Reading the book, Now You See It by Cathy Davidson is another forward progression in my attempt to “level up” from luddite to technology teaching guru. According to her blog, Davidson is a professor at “Duke University, where she co-directs the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge and holds two distinguished chairs (Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies)”. Additionally, she studied AI (Artificial Intelligence) and quantificational logic as an undergraduate, finally switcing to English Literature for her PhD. She discusses her progression to this focus of research in her interview Inside Higher Ed. As if these credentials alone are not enough to convince the reader of the validity of Davidson’s book, the information provided may just blow your mind as an educator, parent, employee, employer or really any participating member of American society. It definitely blew mine. It was filled with one aha! moment after another for me.
Davidson begins her book discussing a famous experiment “The Gorilla Experiment“. In this experiment, people were asked to count the number of basketball passes taking place onscreen, in the meantime a gorilla is walking across the screen. The study showed that most people were so focused on counting the correct number of passes, they did not even notice the gorilla at all, until it was pointed out specifically. This experiment explains peoples’ “inattention blindness”, or their inability to focus solely on the task at hand. Davidson acknowledges that is a problem that must be addressed in order to keep up with the constant innovation and evolution of technology. The internet and our new multimedia world has changed how people can, should, and do cope with the onslaught of information. She briefly describes the history of public education and how that history has locked students into learning rote information while seated in neat rows for long periods. This idea of education is the same over 150 years later! Yet, for Davidson there are some small glimmers of hope in education. She describes a charter school in New York that is based entirely on gaming. The students play video games, than use those games to learn about all aspects of education, from math, science and literature. The teachers and students take the games apart and implement them into the curriculum. This school is exclusively for students that have struggled elsewhere, but at this school, they blossom. It plays into what the students know, what they were raised with. They know video games, technology, multimedia. Would that other districts across the country might consider integrating more technology and “known” resources for students to better be able to relate to the material they are being asked to learn!
In the second half of the book, Davidson reflects on the workforce and how that too is trapped in the industrial age, with workers spending their days in cubicles, each assigned different tasks, in order to complete the whole of any project. She explains how this outmoded ideology has led to American jobs being outsourced to countries where these same jobs can be done for less pay. Davidson is very clear in her call for an overhaul of both education and the workplace, in order to take full advantage of technology and innovation that is a constant when living and working with the internet. She holds the company IBM up as a model of a company that has reworked their system to include employees from all over the world, technology and innovation which has moved IBM into the global marketplace and turned a once fading company into an agile revolutionary corporate icon. According to her data, they are a more productive company with extremely satisfied employees, who often work more hours than the average comparable employee, simply due to the convenience of the company design. They almost all telecommute.
Davidson developed an organization, HASTAC, essentially a thinktank of individuals who come together to discover and innovate in all areas of education and technology. She also contributes to DML Central Site, which provides free resources for educators who want to develop their teaching and move it into the 21st Century. So, Davidson does not just talk the talk, but she walks the walk too.
When and if, I finally get my own classroom, I know I will be implementing her peer leaders example. She uses it in her classroom, and offered examples of how it can be used in the workplace as well. As she describes, she assigns two students per week to develop and plan a lesson for the entire class. Those students are in charge of the development, implementation and grading of the lesson. Imagine how this sort of teaching wholly invests the students in their own learning! They will understand how much work is involved in the job of teaching. Additionally, they will pay attention because they will hope for the same respect when it’s their turn.
For those of you who know me, you know that I am a novice to the world of technology. With the added inexperience of education. I came from and blossomed in that classroom filled with rows of desks and rote memorization. When I decided to become a teacher, it was a shock to see so many students struggling with something I found so comfortable and safe. I quickly jumped on the bandwagon that the media was to blame, the video game would be the downfall of civilization. I still hear echoes of a generation of parents saying the same thing about rock and roll. Then I met someone in school that pointed out that the web was here to stay and I needed to use the vast amount of options available to get to the kids (of whatever age), because they would never come to me under the circumstances I was trying to reach them. Davidson’s book provides the resource and support that a new teacher, new parent and employee like myself can look to.