Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Educating in the Digital Age

The August 7th New York Times Op Ed article, “Education Needs a Digital – Age Upgrade,” by Virginia Heffernan discusses technology learning themes from Cathy Davidson’s book titled Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn. Heffernan supports Davidson’s position that the American educational system needs to make better use of the digital age in which we find ourselves to facilitate learning. She claims educators must meet students where they are, which often includes commenting on online political forums or creating digital videos, rather than perpetuating archetypical classroom assignments,

“What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in school — the term paper — and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought
process?” She adds: “What if ‘research paper’ is a category that invites, even
requires, linguistic and syntactic gobbledygook?”…After studying the matter, Ms.
Davidson concluded, “Online blogs directed at peers exhibit fewer typographical
and factual errors, less plagiarism, and generally better, more elegant and
persuasive prose than classroom assignments by the same writers.”
With the above in mind, educators could assign blog posts that resemble a research paper’s framework by asking students to include a thesis statement, scholarly citations, or imposing a length requirement. A blog offers students the opportunity to read and comment on one another’s work, therefore creating an active community of learning in a format familiar to students of today. Wiki projects are another online learning option that encourages information sharing between students. Heffernan writes,

A classroom suited to today’s students should deemphasize solitary piecework. It
should facilitate the kind of collaboration that helps individuals compensate
for their blindnesses…The new classroom should teach the huge array of complex
skills that come under the heading of digital literacy. And it should make
students accountable on the Web, where they should regularly be aiming, from
grade-school on, to contribute to a wide range of wiki projects.

SNL Writing instructors Michelle Navarre Cleary, Peggy St. John, Suzanne Sanders- Betzold, and Polly Hoover explored the option of wiki based learning when they co- taught a writing intensive class through the use of “bliki” (blog + wiki). Students worked together to write a group research paper, and two conduct manuals; “How to Transition to Life After College and a “Good Friend Handbook.” You can read about both the instructor and student experience using the “bliki” by visiting:

For more ideas on how to incorporate digital media into your courses, check out the book, Encyclopedia of Information Communication Technologies and Adult Education Integration available by visiting

To read the NYT op ed in its entirety, please visit:

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