Speaking to more than 400 educators Monday at the Technology Excellence in Education Network conference in Herington, Michael Wesch, an anthropology professor at Kansas State University, said students have lost the art of wonder.
“This world is nothing without wonder,” he said.
Wesch noted that the advance of media into the digital age has made it possible for individuals to be anywhere and everywhere at the same time, and at unlimited speed.
“It is ridiculously easy to connect and share,” he said.
At the same time, he said, it also is easy to be disconnected and self-absorbed.
No turning back
Wesch drew a comparison between what happened to a remote indigenous community in New Guinea and what has happened in American culture.
He spent two years in the village and observed as it progressed from a community with no media — only face-to-face connections — to one in which there were books and a shift in power from the people to their leaders.
After a while, he said, they wanted to go back to the old ways but couldn’t.
So it is in the modern world. Regardless of some of the negative effects of digital media, there is no turning back to a simpler world.
Social media advanced with the invention of the television. Wesch said television was designed by a few for the masses, largely for entertainment.
“You can’t talk back to media,” he said. “You are disempowered.”
The development of the Internet and cable TV has created a “cultural inversion,” he said. Individuals are more connected and yet less connected, more informed and yet less informed.
Wesch ended his hour-long presentation with a challenge to the teachers to teach students how to engage in this world through networking.
“Media is what we make of it,” he said.
He encouraged the idea of collaboration with others through media to accomplish something meaningful in life. He noted that many websites are a collaboration of contributions from many individuals.
“You have to create an environment that produces wonder,” he told the educators.
In addition to the five TEEN school districts — Herington, Centre, Marion, Peabody, and Hillsboro — educators from Goessel, Hope, White City, and Tabor College attended the conference.
Attendees came equipped with laptops to learn more about various ways of using technology in the classroom. They chose from 49 workshops presented in three sessions. Many of the presenters were teachers and students from the TEEN school districts.
Courtney Dealy, a middle school teacher at Peabody-Burns, presented a workshop on games and activities for learning. She said games and activities are the “in” thing.
Several Centre Elementary School third- and fourth-graders demonstrated how they use the iPad in their classrooms.
Peabody-Burns students McKenzie Ensminger and Zachary Preheim assisted teacher Marc Grout and Hillsboro administrative secretary Amy Plett in presenting a workshop about creating live and archived videos for district websites, using ihigh.com.
Rod Just, a Hillsboro teacher, said he learned some things from teachers who already are using technology in their classrooms.
Jennifer Hess of Marion is a Tabor College student who already had a Bachelor of Arts degree and is working toward teacher certification. The mother of three said she attended the conference to be exposed to technology in education.
“Things have changed so much since I was last in school,” she said.
Tina Hague, a fourth-grade teacher at Marion, attended a workshop, Building Stronger Writers, taught by Annette Weems of Peabody. Hague said she spends a lot of time emphasizing reading and math skills for state assessments but doesn’t want to neglect writing.
TEEN executive director Brandi Hendrix said the day went well.
“It was a great success,” she said. “I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from teachers and administrators. It gets better every year.”
TEEN began in 1992 to share classes using two-way interactive telecommunications equipment. It quickly became the highway for the Internet and other technologies.