” professor – but what if we rejected the monotonous, machine-like professor as ideal? And, in fact, what if it is counter to our experience? While this is pointed out in the video, it is not its emphasis. Student-to-student learning can be an effective way to learn, but only if students are properly equipped. I would argue that most of us are NOT equipped for that. Of course, that leads to an entirely different discussion, but I hope some of this, if it’s coherent (I’m an extrovert, so I find blog commenting difficult, as well as much of academic culture in general, but again, that’s a different discussion), can be food for thought.

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