After reading James Paul Gee’s book, The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning, I had a lot of information to digest. Gee expresses the idea that, as a society, humans are becoming more stupid. He painted a picture of what exactly it is that is making us stupid. My take away is that we usually use words not to say how the world is, but to say how we would like it to be (Gee, 2013, p.67). This means that we are not highlighting truths and reality, but rather ideal fantasies. To me, it is almost as if we are running from what is real and hoping our fantasies will instantly become true. If we hope to become smarter, we need to work hard for our ideal fantasies. To achieve this, humans need to decompose and analyze experiences to determine what needs to be done to reach intelligence.
We are stupid because we lack reflective action, context, experience, and agency. We are constantly searching for status, evading knowledge, and flee complexity. Gee states, “humans do not like to carry heavy things around in their minds” (p.133). These problems are wicked. Gee asks, do we have the will to save ourselves? I hope the answer is yes. As an educator, I have the power to be that change. What can I do to save my students?
There are limitations that prevent us from solving big, complex problems smartly. This is because wicked problems have a domino effect. There is no single perfect solution. When you think you’ve found that solution, another one arises. We can solve complex problems smartly by learning to understand one component of the wickedness so that we can attempt a best bad solution and work within our constraints. Being aware of these limitations can help us behave more intelligently, even in the face of overwhelming complexity.
Collaboration and mentoring is a big piece to solving wicked problems. “Humans are not smart alone. They are plug-and-play devices that are meant to link to good tools and good collaborators who serve as tools for each other (Gee, 2013, p.167). We need to feed off of each other and work together to reach intelligence. There is a wealth of digital tools out there today. In order not to use these tools poorly, we need to be cognizant of purpose and intent. Educators can use digital tools to blend with face to face interactions and for educational purposes that go beyond entertainment (Gee, 2013, p.197). Thinking about purpose and intent, there needs to be thoughtful planning and design for using digital tools. Planning is so much better if you have a mentor or someone to help drive you and facilitate your personal learning. As mentors, we can help each other develop as educators.
“Getting smart is now a 24/7 enterprise because intelligence comes from cultivating our lives and all our experiences in the service of learning and growth” (Gee, 2013, p.215). I have a better understanding of what my job truly entails. I am not just a teacher. I am a mentor to my peers and my students. My job is to allow students to find their passions and greatness. I do not want my students to go through the motions in their educational journey, just so they can get a good job. I want my students to embrace their quest for knowledge, so they can live a good life.
Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.