Pink: A few days ago, I was talking with someone about Wikipedia. And the guy shook his head dismissively and said about the people who contribute to it: “Where do they get the time?” We both think that’s a silly question.
Shirky: It is. People have had lots of free time for as long as there’s been the industrialized world. But that free time has mainly been something to be used up rather than used, especially in postwar America, with the rise of suburbanization and long commutes. Suddenly we no longer lived in tight-knit communities and therefore we spent less time interacting face-to-face. As a result, we ended up spending the bulk of our free time watching television.
Pink: The numbers on that are astonishing.
Shirky: Staggering. Someone born in 1960 has watched something like 50,000 hours of television already. Fifty thousand hours—more than five and a half solid years.
Pink: You’ve just described our boyhoods.
Shirky: Yes, sitting in front of the television.
Pink: Passively watching Gilligan’s Island and The Partridge Family.They go on to discuss how time spend passively receiving content from TV is now spent actively creating content as well - and that the quality of that content is no different than the quality of conversation we used to have about TV. Some is great and compelling, much is not. However the act of creating and sharing what we are thinking means the conversation that is great and compelling now has play beyond our living rooms.
This thinking about who owns ideas and earns the right to share them has shifted in the way our educational system must. If we want to engage students, we need them to actually be the people who help to write the story. Publishing on Wikipedia isn't an act of stupidity - billions of school children every year write down what they have learned on a topic. We think it is a worthy activity for them, even though they only have an audience of one, the teacher. How does doing work that will be used by many and having others build on your thinking suddenly make it less worthy? (especially compared to Gilligan's Island)
As teachers, we need to start by thinking of all of our students as people with the potential to learn and grow, not as fixed entities that we need to measure. And when we think that way, it's clear how we want the technology we use with them to function. Pink notes:
I think our nature is to be active and engaged. I’ve never seen a 2-year-old or a 4-year-old who’s not active and engaged. That’s how we are out of the box. And if you begin with this presumption, you create much more open, flexible arrangements that almost inevitably lead to greater satisfaction for individuals and great innovation for organizations.Strong, motivated learners want to share their stories with others, and strong schools create flexible, open arrangements to help them engage in doing it. The serendipitous relationship between current technologies and student engagement is just too powerful to ignore.