Saturday, October 08, 2011

The New University of Digital Empathy II

David Dunkley Gyimah interviewing former VC of the University of Westminster Geoffrey Copland for an International Educators conference where David was presenting
Knowledge is a gift.

It's difficult to think that way when the transactions today are real and challenging. Nine thousand pounds per head in the UK next year will put a strain on this.

But knowledge, while all around us, takes shape through a complex, yet looked-on-as-simplified exchange between educators and those being educated.

The gift is in the invisible act that those being educated may feel while they're being challenged, acquiring something beyond what they may have thought - though that may not seem the case at first.

It also requires from educators a fresh digital empathy. Take this example. I have come across some educators whose feedback mechanism on students work is to write: "this is nonsense", "rubbish" and Caps with "I HAVE TOLD YOU THIS BEFORE".

I have been horrified. A common sense approach and also mandatory amongst educators is to refrain from emotive language in the first place.  It may, just about may, be dismissed on the odd occasion through frustration, but to occur consistently?

That level of frustration requires a round in a boxing gym with a punch bag.

But where's the digital empathy in this?  It lies in the acronym before digital (BD) and after digital (AD)  The action lies in genuine attempt to understand how someone wanting to do journalism today may carry little of the notions that reinforced beliefs a decade ago.

Investigative journalism of a kind that meant pouring over newspaper cuttings and sustained methodological approaches seem byzantine in today's digital, so in fairness the student is not at fault.

That the use of "rubbish" etc should be banished, the frustration that might generate this, must be tempered with what educators now know.

If there ever was a time when the Jarari window plays a deeper role in education (remember Rumsfeld's known unknown) it's now, within this schism between the digital student and the analogue-digital educator.

Of course the role of educator including experience, social skills and a whole range of others layers the educator's role as simply a seller of knowledge.

Again this might have been the 60s analogy, but the role of educating today assumes a vast curatorial one. Educators engaging in dialogue over work they're not familiar with or its not in the module, but believe it has value.

We do this all the time now with links to other people's work.

Digital Empathy is testing all of us in ways we couldn't imagine because the rate of turnover of new artefact's exceeds normalised behaviour; people now walk on the streets head burrowed into their blackberry's texting, and seem to have no concept they may bump into someone.

Artistic practice would have me design corridors on the pavement for text hungry commuters, in the way we have signs saying "No Smoking" or "No phones".

In my next post, I'll explain digital empathy from a student point of view and how sharing, and journalism's fixated prerogative can lead to unusual situations.