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Shifting Winds December 17, 2005

Posted by Michael McVey in Students.
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monocular  This evening I finally had the chance to sit down to watch the 2003 film Master and Commander: Far Side of the World. As Captain Aubrey examined the model of a ship’s hull, a new design for the beginning of the 1800s, he remarked, “What a fascinating modern age we live in.” 

Of course, our own world is fascinating enough with new inventions and enhancements coming at us in a relentless stream. This evening, at her annual Hanukah party, my friend, Penny, showed off her new glasses. Penny, it should be noted, suffers from macular degenerative disease so that her vision is extremely limited. These glasses had attached to them a single miniature telescope that enabled her to read her computer screen without having to lean into it. 

Inventions such as Penny’s monocular aide are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, what lies beneath and what makes our modern age so fascinating, is how broadly the effect of inventions and changes are changing our ways of interacting with the world. This week, for example, the results of the National Assessment of Adult Literacy were released and it appears that since testing last took place almost a decade ago, the most advanced of literacy skills of graduate students have plummeted almost ten percent.

This information has led to a lengthy discussion on one of my discussion lists. Teachers on that list have pointed to the Internet and the ready availability of images as well as text online. Observations of students using the Internet during free time at school show that they prefer to seek out images of their favorite singers rather than read anything on the Internet. 

From such a simple and imprecisely measured observation might be the seeds for a future study about how students are changing in the ways they gather information. In fact, some scholars are beginning to itemize the detailed skill sets students should be required to master to excel in navigating through the rich body of information that are now just a few key clicks away. What a fascinating modern age we live in, indeed.

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