Engaging the Imaginations of Digital Learners: “Setting Student’s Minds on Fire”, Mark C. Carnes

Mark C. Carne, author of “Setting Student’s Minds on Fire” opens by addressing the national deficiency in higher education access.  Why are enrollment numbers so low in the United States? Carne claims that the reason isn’t insufficient funding alone. He goes on to emphasize that the true reason that more people don’t have degrees is lack of interest and motivation.

Right away, I have to take issue with these assertions.  In my social circles, everyone seems to understand that you eventually need to acquire a degree to access to the security of high-paying jobs. In truth, the most common obstacle I hear referenced by friends applying to grad school is finding adequate funding because they are already crippled with a mountain of student debt.  It seems to me throwing money at the issue, as President Obama suggests, would actually be a tremendous help in widening access to higher ed.

Carne states that today’s classroom environment is too boring, and face-to-face education may no longer be the most effective form of teaching. Are online courses actually the future of higher education? From my limited experience of learning calculus in the Math Emporium as a freshman at VT, I know that this mode of education does not work for everyone. The author suggests stepping away from lecturing to a passive audience, and focus more on delivering and active, learner-centered process. I’ve heard this argument a lot in this class, as well as in Dean Depauw’s Future Professoriate course I’m taking this semester. I have always been dubious of this perspective, since I prefer the traditional lecture structure and learn best by taking and reviewing notes. This article inspired me to ask a bunch of fellow grad students in my department their opinion on the lecturing structure we most commonly see at VT.  Surprisingly, the response was evenly split. Many students said that lecture halls promoted disinterest and a lack of motivation.  These same students said their learning styles didn’t compliment this teaching style, and they would benefit from a more active classroom environment.  However, just as many students said they prefer lecture environment we currently have and listed the same reasons I did. In fact, many of these same students said they disliked being forced to interact in group activities and preferred a more individual experience.


One thought on “Engaging the Imaginations of Digital Learners: “Setting Student’s Minds on Fire”, Mark C. Carnes

  1. I found your discussion very interesting. Although the subject of Math is considered to based on logic and rationality, which is referred as the binary opposition of emotion. It is based ona universal language which shapes our minds through a mode of thinking. I always find teaching and learning math requires a lot of emotional effort, including courage and creativity. I would like to learn more about your teaching experience in both face to face communications with your students and new ways of interacting with them.


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