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An Evening with Gardner Campbell

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Gardner Campbell brought some very interesting ideas to the table.  At first I labeled him a radical, and took what he was saying with a grain of salt.  The more I thought about it, however, I realized that maybe that’s what it takes to get one’s ideas to take off.  Then I thought about how much passion he had for the subject, and how that passion had stirred similar enthusiasm in others (i.e. Jim Groom).  At this point my doubt changed to admiration.  I’m not saying that I agree with everything he said, but rather that I respect his passion for the subject.  I could talk about how i feel about breaking out of the LMS mold and building my own personal creativity space, etc., but as far as I’m concerned, the jury isn’t in on those just yet.  I’m going to save my judgment for the end of the semester, when I’ll have gotten a full feel for what it’s like to embrace my creativity on the open web.  Instead, I’ll talk about what struck me most about the presentation- the very end.  When Gardner talked about kids exploring their interests on the web starting at a young age (1:09:15), it got me thinking.  I love learning new things, particularly when they are things I’m interested in.  When I’m bored, I go to Wikipedia, find the article on the home page that most interests me, and follow links from there.  After 20 minutes I have 12 tabs open, and am reading about subjects completely unrelated to what I started with.  Eventually I have to stop opening tabs and read my backlog of pages, or else the whole system spirals into an uncontrollable web of ADD-fueled learning (which is surprisingly dangerous).  The point is that I can blow 3 hours pumping my brain with facts and have a good time doing it, and it’s all thanks to the open web.  I can’t imagine what life would be like if I had to look stuff up in a book every time I got curious about something.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say I would not look anything up at all if it required a trip to the library and no ctrl+f to speed up the process.  This got me thinking: I wonder how much more I know at my current age than I would’ve had I been born 20 years earlier.  Which got me thinking some more: I had dial-up internet until sophomore year of high school.  What about kids now? Any time they’re curious about anything they have instant learning available at their fingertips.  How much more will they know than I did when I was their age?  Is it possible for them to hit a learning cap?  Learning by exploring one’s interests online doesn’t feel like learning.  It’s like we’re being tricked into getting smarter.  What Gardner said about having educated 18 year old voters really sums this up well (1:13:35).  I think kids are going to get continually smarter as resources available on the web continue to expand.  The result is going to be a much more educated populace, which is kind of scary and encouraging at the same time.

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