Archive for the 'Rant' Category

More Writing Angst

Every time I sit down to put the thoughts in my head on paper they seem to slip through my fingers like so many wriggling fish.

Writing seems to be the one thing my brain hasn’t been able to overcome in my post-college life. It terrifies me a little. I’ve spent the past year or so studying and learning just about anything I want. It has been so much fun for me to learn what I want to learn. That is why it is so frustrating to be unable to write down the the ever bubbling thoughts I have running through my head. Maybe I need to start with the private writing again, maybe the audience is my problem.

I want my writing to have form, structure, a purpose. All that ever seems to come out is a flow of wandering thoughts and frustrations. So here I am, once again, unable to let go of the need to write the perfect blog post.

Teach Me Meaning Making

“We’ve got information in the information age. But do we know what life is outside of our convenient lexus cages?”
-Switchfoot ‘Gone’

All of this is a plea, a desire, a timid question, and confession.

Why has it taken so long for school to teach me meaning making? The how of pulling at information and weaving it together in a deeper understanding.

I have grown up in a world that is over-flowing with information and has taught me few skills on how to filter it all. Maybe I was born at an inconvenient time, a point in history where the world is working out what it means to have almost the whole world at our fingertips.

Post-Katrina School Bus by <a href=Through years of excessive information I’ve grown an intolerance and my palate for the rich taste of knowledge has grown dull. Yes, there can be too much of a “good thing”. Even when information is served in a unique way I’m often too jaded to savor it or care. This is not intended to be an excuse or a whining cry of a “net-gen” student, but an attempt at an honest confession by one 21 year old. I’ll admit to being an under-achieving student, the bane of some professors existence and yes I do regret not working harder in some classes. I’ll also admit I often don’t care when a professor tests me on pure information, on my ability to regurgitate, because those tests are almost always easier than other options and require little engagement from me.

How do I reconcile my belief in education and real school and my praxis that seems to rarely reflect that? Why do I even care when I could slide by? Why do I want to take the “long way around”? It makes no logical sense in the setting of school. I do not play by the rules of the game and suffer for it.

I do not want to conform to the patterns of this world, I want to be transformed through the renewing of my mind through a different model of thinking and learning. Teach me meaning making and I can go forth and do more than just be a passive observer. I can’t do this on my own though, this adventure was never meant to be a solitary journey. I am meant to be a caravanista traveling through time with you, measuring time and being measured by it. I want to do something of value in this short time span we call life. Is that too much to ask for?

Am I Paying Attention or Reading Facebook?

There is often debate around whether laptops should be allowed in the classroom. While I am no expert, I can share my experience with laptops in the classroom.

So, what have I used my laptop for in class? To take notes. To have readings for class handy. Look up an answer to a professors question. To look up answers to related thoughts that pop in my head.

But that isn’t all, is it? I’ve checked my Facebook. Have Twitter open. Google chat open. Check my Google Reader. Worked on work for other classes.

Do I ever get distracted to the point where I miss what is going on in class? Yes, but that is almost always intentional.

If I am staring at the screen intently am I paying attention to what is going on in the class at all? Yes, of course! I could be doing a myriad of things from taking notes to checking my e-mail. I know that professors hate the whole “I can multi-task” argument, but sometimes it is true.

How would I quickly summarize my experience with laptops in the classroom? It has been a process learning how to use it in a classroom setting and what classes necessitate a laptop and which ones just need a pen and paper. I’ve learned how to not get distracted and how to take notes. Most importantly though, I have learned how to use laptops to expand my learning in the classroom and that has been the toughest and most rewarding part.

Most students have not had guidance on how they can utilize their laptops beyond a FB checking device. My unscientific hypothesis is most students see laptops as a way to get out of the classroom while still being physically present, or, as a way to take notes and do other school work. Maybe students don’t realize the potential they have right at their fingertips because no one has given them the inspiration to see it any other way.

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Bar Code
This product is processed on equipment that also processes other students, millenials, and tree nuts.

stuck in bar code by s.t.a.rk.

Competition and Reality

When I take a second to put down the kool-aide every now and then I can see reality a little better. Lately I have been thinking about the culture I live in where school is not really cool and learning is great as long is its not taking place in a classroom (boring!). I would even argue that there is such a strong culture of anti-school among my generation. We are brainwashed to dislike school and sometimes for good reason. There just seems to be inherently a negative connotation built in with the word school. Rewinding my brain to just a year ago (it seems to be getting harder) I can remember the feelings of discontent with school, its lifelessness and boring tradition.

Lets be honest the University is competing for student’s attention and it is really an unbalanced fight. For freshman that are getting their first taste of freedom away from parents and the identity they have been living with most of their lives, it is a time to explore new ideas. There are also friends, clubs, parties, etc. Academics are going to take a back seat to these things most of the time. Combine this with the anti-school sentiment and it is plain to see that for most students being a student isn’t really the most important thing. And here is what I am really getting at, when there is no community built around learning, students will not be interested. I don’t believe cool tools or awesome professors could fully convince someone of the importance of learning. It would just be a blip on the radar screen in a sea of tradition, non-controversial, and rote schooling.

People have been trying to take steps towards building a better community through new emerging technologies, but they still face that same culture of anti-school. Even then you just aren’t going to get through to people and sometimes people aren’t that interested in “real school”. This doesn’t mean we should stop trying because their are people out there that do care and some people who don’t even realize yet that they care. A connected community of student learners has the ability to bring people in, but until this happens there will just be little silos of education surrounded by fields of “plain old school”.

I would not say this is a call to arms, a post to point out successes or failures, or even saying that this is an impenetrable wall. It is merely a social commentary of one student on the state of the learning community at an institution.

Generation Me

ETA: The following post is rather rant-esque because it is a hot button issue for me, so there is probably a lot of bias in it.

I first encountered the phrase and the book “Generation Me” at the 2007 Faculty Academy during Barbara Ganley‘s lecture. At the time I remember being struck by how many of the ideas (both good and bad) rang true to me. The millenial generation has been subject of much analyzing and I have heard ideas from both ends of the spectrum. I’ve heard everything from, the Millenials are the next “Great Generation” or they are a horribly self-absorbed generation.

Steve recently blogged about his view of the situation, knowing what his generation is like and being a teacher to the current generation of students. He says:

The younger generation seems to believe that they will be economically successful, whether or not they work hard, learn or save. And as a consequence, they don’t seem to be doing those critical activities very much.

I often get that sinking feeling that he is all too right. I’ll admit growing up in suburbia NJ I was very much in a bubble, I have never known real hunger or felt the threat of poverty knocking on the door of the two story house I live in. Assuming much of my generation has lived in considerable affluence it is no wonder that we have become lazy and are convinced of our own self-importance. I don’t believe it is entirely our fault because we did have parents who raised us and a society that made sure that we knew how special we were, because everyone is special and deserves a gold star.

One generation plants the tree the future ones receive the shade.

The future is rapidly changing and very few recognize that the job market will change and that people from poorer countries than ours (but not necessarily poor) will be willing to work harder than we do to get what they want. As a generation I am afraid that we just want to do the minimum amount of work to keep what we have already.

This problem shows itself in academia too. People complain that grade inflation has reduced the value of the diploma. It is fast becoming an item that can be bought by spending tuition on four years of school. Students are good at playing the game, we can manipulate and play the system for what its worth. I know because I’ve played it most of my life. The problem is the real world doesn’t care if we could manage to out maneuver teachers because when it comes time to face the music we will realize we don’t have the skills to do the job. Maybe it is a bit of an over-reaction to assume that all this will happen. I know I’m going at this with an angry attitude so my vision is a bit skewed.

Education has long been an important part of a sophisticated civilized society. College is not just about teaching people how to think critically for their upcoming Spanish exam, but to be able to analyze and question the world. It helps us ward off fear-mongering, so I’d even be careful about listening to what I have said in this post.

There are certainly good points about my generation, but there are those moments (like now) where I have my doubts that we will be anything better than average (or worse). We have so many advantages, more than most of the generations before us and the rest of the population. But we don’t utilize our advantages and it just drives me crazy sometimes. Not because I don’t see myself as part of the problem, but that all too often I catch myself being part of it too.

/End rant (didn’t mean to have two rant posts in a row, oh well).

Why Wait?

I should designate a certain day of the week where I give myself permission to rant on my blog, just so I know I am controlling the volume of my craziness.

Anyway so this rant is about the whole waiting game that people seem to play. For brevity sake I’m just going to focus on college students playing the waiting game. In high school we looked forward to getting to college to have freedom to do what it is we imagined college students do. Now as college students we play a similar waiting game as in high school.

I’m sick and tired of people complaining about classes (I’m not exempt from this complaining) and waiting for the big test to pass or the semester to end. I will even be as bold to say that as students we are expected to complain about it, no one ever says it aloud, but it is just the assumption most of us live by. I also think that it is this unspoken expectation that creates a barrier between students and real learning. From what our friends, family, and the media tell us college is about other things. No one mentions the life of the mind, that is for nerdy professors who like to impress everyone with their obscure knowledge about their specialty. And so we are patiently waiting out the storm. Even as a society people seem to live for the weekends. In my opinion living for the weekend (especially as a college student) is ridiculous, you are missing 5/7th of your week (thats about 71%). When do you plan on living? In college students are lucky to have the kind of freedom to have a relatively flexible schedule. College is a unique environment unlike anything else we will ever experience, yet we focus on other things, even ignoring the reason colleges where created in the first place.

What are we waiting for? There are multiple answers to this and a lot of the responses are along the lines of “in the future I’ll have the time to do what I want”. Again college is just treated as a bus stop on the way to brighter future (and that future is most uncertain). You make plans, but then life gets in the way. I wonder if students took the time to think about where they were, the here and now (and not just the weekend parties), if they would realize how poorly they were treating the present and the opportunities that would never present themselves again.

So why wait? I hope to keep asking myself that question over the semester? If I feel I am waiting, what do I think I am waiting for? And is it realistic?

/End rant


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