Jill Hamilton – Blog #1
Traveling outside of the United States was a very eye-opening and valuable learning experience for me. Last summer I spent two months living in a flat in London with my friend and his uncle. In terms of variance in lifestyle, England is arguably quite similar to the United States – a modern, technologically driven society, high-quality living conditions, and a well-established education and health care system. What took me by surprise when I first arrived was the fact that everything was smaller – the refrigerator, washing machine, and dishwasher took up the same area that my oven did at home. The streets were narrower, the cars were far more compact and sparse…England seemed to have figured out how to thrive on simplicity, an important lesson that the US had apparently missed.
How had I not realized the enormity of everything American? How had I not previously judged the supermarkets, the shopping malls, the SUVs? Without the new perspective gained on my trip overseas, I’m sure I would still be blissfully ignorant. Growing up, I was subjected to a similar “hunt-and-peck literacy” (61) as Davidson mentions in her book. Only abroad was I able to engage in true educational exploration – similar to a student “searching, surfing, and browsing the Web,” I was able to focus on ideas that shocked and interested me personally, instead of being subjected solely to the information my teachers deemed important. The idea that “creative thinking requires attention to surprise, anomaly, difference, and disruption” (77) summarizes the impact England had on my ability to explore and learn.
Technology lets students explore what interests them. While traveling abroad I learned more about England than in any class, and I believe surfing the web or listening to an international news channel or podcast can have the same effect. Perhaps it’s the freedom that technology holds – it’s completely up to the user how to gather data and learn new things. Davidson states that her students pointed out she “used entirely conventional methods for evaluating their work” (106), which, when considered in real world context, ends up being very impractical. Many forms of assessment do miss “complex, rational, and logical thinking entirely” (115), which is the one type of thought that can have the most impact on the success and happiness of a student’s educational career. An ideal grading system would be based on the significance and meaning that each student took away from what interested him or her.
I think an appropriate boss-level challenge for this class would be to have students determine a new aspect of life that could be improved by technology or media. The scope could be very large, from education or business to entertainment or fitness, and each student could write a proposal of how to implement his or her method of improvement. The students could utilize the same approach that real media and technology corporations use when establishing their own plans.