Saturday, June 13, 2009

New Learning - Don Tapscott on Big Ideas

TVO's podcast Big Ideas had a fantastic lecture by Don Tapscott in which he laid out how learning has drastically changed since we entered the digital era. The generation of people born as of 1978 have grown up with computers and the internet and developed a radical different approach to knowledge, learning and intellectual exchange in general.

The essence of Tapscott's message is though that this is not necessarily bad. Quite to the contrary, he shows a lot of admiration for the new learners and expresses the hope that this new generation is actually better at handling the challenges of the day. In his mind, the former learners were too passive for this. Growing up with TV, frontal education and information gathered in books, made earlier generations wait for knowledge to arrive and take it at face value. Modern learners immediately compare and actively collect information.

His favorite example is that of an excellent student who admits he never reads books and thus on the face of it symbolizes how our intellectual world goes down the drain. Yet, Tapscott follows up on this and shows what the student is capable of and extracts from him how he does acquire knowledge and even knows what is in the books he did not read. This is the lecture for all those who fear our youth goes down the drain and feels guilty for wasting ones time on the internet in stead of learning the good old fashioned way.

More Big Ideas:
On Crime,
Why isn't the whole world developed?,
The role and place of the intellectual,
Disaster Capitalism,
The Bad News about Good Work.

Biological Anthropology - Berkeley

In my days as a student I have learned a little bit of cultural anthropology. Thanks to a course on Berkeley I have learned much of the missing component in my knowledge, that of biology. Aptly, the course is called An introduction to Biological Anthropology, or simply anthropology 1. As in number 1, the course to kick anthropology off. (feed)

So it is really the basics that I lacked and were added here. The importance of evolution for the human beings and their social behavior. The way in which human evolved and what all of this means for humanity today. It is something that I completely overlooked, that the rural habitat seems an eternity for man in comparison with industrial and urban modernity. However, in terms of evolution, these are a blip on the human clock and this essentially means, man is physically shaped to be a hunter gatherer.

Nevertheless, and this is the strength of the course and I recommend especially the last lectures for this subject, the recent developments of agriculture and industrialization are still significant biologically. They imply a radical change of the habitat and consequently completely different constraints on genetic developments. So even if our history is too recent and almost too short for out biology, there is an effect. All of this leads to better understanding of human beings and their society.