Learn This, Not That by Tenaysia Fox

Bryant and Stratton College has a new advertisement. The commercial goes over some program that they’re offering, and the highlight of the commercial comes at the end. While an actress is doing something on what appears to be an iPod or iPhone, the narrator announces that students can now take classes  using Apple’s extensive line of oh-so-portable technology. White words are placed on the screen in order to emphasize the point as to entice some prospective students in the audience. No one’s going to tell students that these technology-based classes are becoming standard at schools other than Bryant and Stratton, but Bryant and Stratton will be sure to let them know that they can get that type of education on any one of their many campuses.

To say that tech-based classes are becoming the standard almost seems absurd. Technology isn’t new, classrooms aren’t new, and students definitely know what to do once they get their hands on any technologically advanced gadget. Times aren’t beginning to change; they’ve already done so. Education is lagging behind in providing up to date and relevant teaching methods/information to students. Cathy Davidson, a professor at Duke University, has been saying these things for some time. And while her points aren’t merely focused on education and the incorporation of technology in the classroom, she raises great points about the reasons why education in America isn’t performing as well as it could. It seems that administrations have stopped ignoring the potential possibilities that come with incorporating technology in our classrooms.

During her recollection of the iPod project at Duke, Davidson mentions some enlightening facts. The students worked to come up with their own applications in order to help spread the use of technology on college campuses. In 2003, these educators were well aware that in order to be effective in educating students from a different generation, they would have to alter their traditional methods. “Our thinking was that educators had to begin taking seriously the fact that incoming students were born after the information age was in full swing” (62). By loosening the grasp that the institution had on education students had a chance to pick and choose how they will be taught.

For a moment, let’s forget about education and the use of technology; let’s think about what we all wanted when we first entered school. For some, the thought of pursuing a degree in accounting or medicine was what woke them up. The desire to go well beyond what their parents or even their peers thought they could accomplish drove them out of bed and straight to school. For me, grammar school was where I excelled. It wasn’t because I was a good student or because I even cared about what I was told to learn; I did it because I wanted to make my family proud. I was the oldest grandchild for both of my grandmothers and my parents’ only child together, thus making it impossible for me to be anything less than stellar. When I got to high school, I knew that the prescribed education that I was being given wasn’t for me. Sure, I still went to classes and did what I was told, but I hadn’t enjoyed it.

I remember very clearly expressing my frustration with school to my mother at every turn. It didn’t matter that I’d gone to the same school since the second grade; my mother had a plan and forced me to stay. My visions of college grew to be far grander than I could have imagined. I’d begun to assume that I would be able to choose whatever topics I felt to be relevant and interesting and somehow craft my own education and skill set; that didn’t happen. Imagine, arriving on campus and expecting a bit of freedom in your educational choices only to be met with a gigantic “NO!” It’s the equivalent of expecting Accepted and getting The Skulls. You know, you think you’re going to be able to have this awesome education that you get to craft for yourself, but instead you wind up being inducted into this really odd group of friends that may or may not be a part of a secret society while being forced to adhere to a generic set of academic guidelines.

 
Cathy Davidson tackles the idea of customized education from the perspective of students who have special educational needs. Unlike my slightly whiny complaints about not being able to receive my ideal education, Davidson asserts that there is a severe lack in attention paid to those who don’t fit within the confines of our education model today. Davidson’s Now You See It explores the ways in which our digital society is included in every aspect of our lives except for our education model. Davidson explains how she came to the realization that the traditional education model wouldn’t work for everyone because she never found herself fitting into the cookie-cutter student image. “In school, I had managed to frustrate just about every teacher I had ever head. According to family lore, I could solve equations with two unknowns in my head before I started school, but I could barely count,” (8).

Though it is almost impossible to say that things will take a drastic change within the next few years, there is hope. Not all colleges are prepared to send students on life-specific course outlines; some schools have embraced the openness of a less prescribed education. The Eugene Lang College at The New School offers a liberal arts program designed around self-guided study. Syracuse University also offers an Independent Study component, which allows students to “create” their own course of study. I haven’t participated in this program, but I have colleagues who used the program as a way to get more involved in student organizations across campus. This extra dedication to their extracurricular activities acually spawned a few career opportunities for them. While I can’t see universities and colleges throughout the country jumping at the opportunity to start these programs, I do believe educators realize the value in having these options readily available.

 

Credits:

“Book Origami Paper Folded Fold Book Page” by Nhella (Nhella), Creative Commons 2.0. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/book-origami-paper-folded-fold-58444/.

“NASA Visualization Explorer (iPad app)” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA Goddard Photo and Video), Creative Commons 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/24662369@N07/5958585066.

“Ruler” by Scott Akerman (Sterlic), Creative Commons 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/sterlic/4299631538/.

“Hendricks Chapel, Syracuse University, 2012” by Justin G. (_jg_), Creative Commons 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/justingarofoli/7964558126/.

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About tenaysiafox

Tenaysia Fox is a senior Writing and Rhetoric major at Syracuse University. Relatively new to the Writing and Rhetoric program, she is spending her final year of undergraduate education expanding her portfolio while preparing for graduate school and a career in publishing. While expanding her knowledge and practicing her writing, Tenaysia has shown great responsibility and leadership through extracurricular organizations and Syracuse University jobs. Through her writing classes and extracurricular responsibilities, Tenaysia has been in charge of various projects and events that required extreme attention to detail as well as clear vision. Her past highlights include being appointed to leadership positions such as University Union Co-Director of Cinemas, University Union Vice President and being hired as a Resident Advisor for both the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years. Throughout her time at Syracuse University, Tenaysia has found her love for language and writing, now she hopes to forge a career that nurtures her adoration for both.

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