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The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever

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Michael Wesch filming
Dr. Michael Wesch presents keynote at UMD on September 26. Photo credit

“Today’s child is bewildered when he enters the 19th century environment that still characterizes the educational establishment, where information is scarce but still ordered and structured by fragmented, classified patterns, subjects, and schedules.” Marshall McLuhan, 1967

Forty-seven years after Marshall McLuhan wrote about the confines of the classroom, as students tweet, post, and Instagram their way through instruction, the sentiment has never been more relevant.

Enter Dr. Michael Wesch with some advice for today's educators, "The key to teaching with technology is to not focus on the technology, but to instead seek out the real essence of what we are trying to do and then focus our energies there." A cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media and an associate professor at Kansas State University, Wired Magazine describes Wesch as “the explainer” because his videos echoing McLuhan's message have been viewed over 20 million times. "We often make the mistake of focusing on the content of our teaching - the information - rather than the deeper, important, and more enduring elements of what we hope might be learned."

Wesch will bring those elements to Weber Music Hall on Friday, September 26 at 6 p.m. His keynote “The End of Wonder in the Age of Whatever” shows educators how new media can inspire students to wonder, explore, and be curious in an age when people are feeling increasingly disconnected. The event is free and open to the public.

Olaf Kuhlke, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts, led the effort to bring Wesch to UMD after hearing him speak at a conference last spring. “He’s incredibly engaging, showing us how technology is a tool for building real and relevant projects that allow learning to flourish."

Wesch explains that new media and technology have led us to an age of whatever, endless possibilities that amplify feelings of disconnection. He believes that it’s up to educators to inspire students to wonder and be curious. "With a sense of wonder, we have the world's greatest knowledge machine right at our fingertips. Without wonder, it is merely a distraction device (and a very seductive one.)"

UMD’s College of Liberal Arts, the College of Education and Human Service Professions, the Labovitz School of Business and Economics, the Swenson College of Science and Engineering, and ITSS are sponsoring the event. 

Watch "A Vision of Students Today" created by Michael Wesch and students at Kansas State University.

Story by Lori C. Melton, September 2014

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