Saturday, April 25, 2009

So many theories, so little time!

There are so many interesting books to read and there's just never enough time. It's one of the frustrating things about being increasingly networked: I come across more and more valuable information every day, but there aren't nearly enough hours in my days to absorb it all.

Since mentioning Marshall McLuhan and his theories a few posts ago, I have seen his name mentioned in a number of blogs. I feel like I definitely need to read his books - but when? The whole concept of network theories is fascinating to me and there are new books coming out almost daily on the subject. But when will I have time to find out what they have to say?

I'm taking a second course through Plymouth State University, titled Intercultural Communication in Multicultural Classrooms. A couple of weeks ago the assigned textbook chapter was on the topic of religion. One of the "what if?" examples (What if this happened in your classroom/school? What would you do? How would you go about it?) was on the topic of Intelligent Design and what if your school board directed you to present it in science classes as an alternative to Darwin's theory of evolution?

My comments included this..."There are two factions of evolutionary theorists - the gradualists, who believe evolution has been proceeding at a generally uniform pace through the millenia and the catastrophists, who believe evolution proceeds slowly but then makes sudden leaps when catastrophic natural events cause mass extinctions and new species evolve rapidly to take advantage of resources that are newly made available in the process."

It was at that point that I had one of those "Eureka!" moments. I'm sure it's not news to lots of other people, but I suddenly realized that we're seeing the whole catastrophist vs. gradualist view of evolutionary theory happening in the realm of information! It seems crystal clear that the development of the medium of the internet is one of those "sudden catastrophic natural events." I guess that puts me pretty firmly in the catastrophism camp, seeing the newly available resources as things like access to information, ways of storing and processing information, abilities to share information, all of that.

The gradualists are the ones who see all this change as technological fluff and don't see any need to change their ways of doing things. Their considered opinion is that the ways that have served us well for so long will continue to serve us just as well in the future.

Historically the fossil records have indicated that at physical catastrophe points the surviving species are those that are most flexible and opportunistic. As a result, they are able to adapt to and benefit from the rapid and unanticipated changes that are occurring.

What does that tell us about the importance of attitude and an open mind?

What does that tell us about the importance of teaching students how to learn instead of what to learn?

What does that tell us about the importance of teaching students how to find information rather than what information to find?

What does that tell us about the current difficulties of The Boston Globe and other traditional news and information providers?


1 comment:

Jeff Utecht said...

Love this post!

Like you I see how these leaps happen in society and I too agree that we're in one of them. I think I also have been able to witness how these technologies allow societies to leap frog the "gradualist" societies which most of the western world is.

While living in Saudi Arabia. I witnessed a Saudi...on a camel...on a cell phone. There are no railroads in Saudi and nobody gives out a "home number". They went from camel to jet plane, they went from word of mouth to cell phones.

I then moved to Shanghai. A city of 23 million people who have gone from living in small multi-family cramped houses to skyscrapers over night. Who have gone from bikes to cars, to bullet trains....and once again who went to from no phones to cell phones and no Internet to broadband in just over 10 years.

Some believe these "3rd World" countries will be the ones that lead the way as they don't have the legacies of the pass holding them back.

Is this our issue with education? We all know what it is suppose to look like, heck we all went through it, survived it, and know what "good teaching" looks like...and not just us but us as in parents, teachers, admin, communities.

We are at the beginning of an information revolution. The record companies, the newspapers, textbook publishers...and publishers in general are in trouble.

When you can publish your own book on lulu.com and be selling it in the amazon store in less then 48 hours...how is the old system going to compete with that?

Fantastic post! Love the thinking and the congrats on the Eureka moment. :)