Michael Wesch on the secret sauce of classroom teaching in the Web 2.0 world

Michael Wesch is perhaps best known for his YouTube videos like The Machine is Us/ing Us (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g). But he’s also an innovator in teaching methods in Higher Education. Below is an excerpt of an excerpt where Wesch explains what he thinks is the secret of his success. Click through fror the full article and podcast. The last five minutes of the podcast are particularly interesting on the question of whether cuts in Higher Education could be a good or a bad thing for innovation, and they’re only conveyed in edited form in the written transcript.

Clipped from www.educause.edu

Michael Wesch (mwesch@ksu.edu) is assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University and winner of the 2008 CASE/Carnegie Foundation U.S. Professor of the Year Award for Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities.

The following excerpt is based on a phone interview conducted by Gerry Bayne, EDUCAUSE multimedia producer. To listen to the full podcast, go to <http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/multimedia/WeschInterview.mp3>.

Bayne: You are one of the most active practitioners of teaching in the cloud. How can teaching in the cloud foster collaborative learning and collective intelligence?

Wesch: I often like to think of the quote from Kevin Kelly, who says: “Nobody is as smart as everybody.” That hangs in my head every time I go into a classroom. I look at the classroom. I look at the students. I start to think about who they are. Throughout the semester, I learn more and more about who they are, and it becomes increasingly evident to me that with all the intelligence and life experiences that they have, they are collectively much smarter than I am alone. Then the goal becomes trying to somehow harness all of that. And I think I’ve finally found the “secret sauce.” It basically comes down to approaching the students as collaborators, co producers, co researchers, or whatever you want to call them — but not as students. So you take away that hierarchy.

I still maintain that I’m the most experienced in the bunch — the expert learner, the expert researcher. But the students also have skills to bring to the table, and it’s important to recognize those. Doing so facilitates a feeling of empowerment among them. I try to harness that from the very beginning, pointing out to them that whatever we do is going to contribute to the real world. We’re not just going to be hiding behind the classroom walls and doing our own thing.

We start to brainstorm together: “What does the world need from us? What can we do?” Given the topic at hand, we start mining the literature, trying to find holes in the literature or debates in the literature, things that we can help resolve, some way that we can contribute to the discourse. The main point is that we do it. It’s all about the doing of it. While we’re doing this, while we’re going out and researching together and learning together, it’s almost as if the learning happens accidentally.

© 2009 Michael Wesch. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/).

Read more at www.educause.edu


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