Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Michael Wesch’s youtube videos for teaching anthropology

I have used Michael Wesch’s youtube video ‘the machine is us’ in a couple of presentations. The video encapsulates the promises of web 2.0 and the opportunities it opens up for the average person to put content on the web. They have been useful in informing people new to the concept of social networking about the potential of web 2.0.

Michael Wesch is a cultural anthropologist exploring the impact of new media on human interaction (and the impact of human interaction on new media). He teaches anthropology at Kansas State University. He not only researches social media but also bases his teaching on the underlying philosophies of social networking and the capabilities of technology for enhancing social networks.

Some of his work on mediated cultures is presented in the form of youtube videos. These include the ‘machine is us’ video but also another video which summarises how today’s students approach learning. This video was made by his first year anthropology class studying digital ethnography whereby the video itself was planned using a class wiki & the video shot in the lecture theatre during one of the lecture times. A really interesting concept worth exploring in other subject areas.

His students also study youtube and a series of videos, including the history of youtube have been constructed by various students from various classes over the past few years. The videos on the website are from the class of 2007 but the class of 2008 is beavering at this year’s project on their wiki.

Another project that Michael Wesch uses with his students is the world simulation project . In this project, the students become participants in a simulated world. Groups of students are divided up into ‘tribes’ who are to come up with their own cultures. Groups then interact with each other, using the rules that they have established earlier. Props like currencies, natural resources and other items that help create the world. In one of the later class sessions, the students run the simulation of ‘world history’. This is all done to provide students with the opportunity to ‘live’ the social and cultural processes that interconnect humans.

All the above make marvellous resources for social studies but also provide an example of how to engage students with a topic and to make it relevant and exciting for them.

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