A Vision of Students Today

Michael Wesch (2007) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGCJ46vyR9o&t=3s [EDUC 4050]

This video, published in 2007 by Michael Wesch seems quite dated, but also has some good points. It starts with a great quote from Marshall McLuan (1967):

Today’s child is bewildered when he enters the 19th century environment that characterizes the educational establishment where information is scarce but ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns (sic) subjects, and schedules.McLuan,M. (1967) as quoted in Wesch (2007)

In many ways, modern schools still remain stuck in the 19th century. For example, strict bureaucracy and hierarchical structures are still prevalent in larger institutions. Not mentioned in the video is the way students are rewarded or, more often, punished, with marks permanently recorded on their transcripts. Woe be the student who fails a course or two early in their academic life. They may be forever disadvantaged when trying to make future academic choices, because of their previous “failures”. It is my contention that students should be offered some way to redeem themselves and remove low marks or failures from their transcripts, if the prove themselves capable in other studies. Convicted criminals can achieve pardons and have offences expunged form their records, if they prove themselves worthy, yet students can never remove the offence of an attempt at something they found they didn’t like or weren’t good at (aka ‘a failure’) from their academic records.

Since I returned to higher education well into my career, and have continued to take courses occasionally, I can relate to many of the issues brought up by the students in the “Students Today” video.

Value for money?

In spite of the huge sums spent by governments and ever-increasing tuition fees charged to students, educational institutions such as BCIT and SFU have been slow to change. The sign “My average class size is 115” brings to mind the under-resourced post-secondary schools I’ve attended (including BCIT, UBC, SFU, and NAIT).

At a student at BCIT (around the year 2000), I had to make sure to get to one of my classes early since there were not enough chairs in the building. If I arrived late I would need to run around to find a classroom where no lecture was being held and grab a chair to cram into the back of the classroom where my class was being held. In the computer labs I used, hung filthy and well-worn blackout curtains from the 1960s, while the 70s era upholstered furnishings in the common area of one building were so filthy I would never consider sitting on them.

Although the situation has improved somewhat in recent years the vast majority of the campus I am familiar with are badly in need of updating and expansion.

BCIT is one institution that is working on this problem, as outlined in their current 5-year Capital Plan https://www.bcit.ca/files/facilities/campusdev/pdf/bcit_5_yr_capital_plan_2018.pdf.

The physical states of parts of Langara (where I teach), SFU, UBC, and VCC (the latter 3 being places where I’ve taken courses) are also distressing, making me wonder how much value for money students receive for their tuition payments for on-campus courses.

Time issues

I can relate to the time issues elucidated by many of the signs, there is a great deal of competition for students’ time and media devices sap time and mental energy, distracting from the core goal of learning as much as possible.

The volume of material put out by instructors is also an issue. It is so easy for instructors to reproduce education materials, assign readings, add more links and videos, etc. that students often need to pick and choose which materials to pay attention to with the limited amount of time available. As an instructor, I need to be aware of this when designing my courses. To date, my practice has been to categorize materials as “required” and “optional” in my eLearning materials.

Multitasking bunk

The “I am a Multi-Tasker, I have to be” signs in this video reminder me of my step-daughters, who would often do their high-school homework while watching television, texting, and eating. Now that one of the young women in our household is a post-grad, I see her habits have changed remarkably. She now sits in a quiet room and concentrates on her studies. I wonder if this is a typical transition as modern students mature?

Although I haven’t studied the issue extensively, I lean towards the ideas expressed in How the Science Behind Multitasking Can Make You More Productive . Chief among these is “Our brains are not able to cope with focusing on many tasks at once”.

Making courses relevant

The section on social issues/world-problems reminds me of the need to make course material relevant to my students, who often care about such issues. I try to pay attention to the concept of “cultural hegemony” and attempt to avoid inserting my own cultural biases into the courses I teach.

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