From Conference Appreciation to Discussion Period Explosion: Brief Ruminations on a Question Posed to Charles Acland

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Firstly, I'm aware that the title of this entry is ridiculous and makes little to no sense.  
 
On to the issue at hand.  Following Charles Acland's excellent talk today on Edgar Dale (a fascinating figure that I learned a lot about today) and the perceived need for media-based pedagogical tools in the 1940s on, a question was presented that I feel was unreasonable and besides Acland's point.  Specifically, it was asked how Acland reconciles the history he outlined with the "fact" that most secondary and post-secondary teaching today doesn't seem to have been impacted by it, i.e. adheres to a simple lecture format.  The questioner was quite emphatic on the truth value of this claim.
 
Acland didn't buy it, and neither do I.  There's simply no denying the impact of the information explosion on contemporary pedagogy, in Film Studies and elsewhere.  Even classroom encounters that don't involve technologies such as PowerPoint presentations and film screenings are informed by the paradigm shift.  In my classroom (which I'll take to be representative), many students (perhaps even a majority) take notes on their laptop computers.  Class discussions continue outside of the classroom on the course website, as well as (I'd imagine) over Skype, MSN Messenger, or Facebook.  (I wonder if I've ever had a student "live-tweet" one of my lectures?)  Even if they don't, however, students' thinking today is informed by their media literacy, and we need to keep this in mind when preparing our lectures (which, unless you're Martin Lefebvre, you probably do using a computer).  Others have put it more astutely than I will now, but learning is simply done differently in the information age than it was previously.  The logic of the hyperlink informs students' encounters with any media (even books!).  Furthermore, different skill sets have to be emphasized today than in previous generations.  The ability to retrieve information is paramount: developing comprehensive knowledge in a given field is somewhat obsolete (or, if not that, than at least a thankless task) when an infinite amount of information is available so easily thanks to online databases, libraries, access to experts, etc.
 
But even if I didn't reject the premise of the questioner's challenge, I would nevertheless reject the challenge itself.  It's not Acland's responsibility to demonstrate that Dale's work irrevocably changed the pedagogical landscape.  He presented a history.   If straight lecturing (sans media) was the norm today as the questioner claims, how would that detract from or invalidate Acland's historical findings?  The answer is that they wouldn't at all.  
 
I would like to again thank Acland for providing us with such an interesting moment in the history of media pedagogy.

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