Friday, January 8, 2010

Here we go!

Welcome to my blog! It is rather ironic that we are blogging for this course. I just assigned a weekly blog to my Internet in Education course and was lamenting that my class numbers have gone up to 23, so I have 23 blogs to add to my reading list! Now I have to put my “money where my mouth is” and write one myself, oh what cruel justice! Actually, I was thinking of starting one anyway, so here goes!

On the long drive home, I mulled over what I might write about, there were so many ideas to contemplate, from McLaren’s video segment to the analogy of educational technology as an iceberg.

One thing that did stick with me (pretty good for an old brain) was the McLuhan quote about the “Innis Mode”, taken from Brunner’s novel Stand on Zanzibar. The line in particular that struck me was this:

“A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”

Taken by itself, I find this quote meaningful and important in my work as a “budding” academic and as an educator. It is a reminder that we often put forward our point of view, or opinion, yet we do so without evidence, critical thought or insight and understanding. As educators we want our student to voice their point of view, yet we want them to do so with thought and reason. Too often, in letters to the editor, sound-off features, blogs and so on, we get lots of points of view, but how many of these points of view are just off the cuff reactions without real reflection and thought. In today’s world, we have so much access to information. We are inundated by 24-hour news networks, subjected to the ramblings and pontifications of so-called pundits on Fox News or CNN or CBC Newsworld. With the “new” web, everyone can put out their point of view in blogs, comments, Facebook, Twitter (but only in 140 characters) and YouTube. Our students are exposed to all manner of points of view. The question is, how many of these points of view are backed by insight and understanding, by careful reflection and thought? Now, I don’t think this access to information, ideas and points of view is all bad. It is and can be valuable in many ways. Everyone can join in and have their voice heard. Valuable information and ideas can be shared. The quick and easy access to other worldviews and knowledge adds so much potential for democracy and equality, yet it also adds many challenges and has the potential for harm. To me, this makes the infusion of ICT into education even more vital. We must do so, however, in a thoughtful way, that enhances learning, critical thinking and self-reflection. This is the challenge to educators, to help our students sift through the points of view, to gain that elusive insight and understanding.


  1. Hey Mike...

    Information inundation: the get out there and make yourself heard or seen mentality of people caught up in the maelstrom of the times. What you say is very right about sifting through the wheat and chaff to come up with the gold of insight and understanding. Critical thinking is essential for us to teach to enable such sifting, which is teaching about true knowledge and authority. Who do we trust? Whose point-of-view counts? In the spirit of "The da Vinci Code," who guards to Holy Grail of truth? Teaching/learning to be critical is easy: knowing who to trust, maybe not. How does one test for trust, especially without sufficient knowledge of a subject (I am lost when it comes to History - I trust CBC's series A People's History). What technique should be used? I trust CBC. Why? It's the Canadian disseminator of "truth" (isn't it?).

    About teaching/learning how to use technology: use with insight and understanding! More, please.

  2. Good questions, Garry. The trust issue is big. I think part of the solution is to have kids check several sources and compare content. The idea of checking authority is important too - who is the author? what are their qualifications? and so on. Some healthy skepticism is useful, too! (for example looking for evidence of possible bias,such as an oil company sponsoring research into global climate change...). Alan November's web site ( and his book "Internet Literacy for Educators" have good ideas for this.

  3. Literacy with ICT means choosing and using ICT, responsibly and ethically, to support critical and creative thinking about information and about communication. As an educator, my concern is if we are to teach literacies with ICT how elevated must our own literacies (insights and understandings) with ICT be in order that we teach effectively?

  4. It is a big challenge for teachers. While they do not have to be experts, they do have to have some idea about the medium in order to model and teach these new literacies. Many think, for example, that Facebook is pure evil, yet, if you don't know how it works and ways to use it 'safely' and responsibly, (lack the insight and understanding) you can easily fall prey to the fear mongering of the media.