The Chronicle of Higher Education reports this week (A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn't Working) that Prof. Wesch may be re-thinking his pedagogy.
Prof. Wesch has perhaps had something of an epiphany, although to what extent I am not yet sure. On his website he mentions that his new approach is "not so much a reboot of my thinking, or even my message, it is simply a reboot in how I deliver my message."
Michael Wesch has been on the lecture circuit for years touting new models of active teaching with technology. The associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University has given TED talks. Wired magazine gave him a Rave Award. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching once named him a national professor of the year. But now Mr. Wesch finds himself rethinking the fundamentals of teaching—and questioning his own advice...
...To be fair, Mr. Wesch always pointed to the downsides of technology (it can be a classroom distraction, for instance). But he saw tech-infused methods as a way to upgrade teaching.Then a frustrated colleague approached him after one of his talks: "I implemented your idea, and it just didn't work," Mr. Wesch was told. "The students thought it was chaos."
It was not an isolated incident. As other professors he met described their plans to follow his example, he suspected their classes would also flop. "They would just be inspired to use blogs and Twitter and technology, but the No. 1 thing that was missing from it was a sense of purpose."
Mr. Wesch is not swearing off technology—he still believes you can teach well with YouTube and Twitter. But at a time when using more interactive tools to replace the lecture appears to be gaining widespread acceptance, he has a new message. It doesn't matter what method you use if you do not first focus on one intangible factor: the bond between professor and student.
At any rate, four years ago I produced a response to Wesch's "Vision" based (loosely and very generally) on a couple of themes in The Metaphysics of Media (University of Scranton Press, 2010). I offer them both once again in the hopes of keeping this conversation alive.