Can Technology Make Learning Cool Again, Even History?
Kwanzaa, Unity-Principle #1, by JD Meyer
“Unity invites an alternative sense of solidarity, a peaceful togetherness as families, communities, and fellow human beings. It teaches us…the common ground of our humanity. But it also encourages us to be constantly concerned about its (the world’s) health and wholeness,” according to Dr. Maulana Karenga from the 2009 Founder’s Day Address. www.officialkwanzaasite.com All of these feelings require education to know about others. Yet today, we see declining education levels throughout the USA. Since desegregation, that academic underachievement is even worse in the African-American community. My question is “Can Technology Make Education Cool Again-Even History?” As a teacher who has been viewed as cool by former students, I feel that I can make a case for scholarly-as-cool.
We love computers and the Internet, so the opportunity for learning is at our fingertips. But do we choose the trivial and gossipy over scholarship and business? The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerman, was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.” Facebook has so many members that it would be the third largest country in the world. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2036683_2037183_2037185,00.html There’s even a movie about this social networking mogul. Yet where else but Facebook can you endorse a fine service or market products versus ask folks personal questions or chat about things nobody’s boss should see.
My birth on the Internet was ten years ago, and I view it as one of the best events of my life. First of all, I must admit that it’s easier for me to read a bunch of little two to ten page articles rather than a fairly large book-probably an ADD thing. I love e-mailing associates a link to an article that I know they’ll like and make better use of than me. So technology and education make me cool when I send such messages.
Six Cool Education with Technology Topics
What are some of my favorite topics that make my self-education a cool thing for others? I bet you might like at least one of these subjects but probably not all of them. Moreover, I’ve found and disseminated a lot of knowledge on the Internet too.
(1) First, there’s English grammar and composition as found in my copyrighted, partly published Developmental English textbook. I like to write model essays about contemporary topics, and I include edited student essays, such as “My Favorite Music: Screwed, Chopped, Dirty South Rap.” Unfortunately, I’ve been told by publishers that many of essays are too regional, too Texas. Grammar is safer. I’ve been writing annotated link pages for English, as well as other subjects for years. And I just discovered photo sharing through Flickr on Yahoo, provided you find an Attribution-only citation at the Creative Commons. That means your homemade textbook or unit can be illustrated!
(2) I’ve studied Psychological Type Theory for over twenty years; that includes Myers Briggs Type Indicator, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, and True Colors. You’ll understand yourself and others through the four-by-four matrices and four temperaments. For example, I’m an ENFP-Champion/Idealist; the literature predicts that I’d like English and journalism for a career. Here’s a case of book sense helping your common sense.
(3) What’s my mid-life interest since moving to Tyler in 2001? Economic development/urban planning: city leaders all over the world are trying to make their cities into cool places where people enjoy living. We’re blessed to have a strong chance of knowing our city leaders in a small city, such as Tyler. Have you read the Industry Growth Initiative (IGI)? It’s an 84-page document at the City of Tyler website, and its purpose is to guide the city into the Information Economy. Several leading professions are analyzed such as medicine and higher education-two of the stronger industries. I’m known for citing Dr. Richard Florida of the University of Toronto when he says that cities need the 3 T’s: talent, technology, and tolerance www.creativeclass.org
(4A) I became a serious student of Spanish in my mid 30’s-starting in the early 90’s. Spanish is by far the most common foreign language choice in America, but we need students who will study strategic languages such as Chinese and Arabic too. Spanish makes me cool partly because I like a wide range of Spanish music; moreover, that improved my listening comprehension. It’s easy to go to a site like Let’s Sing It.com and download the song lyrics of your choice in English or Spanish. Then I check out newspapers in Spanish too and have a New Year’s resolution to finally watch more Spanish-language TV. I’ve subbed as high as Spanish IV in high school after being a very mediocre Spanish student during my undistinguished undergraduate years.
(4B) For three years I have had a project in which I search for cognates in academic language between English and Spanish among other things. I call it Bilingual Secondary Academic Vocabulary (BSAV). Although taboo in Texas, I just found websites in Washington, DC-The Center for Applied Linguistics and another in Madison, Wisconsin-WIDA–that don’t have problems with secondary-aged youngsters getting a few Spanish footnotes with their studies after fifth grade-beyond the Spanish glossaries in textbooks. Roughly half the states in the US favor bilingual ed. after fifth grade; the closest states to Texas are New Mexico and Oklahoma, and the biggest in population are Illinois, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. So now BSAV is off the “back burner” and maybe ready to make me some money-starting as a unit for Teachers-Pay-Teachers. I’ve enjoyed teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to all ages and subbed in Bilingual Elementary in the past.
(5) Finally, I love citizen journalism and have published over fifty articles in the last two years in places like hubpage, The Daily You of Tyler, Digital Journal of Canada, and Oh My News of South Korea. Plus I’ve reviewed over 120 articles for Stumbleupon under my online alias: bohemiotx. All you need to be a citizen journalist is good writing skill, fairness, and the desire to verify your sources. I’ll admit that it’s a tough area to earn money. Articles such as “Will Write for Food: The Sad State of Citizen Journalism,” do more than hint at the difficulty. But I feel that citizen journalism may be good padding for my resume as an English instructor. The topics for citizen journalism are limitless. The scope can be the hyperlocal world of one’s neighborhood to the international scene. Sometimes I take a break from technical writing and write food journalism-specifically about taquerias, the traditional Mexican fast food. Have fun with writing; do some fluff. How does “Shopping at Wal-Mart for Under $10”? sound to you. My most successful article was an account of the MLK celebration last year in Tyler. It received over 6000 views from its spot in South Korea at Oh My News, ranking in the top five world-wide for a couple of weeks. Do an Internet search on yourself once you’ve published a lot; you may find that you’ve been blogged in other countries too.
(6A) Last but not least, I love history and the social studies in general. Obviously, I like Black History, or I wouldn’t be writing something for Kwanzaa. I’m certified in Secondary Social Studies but haven’t made as much money with it as my Secondary English Language Arts certification. When we see the emphasis on STEM programs, History and Social Studies seem far away. Math and Science are joined by Technology and Engineering. Good writing won’t go away since you have to communicate those ideas from the big four. One of my favorite acquaintances, George Faber-the Director of Fine Arts and Performing Arts for Tyler ISD, wants to turn STEM into STEAM by putting the arts into the package. Visually attractive text has paramount importance on the Internet; moreover, you can put YouTube video links and audios too-maybe George on the piano!
(6B) So why study history? For starters, you can find information that may be off-limits until your third year of college. Remember the Texas textbook adoption fiasco last spring? The United Nations was denounced and host of other radical right-wing views were endorsed. Through the Internet, you can have a much easier time doing research on your own. What can happen when you study history and the social studies in-depth and write about it? I’m reminded of the Martin Delany story. He was the first Black officer and medical doctor in the USA. Yet Dr. Delany has the chilling distinction of almost being lynched by two very opposite groups. Before the Civil War, some anti-abolitionist whites tried to lynch him in Missouri. After the Civil War, some Southern blacks tried to lynch Dr. Delany because he supported an ex-Confederate officer even though that soldier advocated education for blacks. http://www.libraries.wvu.edu/delany/home.htm
Pep Talk for Writers
This leads me to some points on courage in journalistic criticism that I found in Michael Brenson’s article in The Crisis in Criticism, edited by Marcus Berger. Brenson asserts that the intellectual should not consider anything off limits to “the most rigorous analysis” even faith. Otherwise, the taboo area becomes a festering pool of fear and prejudice. Frankly, I expanded my quotation marks grammar section in part by showing students how they could quote an unknown author or group of people, so they could cite their heroes without being hurt by somebody in authority. Yet Brenson respects faith and acknowledges the limits of analytic language, as well as noting how it can betray the concreteness of experience. For example, a saying by Confucius: “Benevolence without learning becomes simplemindedness,” reminds me of the modern saying, “Don’t let them take your kindness for weakness.”
Furthermore, Brenson admits that critics make mistakes but what matters are six qualities: (1) curiosity, (2) attentiveness, (3) concern, (4) vision, (5) art and language, and (6) the debate a critic makes available. Critics should not only reach out to issues of art of their taste but to that which also makes them afraid or without an answer. Response to the unknown evolves knowledge and makes transformation happen.
An article on gift giving during Kwanzaa by Dr. Karenga appeared in the latest Pulse Tyler. Kwanzaa celebrations should reach children. Presents should include a book and a cultural symbol. Gift giving after Christmas takes advantage of sales.
So this Kwanzaa Unity essay has looked at technology’s ability to further an educational renaissance, together with make you feel cool. We impart knowledge because we care about others. Please view this essay as a call to find some reading material in the tradition of Dr. Karenga.