For the past several years, I have been working to integrate more creative teaching techniques and engagement exercises into my philosophy courses. The process has been a learning experience, at least for me, if not always for my students. Here are some of the things I've learned:
The latest craze in pedagogy is an emphasis on increasing student engagement. While I have some sympathy with many of the aims of this movement, I think there are some important questions that need to be addressed as well.
In an interesting article titled "I’d like to take this opportunity to triple-dog-dare Peter Thiel," Daniel Drezner quotes the following from a Department of Education document:
"[M]any of the factors that contribute to a high-quality post-secondary education are intangible, not amenable to simple and readily comparable quantitative measures and not the subject of existing data sources that could be used across all institutions. Foremost among these are learning outcomes, which are central to understanding the value of an education but vary widely across programs and institutions and are communicated in many different ways."
This statement reveals some of the problems that exist with the current obsessive emphasis on learning outcomes and assessment. Let's look at a few.
All over the internet, it's the same story. People trying to get more likes on Facebook, more followers on Twitter, more listeners on Soundcloud, more viewers on YouTube. And so on and so on.
On the surface, this all looks productive. But, it misses the point. Somewhere along the line, the goal has ceased to be connecting and has become amassing likes, followers, etc. Let's be clear. You can't really follow 10,000 people on Twitter if "follow" really means keeping track of what they are doing. At this level, following simply becomes a way of building your own following. But, if everyone is busy building their own following by following others no one is really following anyone! The same goes for Facebook likes.
As someone with something of value to share I'm just as guilty as everyone else. Yes, I want to build a following on Twitter and get more listeners on various social media sites and I don't know any other way of building a following at this point.
Of course, you can say just provide quality content. But, content is meaningless if no one reads, watches, or listens. An example from my own experience will suffice. I currently have nearly 700 "fans" on Reverbnation which is a site for promoting music. On the surface that would seem to mean I have 700 real, engaged listeners who enjoy my music and wish to show this by becoming a fan of mine. But, it can't be true. Why not? Because while I have 700 fans and 5 songs available to listen to I have a total of 13 plays. Thirteen!
No, this is not a marketing ploy disguised as a blog post. A way to get you to listen to my music. I am just sharing my frustration about the state of social media. I think this is part of what Seth Godin means when he talks about working to create real connections as opposed to simply broadcasting to the largest audience possible. Better to have 50 real devoted fans of your work than 700 "fans."
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator
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