Semiotic fiddling while a digital Rome burns

Semiotic fiddling while a digital Rome burns

“So to summarise, according to the citation count, in order of descent, the authors are listening to themselves, dead philosophers, other specialists in semiotic work in mathematics education research, other mathematics education research researchers and then just occasionally to social scientists but almost never to other education researchers, including mathematics teacher education researchers, school teachers and teacher educators. The engagement with Peirce is being understood primarily through personal engagements with the original material rather than as a result of working through the filters of history, including those evidenced within mathematics education research reports in the immediate area. The reports, and the hierarchy of power relations implicit in them, marginalise links to education, policy implementation or the broader social sciences.” (Tony Brown)

From his article Signifying “students”, “teachers” and “mathematics”: a reading of a special issue, published online: 28 May 2008, Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008. (Your access to this article will depend on what your instution—if such you have— has paid Springer. Springer is one of the biggest academic publishers but not one of the biggest electronic sinners.)

Contrast this devastating if accurate critique with the following:

Enter Don Tapscott, who is looking at the challenges the digital revolution poses to the fundamental aspects of the University.

“Universities are finally losing their monopoly on higher learning”, he writes. “There is fundamental challenge to the foundational modus operandi of the University, the model of pedagogy. Specifically, there is a widening gap between the model of learning offered by many big universities and the natural way that young people who have grown up digital best learn.”

The old-style lecture, with the professor standing at the podium in front of a large group of students, is still a fixture of university life on many campuses. It’s a model that is teacher-focused, one-way, one-size-fits-all and the student is isolated in the learning process. Yet the students, who have grown up in an interactive digital world, learn differently. Schooled on Google and Wikipedia, they want to inquire, not rely on the professor for a detailed roadmap. They want an animated conversation, not a lecture. They want an interactive education, not a broadcast one that might have been perfectly fine for the Industrial Age, or even for boomers. These students are making new demands of universities, and if the universities try to ignore them, they will do so at their peril.

Contrary to Nicholas Carr’s proposition that Google is making us stupid, Tapscott counters with the following:

My research suggests these critics are wrong. Growing up digital has changed the way their minds work in a manner that will help them handle the challenges of the digital age. They’re used to multi-tasking, and have learned to handle the information overload. They expect a two-way conversation. What’s more, growing up digital has encouraged this generation to be active and demanding enquirers. Rather than waiting for a trusted professor to tell them what’s going on, they find out on their own on everything from Google to Wikipedia.” (Don Tapscott)

This is excerpted from the Edge describing Tapscott’s article The impending demise of the university.

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