Will Richardson makes a really good point – almost as an aside – when he acknowledges that he has “…become a nomadic learner; I graze on knowledge”. This is a trait that we probably all recognise… especially if you check your RSS reader before your email! I do, however, wonder where the depth is going to come from in the future… where is the new knowledge going to come from?
As a classroom teacher, one trait I have become very aware of is the ‘cut and paste’ phenomenon. A pupil is given a piece of research based work (a talk, for example) and a few days later turns up with a beautifully printed wedge of pages they’ve found on Google. The onus is on me as their teacher to show them why what they have done is not what was asked for… I need to teach research skills and how to synthesise material just as much as I need to teach basic reading and writing. And here is where I fear we may be creating problems for the future.
I want to know who is going to come up with the new ideas? Are we in danger of producing a generation that will only know how to remix and reinvent existing ideas? It’s a thought that I have been grappling with for a while, and which I think is going to have to be addressed.
Maybe the answer lies in the experiences of the music business? From the very earliest days of “sampling” people have cried that it is killing originality in music. The arguments in favour of sampling are that in taking an artists musc and re-mixing it, you are creating something new and original. The arguments against it is that you are only reworking what someone else has done… you have not had the original thought or spark of creativity. The problem is that both of these arguments are true…
On the one hand, remixing does produce something new, which is derivative of previous practice… or in education terms, you are synthesising something new from previous knowledge. On the other, where are the totally new musical experiences going to come from if all we do is synthesise? The answer is of course that remixing is not the be-all and end-all of music. There are many more people who are driven to be totally original, and so it is with education.
We need to encourage our learners to value their own opinions and help them move away from the “cut-n-paste” mentality that prevails at times. As long as we accept this challenge, we can show pupils how to Rip.Mix. and LEARN… and that is one of the greatest skills I think they’ll need in the future.