education | October 25, 2012

Education Overhaul: Virginia Heffernan On Digital Media In Schools [VIDEO]

Virginia Heffernan says that we need to seriously rethink the way that we view accomplishment in the classroom. While there are undoubtedly benefits to following a syllabus and being disciplined enough to complete assigned work, the national correspondent for Yahoo! News argues that there is more to learning than simply doing what is being taught. Just because a student may not want to do the work assigned doesn't necessarily mean that they are poor students or have Attention Deficit Disorder, says Heffernan. In some cases, the material being taught to them may not resonate with a student, or a student may have other talents that they do not have the opportunity to explore in the classroom. In her interview at Lavin, she uses research done with a group of students in California who were told to read a Kurt Vonnegut novel over the summer, as an example of this phenomenon.

One student that she mentions chose to spend the summer making movies on his computer, rather than doing his assigned reading. Despite the project being "fascinating," Heffernan says, the student was "labeled not an enterprising, fascinating filmmaker of the future with a lot of tech skills, but [was] labeled a screw up with ADD."
The student was chastised for not doing his reading, but not praised for his work with emerging new technologies. "Something is wrong with that," she says. This study addresses a major issue in the education system—a focus on outdated material because it's seen as "classically important" rather than an emphasis on new and exciting material related to the digital and technological sphere.

As an expert on new media and the Web, Heffernan especially has an issue with the outdated nature of modern education. As the author of the forthcoming Magic and Loss: The Pleasures of the Internet, Heffernan is dedicated to exploring the potential that the web and new media have for all aspects of society. In many of her talks, she explains to business leaders the importance of incorporating new technologies into their business strategies. If adapting to—and embracing—new media is important in the corporate world, then, Heffernan says, it should be important in education as well.