Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cathy N. Davidson's "Now You See It"

Cathy N. Davidson is Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, and reported the following:
I spent eight years, from 1998-2006,as the first full-time Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, the first that we knew of anywhere, with the delicious informal job description of "breaking things and making things." More formally, I was charged with innovation across all of Duke's nine undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools. One particular charge was innovative new ways to do research and teaching in a digital world. Most of the structures and requirements of the contemporary research university were devised specifically for the requirements of the industrial age, from the late nineteenth century forward. What’s the best way to restructure higher education for a digital age? If the Enlightenment and the industrial age emphasized hierarchy, specialization, attention to task, progress, quantitative assessment of discreet abilities and skills, testing of all sorts, and formal credentialing, what would the Information Age education look like to help prepare people for a world where you could, as YouTube says, "Broadcast Yourself." No one--not even the most outlandish science fiction writer--predicted that people from all over the world would voluntarily contribute to the largest and most complex encyclopedia the world has ever known, would do it for free and anonymously, allow others to edit their work, and then would use it as a basic reference tool that, eventually, would be as reliable as any other general reference book available. Wikipedia? It turns out humans love to teach what they know and learn from one another, but our educational system is still based in Ichabod Crane-ish ideas that learning is like cod liver oil, unpleasant but good for you in the end.

Page 99 of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn marks my foray back into the classroom after eight years of thinking and creating new programs dedicated to innovative learning and research. "Project Classroom Makeover" is the title of that chapter and I hope you enjoy the report of what I and my students learned from calculated lessons in the fine art of distraction and disruption.
Learn more about Now You See It at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue