Learning in the 21st Century

Matt Richtel, in writing an article for the New York times, gave me an itch somewhere, a hunch, that all of the educational problems documented in the article are misattributed, granted, for rational reasons. Throughout reading what Richtel got to say, all I could think about was the quality of the American education system, as opposed to the qualities of the lives and work ethics of those who were documented in the writing.

The tales of Vishal in particular, amongst some of the other likeminded to students at the high school, seem to be indicative of much larger problems with American education: students should be engage completely in things they enjoy, not waste time with things that don’t seem to immediately connect to something they enjoy. This idea really hit me when Richtel describes Vishal’s passions for filmmaking, as well as Geoff Diesel’s audio production class.

In the latter example, when it’s written that Diesel’s class is made of mostly at-risk students, this should be instantaneously evocative of a revelation; kids always want to learn about something, but students want to learn about something that pertains to their interests. Learning doesn’t go out of style, where curricula and teaching methods certainly do.

Ms. Blondel, Vishal’s English IV teacher, says “You can’t become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and emailing a bunch of abbreviations.” This line of thinking is something I have to disagree with. Learning is all a matter of exposure, who you spend your time with, and how you choose to use the information you are given.

In regards to talking, texting an emailing, again, it’s all about exposure. Who you talk to and surround yourself with, in combination of the prerogative to speak using common English versus texting-speak and lingo, decide how one’s vernacular will evolve or devolve over time. Even then, the change in language is ultimately subjective, and another conversation all together.

Ms. Blondel’s comment about YouTube seems to be completely uninformed and solely based off of stereotypes about media on the internet, perpetuating the idea that all the media on such a website consist of vapid videos about cute animals. Frankly, YouTube can be a medium to deliver entertainment of various subjective qualities, and pure useful information for all sorts of curious and inspired individuals. From my personal experiences, YouTubers have the potential to be role-models, intellectuals, scholars, and friendly faces you can go to for comfort, or any combination of the above; not simply means to the end of instant-gratification. The same can be said of any medium, including TV and video games. There are hidden depths to entertainment and media, some that easily be mistaken for wasted space in the digital world. Whether it be a man who explores the humanistic elements of video games, or someone who teaches how to film and edit movies for the likes of Vishal, YouTube and other video sharing sites are beyond useful and meaningful for people all over the world, regardless of what their grades in school may say. Those grades, some would argue, are ultimately superficial.

Adapting to the technology and cyber-driven worlds we live today is a scary thought to many people, particularly those of the older, less accustomed generations as opposed to the younger ones who have a pre-disposition to contemporary technologies. However, this change functions more as a challenge to revitalize now obsolete methods of teaching that will accelerate the interests of the next generation even faster than those inspired in the last one. It’s worth noting that the subject of using modern technologies in innovative ways has been touched upon by people throughout the world, even in places on YouTube. This just goes to show how much less tech-inclined individuals need to be reevaluated for modern tendencies.

The power of multimedia websites like Youtube are more powerful than some less-informed individuals would have you believe. I don’t mean to sound rude either, but it makes a lot of sense when it’s given thought and some non-biased exploration of topics and content. These tools will surely excel education, and not drag it down.

Learning in the 21st Century

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