Mike Wesch, a professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University and one of the most thought-provoking faculty members to have discovered YouTube, has once again hit a nerve with a video message gone viral. Last winter it was The Machine Is Us/ing Us, a presentation of how the Internet and hypermedia is changing the way we communicate, collaborate and work (discovered via a February 2007 entry on Karine Joly’s blog). This time around, Wesch addresses the state of higher education in the United States — or at Kansas State, anyway — with A Vision of Students Today. Clocking in at under five minutes, the video, in Wesch’s words, “summariz[es] some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.”
Reaction on the web has been widespread — more than 4,300 comments on the YouTube site alone. At Wired Science, Aaron Rowe calls Wesch’s assessment (actually a collaboration with 200 K State students) “spot on” and adds:
For young men and women that are accustomed to the instant gratification of the web, even the simple act of flipping through the the glossary of a textbook may be unthinkable. Venerable professors may view this as impatience and laziness, but that would be a superficial assessment. My generation has become acclimated to the efficiency and immediate feedback of the internet. Once you have shown a farmer a tractor, they will never want to plow a field by hand again.